E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Lumbricus terrestris Linnaeus, 1758
Dew-Worm; Earthworm; Nightcrawler
Family: Lumbricidae

Photo of species

© Earthworm Research Group University of Lancashire  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #10742)

Earthworm distribution in BC
Distribution of Lumbricus terrestris in British Columbia.
(Click on the map to view a larger version.)


The earthworms of British Columbia are a little known faunal group. We would like to thank the Royal Ontario Museum for providing permissions to use extracts, including illustrations, from the following publication in the atlas pages: Reynolds, John W. 1977. The Earthworms (Lumbricidae and Sparganophilidae) of Ontario. Thanks also to John Reynolds for provision of substantial information on earthworms and review of the atlas pages.

Species Information

Click on the image(s) below to view an expanded illustration for this taxon.

Illustration Source: Reynolds, John W. 1977. The Earthworms (Lumbricidae and Sparganophilidae) of Ontario. Life Science Miscellaneous Publications, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.

This is an introduced European species of earthworm. Reynolds (1977) provides the following description for it: “Length 90-300 mm, diameter 6-10 mm, segment number 120-160, prostomium tanylobic, first dorsal pore 7/8. Clitellum xxxi, xxxii-xxxvii. Tubercula pubertatis xxxiii-xxxvi. Setae enlarged and widely paired in the caudal and cephalic regions (i.e. AB and CD are greater) but closely paired and smaller in the central region, AA>BC,AB>CD, and DD = ½C anteriorly, DD<½C posteriorly. The ventral setae of x, xxvi, and sometimes xxv are on broad genital tumescences modified into genital setae. Genital tumescences, occasionally in viii-xiv and xxiv-xxxix. Males pores prominent with large elevated glandular papillae extending over xiv-xvi. Seminal vesicles, three pairs in 9, 11, and 12+13. Spermathecae, two pairs with short ducts opening at 9/10 and 10/11. Body cylindrical and strongly compressed dorsoventrally posteriorly. Heavily pigmented, brownish-red, or violet colour on dorsum and yellowish-orange on venter.”

Source: Reynolds, John W. 1977. The Earthworms (Lumbricidae and Sparganophilidae) of Ontario. Life Science Miscellaneous Publications, Royal Ontario Musuem, Toronto, with permission.


Species Biology

Reynolds (1977) indicates: “Under favourable conditions activity, including copulation, is year round but a summer and winter rest period may be climatically imposed in certain areas. The species is obligatorily amphimictic (Reynolds, 1974c) and copulation is nocturnal and takes place on the surface of the soil. Feeding may be both selective and indiscriminate and certainly during burrowing much soil is swallowed. Casting is usually beneath the soil surface. Unusual activities of this species are the lining of burrows with pebbles, or faecal earth, and the drawing into the burrows of leaves. The entrances to burrows may be blocked with seeds, sticks, straws, and feathers. [This species] is an important species in litter decomposition. It is also collected annually at night by the millions as the major species of worm for fish bait in the northern portion of North America. The relatively long life cycle makes it unprofitable to rear this species commercially for fish bait. It is also gathered annually in large numbers for biological supply institutions...for [this species] is nearly always the textbook example of the oligochaetes...”


Reynolds (1977) provides the following habitat information for this species: “[This species] has been found in soils of pH 4.0-8.08 and can adapt to a wide variety of habitats. According to Gerard (1964) it is almost purely terrestrial and is found in gardens, arable and pasture lands, forests, and river banks. Gates (1972c) records additional habitats such as streams, mud flats, woody peat, under logs in a stream bed, under cow pats, and in compost. It has been found in greenhouses and botanical gardens in Europe and North America and in European caves (Gates 1972c). The species does not normally occur in forests in North America (Reynolds, 1976b). After extensive collecting...in eastern North America, it now appears that statements such as “Lumbricus terrestris is becoming increasingly important in the United States, following its importation and gradual replacement of endemic populations” (Edwards et al. 1969) are not true. Many erroneous statements such as this have been made about [this species] without data to support their claims. Data for naturally occurring populations of [this species] in North American areas south of the limit of Quaternary glaciations are lacking (Gates, 1970). A few limited collections of this species were obtained in Tennessee, Maryland, and Delaware, three states south of the southern limits of Pleistocene glaciation, by Reynolds et al. (1974), Reynolds (1974b), and Reynolds (1973a), respectively. In Ontario, [this species] was collected from a variety of habitats, but primarily from under logs. Millions are collected annually from the surfaces of golf courses and lawns for the bait industry.”


Global Range

Reynolds (1977) says: “A native of Palaearctis, [this species] is now known from Europe, Iceland, North America, South America, Siberia, South Africa, and Australasia (Gates 1972c). Reinecke..however, cannot confirm its natural occurrence in South Africa.” Reynolds and Wetzel 2008 report it from Mexico, Canada and the US. In the US, it is reported from AR, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA, VT, WV, WA, WI (Reynolds and Wetzel 2008).
Canadian and BC Range

In Canada this species is reported from AB, BC, MB, NB, NF, NS, ON, PE, PQ, YT (Reynolds and Wetzel 2008). In BC, it has been reported from several sites, including: Victoria, Vancovuer, Terrace, and Crawford Bay.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Photo Sources

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2022-08-19 10:33:34 AM]
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