“What is this worm?” asks our reader about this cream-colored creature she put in a glass jar. The creature looks to be an ovate shape, with a thin tail emerging from one end of its body.
The organism was found before our reader’s father was about to use the toilet. Located in Queensland, Australia, our reader has no idea what this worm could be and asks that we provide insight into its identity. Firstly, we want to thank our reader for not only sending in a couple of excellent photographs, but also for telling us where the worm was found, as both of these things help us immensely when trying to identify any given worm-like creature. Secondly, we have identified this as a rat-tailed maggot.
Rat-tailed maggots are the larval form of drone flies, otherwise known as hover flies, syrphid flies or flower flies. The adult fly is often mistaken for a bee or wasp, as its coloration and behaviour is much the same. They are black and yellow in color and feed on nectar and pollen. The funny thing is that these similarities are no mistake, but actually a product of evolution and natural selection. According to the University of Florida’s entomoloy page on drone flies, their copycat appearance and behaviour is a form of Batesian mimicry, as by fooling other creatures into thinking they are bees or wasps (which are far more dangerous than a drone fly), it protects itself from those that might prey on them.
When it comes to the larvae (the rat-tailed maggots) these creatures are most often found in lagoons and other still waters where there is plenty of compost to feed off of. Likewise, people have been known to find rat-tailed maggots in their bathrooms, so this occurrence is not entirely uncommon. We want to assure our reader that feeding on decomposing matter is all these larvae do; as scary as they look, they are not dangerous to humans in any way whatsoever. In fact, this corn dog-looking creature is pretty fascinating. Not only does it have tiny antennae on its head that it uses to smell, touch and taste things, but its long tail also acts as a breathing tube when it swims underwater. Now, despite rat-tailed maggots not being harmful, infestations can occur. That being said, infestations of rat-tailed maggots usually only occur in really dirty water (sewage water, for example), so as long as our reader consistently cleans her toilet and drains, she should not have to worry about an infestation.
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In conclusion, the worm-like creature our reader’s father spotted in the toilet is a rat-tailed maggot. These fellows may not be the prettiest on the block, but at least they are not dangerous! We hope that this article proves insightful to our reader, and that it has put her mind at ease (should she have worried about their presence). As we said, as long as she consistently cleans her bathroom, she should prevent any infestations from occurring.