A reader recently sent a photo of a grey or black worm-like object on a white background, concerned to have found what he believed to be a worm and whether it would be dangerous to his family. Without more information, it is hard to say.
We’ll conject that the white surface the worm appears on is a tub floor or wall, made of porcelain or fiberglass. Without any object for scale or reference, from experience we estimate the worm to be approximately ¾ to 1” long or smaller and slightly lighter color at one end.
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The worm appears to have a hooked or curved end, probably at the mouth or head, but does not appear to be a hookworm (Necator americanus or Ancylostoma duodenale). Despite being spread through feces, hookworms usually appear white or clear.
At this resolution, it’s difficult to tell if the worm is smooth or has banded plates across its top, pairs of fleshy legs (or prolegs,) or antennae. Any of these details, along with a description of the head or any hairlike protrusions, would lead us in one direction or rule out others.
If we were to assume from the photo alone, rather than being any type of worm, we’d point at this being the larva of a drain fly (Clogmia albipunctata). These larvae are frequently found in homes where there is standing water, damp drains or little-used drains, or standing wet sponges, etc. These tiny black larvae prefer moist environments and are discovered regularly in kitchens and bathrooms. These larvae are not harmful, but in their adult fly form they can be a nuisance. Getting rid of the drain fly larvae involves some effort to eliminate food sources and breeding habitat by cleaning and treating the drains and bathroom surfaces with something like an enzyme cleaner to minimize slime buildup.
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The drain fly larvae are not harmful in themselves, but any larvae allowed to take up residence will emerge as an insect, and sometimes a pest, down the road. The safest course for our reader and his family is to avoid promoting the breeding and growth of insects and worms in the home with stepped-up housekeeping and a deep clean– to several inches down the drains!
It can be unnerving to find a worm-like creature or insect in your shower or tub. We can more easily help you identify your specimens with simple information like your general geography or even a coin held next to the creature for scale.