Creature on Desk is Not a Tapeworm

A reader found a small, wriggly critter on his desk. He took a couple pictures of it, and is wondering if we can identify it. He notes that he has two indoor dogs, and wonders if this little fellow could be related to them. His specific concern is that it may be a tapeworm.


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We have good news for him: these are definitely not tapeworms!  Tapeworms (class Cestoda) are parasitic flatworms that can be found infesting any number of animals, including humans and our pets. One way they may be contracted is by eating undercooked pork. Symptoms of tapeworm infestation include (but are not limited to) loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, insomnia, and protein deficiency. More information about tapeworms and their fascinating tapeworm-lives can be found in an article we published back in 2010 called “The Life of Tapeworms.”

(As always, we would like to note that we are not medical doctors here at All About Worms, and are making no attempt to diagnose or treat any illnesses in either humans or animals. If our reader, or anyone else, is concerned about tapeworm infestation, they should consult the appropriate medical professional.)

The reason we can be so sure that the critter that our reader has found is not a tapeworm is that, though there are several different species of tapeworm that look slightly different, none of them look like the critter in our reader’s picture.

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Adult Taenia saginata tapeworm. Photo courtesy of the Center for Disease Control.

So, what is the little fellow that our reader found? It’s likely that it’s our old friend the carpet beetle larva. These are very common household critters which, luckily, are not harmful to humans or our furry friends.

Of course, while the carpet beetle larva is one of the most common unintentional housemates, it is certainly not the only possibility. It could also be the larva of any number of other household beetles, including others from the family Dermestidae (the carpet beetle’s family). However, those other species are less common. The Thaumaglossa, for example, lives only in the egg cases of some praying mantises. The Dermestes maculatus, on the other hand, is commonly found eating the flesh of dead animals. In fact, medical examiners will look to the development of Dermestes maculatus to determine how long a deceased individual has been dead.

It is more likely, though, that our reader has found one of the more common household Dermestidae larva, such as the Dermestes lardarius (larder beetle) or the Anthrenus verbasci (the varied carpet beetle). In any case, neither he or his dogs have anything to worry about from these little baby beetles. He can encourage them to hang out somewhere else by vacuuming regularly and making sure to store food in airtight containers.

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Creature on Desk is Not a Tapeworm
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Creature on Desk is Not a Tapeworm
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A reader found a small, wriggly critter on his desk. He took a couple pictures of it, and is wondering if we can identify it. He notes that he has two indoor dogs, and wonders if this little fellow could be related to them. His specific concern is that it may be a tapeworm.
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