The lady who spotted the unusual looking worm on the sidewalk thought at first that it was a baby snake. Upon closer investigation, she could see that it was a worm of some kind, so she captured it in a plastic container and researched it on the internet.
Her findings revealed that it was a rare shovel-headed garden flatworm originating from Asia and probably came to this country with imported plants. The name is derived from its flat spatula or shovel shaped head.
Professor Peter K. Ducey from the Biological Sciences Department at New York’s State University in Cortland states on the university’s website that, “This turbellarian is believed to have been brought into the US accidentally over the last 60 years.
It feeds voraciously on local earthworms and, hence, may damage both agricultural and native forest systems.” The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ website states that the flatworm’s “mouth, which also serves as an anus, is present near mid-body on the ventral surface.
Reproduction is principally by fragmentation at the posterior end. Land planarians devour earthworms, slugs, insect larvae, and are cannibalistic. They were reported as being capable of eradicating entire earthworm populations on farms. Their bodies are coated with a slime that is bitter and possibly toxic to small animals.”
And this interesting comment from a Native American Gardner and subscriber to davesgarden.com states, “These flatworms have devastated the earthworm populations in parts of the UK. Many farmers’ fields have been destroyed, because there are no earthworms left to aerate the soil.
If you find them do not cut them up. They will only regenerate and the smaller bits will turn into new ones.”