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Plants for Bugs

RHS research project monitoring insects in native and non-native garden border plants.

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The very hungry worm

Posted by Helen Bostock Plantsforbugs on 29 Aug 2013 at 09:53 AM


Plastic lamina strips showing bait-filled holes before being sunk into the soil


Stephanie's work on sampling soil fauna is still ongoing. Here we catch up with her using a technique known as 'bait lamina strips'...


Towards the end of June bait lamina strips were positioned within each of the Plants for Bugs plots, the yellow tops of which can now be seen poking just above the soil surface (four per plot). The aim is to use them to measure the activity of the soil fauna, primarily the earthworms.




 Mike Terrington (Field Assistant) setting the lamina strips in the plots


The bait lamina strips are plastic strips each with 15 holes drilled through them which have been filled with a mixture of bran flakes, cellulose (found in plant cell walls) and activated charcoal (yummy, how can they resist!).


They are now being monitored periodically to see if the bait in the holes has been taken; more empty holes meaning more activity. Though with lots of dry, warm weather this summer activity is not likely to be high.



Yellow tips of lamina strips showing their position



Helen.  Forgive me please for perhaps appearing to be dim wit.  Apart from being a horticulturist of many years, and also one verfy interest in soil sciences etc.  I am aware that fellow scientist do tend to lead such strange lifestyles, so please can you in the most simlest of terms, and as beif as possible, answer me this.  What is the purpose of this trial?  What is the final objective, and in what way, if any.  Will the discovery that x amountg of worms passed this way, compared to y amount passing by some ten feet distant.  In addition.  Exactly what evidence have the scientist got, to prove that the tempting bait, has in fact been taken by the worm.  Why not the centipede, wireworm etc.  As a FLS directly concerned with, Flora and Fauna and soil sciences. I honestly would like to know more.



on 29 Aug 2013 at 11:36 PM

Helen Bostock Plantsforbugs said:

Mike, many apologies but I have only just spotted your jolly sensible question. This element of the research is being done as a separate soil fauna PhD through Roehampton University. I will get on to Stephanie who is undertaking the work to see if she can best explain. I'll be sure to post her response and again, sorry for not replying sooner. The reasoning for the main Plants for Bugs trial is probably best explained through our web pages - Stephanie's work complements ours as it is comparing organism activity within the soil itself, as well as being the only element to make comparisons with conditions on nearby sites (e.g. Wisley Common). Helen

on 03 Dec 2013 at 04:12 PM

Helen Bostock Plantsforbugs said:

Back again. Steph is away at present but I have spoken with our entomologist, Andrew Salisbury. He tells me the bait lamina strips are a standard method of testing soil fauna activity. It is a little crude in that you are correct, we cannot say exactly what ate the bait but it is most likely to be earthworms (the bait disappearing is related to soil decomposer activity of which it is assumed/known that worms play the greater part in the UK). Steph will be citing the following publication in her paper, one which nicely explains the use of this technique in another study - How Steph's work ties into the larger Plants for Bugs study is that she is finding out if the planting regimes above the soil (planted with either British native plants, Northern Hemisphere plants or Southern Hemisphere plants) are affecting biodiversity below the soil.

on 06 Dec 2013 at 08:54 AM