A man from coastal British Columbia, Canada recently sent in this image of a worm-like creature he found in a bucket of compost juice he was brewing for gardening purposes in late June. The worms appear to be a semi-transparent white in color, with pink down the middle which is enclosed in brighter white rings. The creatures also have incredibly long tails, one of them having a tail that is most likely twice the length of its body.
Our reader asks that we identify this critter, and so to cut to the chase, what we are looking at here is a rat-tailed maggot. These creatures are the larval stage of hover flies/drone flies, and are often found swimming in stagnant water as they look for organic compost to feed off of. This explains why this creature was found inside our reader’s bucket. While they are most commonly found in manure pits or lagoons, it is not unheard of that they live in people’s gardens, in polluted waters, or even drains and toilets. In fact, we wrote an article about this not long ago, that our reader is welcome to check out to learn more about this.
Rat-tailed maggots’ bodies are comprised of three key features, the first of which is a set of forelegs. These are not always visible, but are characterized by darker circles of skin at their sides. The second feature is their antennae, which operate sensory experiences such as smell, taste, and/or touch. Lastly, are their characteristic, long tails. The rat-tailed maggot’s tail is, in fact, a respiratory tract that it uses to breathe as it swims under water, similar to a snorkeling tube. Once they get to their pupal stage, the rat-tailed maggot shrinks in length, but its body grows bigger in girth and gains a solid, dark reddish-brown color, almost resembling a sweet potato (see image from the web below). Finally, its fully-grown form, the drone fly, resembles a bee, and does pollinate, thus being an environmentally beneficial creature.
Furthermore, infestations of rat-tailed maggots can occur, which can be quite a nuisance. We would consider our reader lucky that they are all in one concentrated area, for this will make it easy to dispose of them. We recommend simply moving the larvae to another location that imitates their natural habitat, and then making sure to cover any and all buckets that contain similar contents, so as to prevent more infestations.
To conclude, the worms that our reader found swimming in his bucket of compost juice were rat-tailed maggots. While some may consider them a vile sight, they pose no real threat to humans. However, infestations can occur, so our reader should make sure to act immediately before they increase in number.