A concerned reader wrote to us a while back about some red worms on her bathroom floor. (Technically, the worms in the bathroom are “reddish-brown,” to use the reader’s exact phrase.) She has found the worms twice now, causing her some concern because she has never seen the creatures before in the 12 years she has lived in her house. The worms have a “snail head,” and the reader didn’t notice any legs. Naturally, the reader was curious about what she was finding, and so the question before us is this: what are the red worms in her bathroom?
First, as the reader indirectly acknowledges by her use of the phrase “wormlike creature,” she might not be dealing with a worm. Unfortunately, however, it is not clear that she isn’t dealing with a worm either. As we read our reader’s question, we were pulled back and forth when formulating initial impressions. Did she find a worm, or is it a millipede? Might it be something else entirely? Unfortunately, our settled thoughts are not much more certain, as the conflicting facts remain, and the reader did not supply any picture. (Both times she found the creature, she flushed it down the toilet.)
When we started reading our reader’s email, which began with the declaration that a “wormlike creature” had been found twice, we thought she might have simply found a worm. Indeed, since she described the creature as “reddish-brown,” we thought she even might have found the most classic worm of all – a simple earthworm. She described the worm as about two to three inches long and skinny, which is perfectly consistent with many species of earthworm (e.g., red wigglers). Perhaps because people are so accustomed to seeing them outside in the yard or garden (and because they see different creatures inside), it strikes many as bizarre that an earthworm can make its way into the house. However, this can certainly happen, as when an earthworm makes its way into the bathroom through a pipe (like the one connected to the slab beneath the shower) under the floor.
This seemed like a reasonable guess, but then we read on and learned that the creature had a “snail head.” We aren’t sure what this means, but one thought is that the creature our reader found has antennae. (Snails don’t actually have antennae. The longer projections on their heads are technically tentacles with light-sensitive tips – essentially snail eyes – but they look like antennae.) Immediately after the “snail head” part, the reader said that the creature thrashed around quite a bit. These two facts led us to believe that our reader found a millipede, a common house pest with antennae that very well might thrash around when disturbed. However, the reader goes on to say the creature doesn’t appear to have legs, and of course millipedes have many legs.
So, what are we to conclude? What is the “wormlike creature” in our reader’s bathroom? We can’t be sure, but we are leaning toward the millipede hypothesis. The reader didn’t definitively rule out legs – she said she “can’t tell [...] if they had legs; but if they did, they were very tiny” – which leads us to think that maybe she did find a millipede. Millipede legs are quite small, and they don’t protrude from underneath their bodies, so they can be difficult to see. And given the reader’s description of the “snail head” of the creature (which we took as “possessing antennae”), we can’t imagine she saw an earthworm, which is the only possibility that comes to mind when we imagine a skinny, reddish-brown, two-to-three inch creature on the bathroom floor. So, we’ll stick with millipede, but we are far from certain this is the correct.