Honeycomb worm (Sabellaria alveolata) reefs
Honeycomb worms build tubes from sand and
shell fragments. They are found on the lower part of rocky
seashores but they also need a sand supply for tube-building.
They are, therefore, found on exposed shores where there is
sufficient water movement to bring a sand supply from nearby.
They need hard rock to build on, and sand to build with – their
requirements are very specific. These worms are highly
gregarious and live close together, their tubes forming sheets or
reefs in a honeycomb pattern. They may form large reefs up to
several metres across and a metre deep.
These living reefs provide a habitat for
other shore-dwelling animals and seaweeds, such as anemones,
snails, shore crabs and seaweeds such as sea lettuce.
Honeycomb worm reefs are vulnerable to storm
damage and extreme cold weather, after which they may die back for
several years. Other threats include being buried by sand as
a result of sea defence work and beach replenishment, although they
can survive burial for days or even weeks. Trampling and
pollution can also affect the reefs.
For the official habitat definition please
see the documents listed below.
In Britain, honeycomb worm reefs are most
abundant on the south and west coasts with isolated records from
the south-east and east coasts. The northern limit is the Outer
Hebrides. It is also found on south, west and north coasts of
This is a UK BAP Priority Habitat (BAP
habitats are now Habitats of Principal Importance/Priority
UK Biodiversity Action Plan; Priority Habitat Descriptions. BRIG
(ed. Ant Maddock) 2008 (updated December 2011)
UK Marine Special Areas of Conservation - Sabellaria
Life Information Network - Honeycomb worm Sabellaria
JNCC biotope classification - Littoral Sabellaria
alveolata honeycomb worm reefs
JNCC - UK BAP Priority
Species and Habitats
JNCC EUNIS habitat correlations table