Carbendazim-amended soil was placed above or below unamended soil. Control tests comprised two layers of unamended soil. Allolobophora chlorotica earthworms were added to either the upper or the unamended soil. After 72 h vertical distributions of earthworms were compared between control and carbendazim-amended experiments. Earthworm distributions in the carbendazim-amended test containers differed significantly from the 'normal' distribution observed in the control tests. In the majority of the experiments, earthworms significantly altered their burrowing behaviour to avoid carbendazim. However, when earthworms were added to an upper layer of carbendazim-amended soil they remained in this layer. This non-avoidance is attributed to (1) the earthworms' inability to sense the lower layer of unamended soil and (2) the toxic effect of carbendazim inhibiting burrowing. Earthworms modified their burrowing behaviour in response to carbendazim in the soil. This may explain anomalous results observed in pesticide field trials when carbendazim is used as a control substance. (C) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.