We received a very strange question recently from a reader who asked if worms – or a “regular long brown earth worm,” to use the reader’s exact phrasing – can “come up through carpet with the thick backing.” The reader is asking because she has renters who claim that worms are “coming through the carpet,” and the reader wanted to know if this is possible. So, the question before us is something like this: do earthworms ever make their way into a home by coming through the carpet?
This question is perplexing for a number of reasons. First and most obviously, it is about a strange phenomenon – earthworms coming through the carpet – which we have never heard of before. Second, there are lots of details or pieces of information that we don’t have that would help us make sense of this question. For instance, what kind of housing does the reader rent out, and what kind of condition is it in? There are obviously forms of housing – e.g., a 10th-floor apartment – that would make an earthworm coming through the carpet all but impossible.
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And even if the reader rents out a normal house, it still seems essentially impossible for an earthworm to makes its way through the carpet of a house, not least because houses aren’t just built on a layer of carpet. They have concrete foundations in most instances. The thick backing of the carpet might be the easiest thing for an earthworm to get through, even though we don’t know how an earthworm would be able to somehow tunnel through that either. The only housing situation we can imagine that could potentially enable a worm to come through the carpeted floor is some sort of old, rural cabin, one built directly on the dirt with a wooden foundation and old, worn-through carpeting. In this hyper-specific scenario, we still don’t think there is much of a risk of worms coming through the floor, however, because we don’t know why the worms would be inclined to enter an alien space that is for the most part hostile to their vitality. Earthworms rarely come out of the ground because of the risk of desiccation – this is why they are generally only seen after it rains – and thus it would be strange of them to fight their way into a carpeted room.
So, we have some pretty serious doubts that earthworms could be entering a house through the carpet. However, we have no idea if our reader is actually finding earthworms, and this is the other crucial piece of information we are missing. The reader is pretty clear that she thinks she is dealing with earthworm; this is the information she starts her question with, and in fact it is the focus of the question itself. However, if her renters are finding some other sort of creature, the “worms through the carpet” scenario becomes slightly more plausible. For instance, people often find carpet beetle larvae in their carpet, and since these larvae actually eat the carpet, we suppose it might appear as though they are coming “through” the carpet. We also write about carpet beetle larvae all the time because they are a common pest, and thus you are more likely to find carpet beetle larvae in your house than earthworms. Or, if our reader is definitely dealing with earthworms, they of course might not be coming in through the carpet. (Indeed, they almost certainly aren’t.) Again, a house is not a good place for an earthworms, so they wouldn’t be naturally inclined to go into a house, but it isn’t impossible to imagine that an earthworm might find its way into a house, perhaps crawling through an open window or crack, or maybe hitching a ride in on a pet.
At the end of the day, though, we don’t have a very clear idea of what our reader is dealing with, so it is hard to answer her question with any degree of certainty. It seems extremely unlikely that earthworms could (or would) come through the carpet of a house, so we think she can safely ignore that possibility, but that is about all we can say with confidence. Perhaps earthworms made it into the house some other way, or maybe earthworms aren’t the intruder. In any case, we hope the reader solves her riddle, and is able to address the worm issue with minimal effort.
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*UPDATE: We have heard from 2 people, in as many years, that they have in fact found earthworms that have come up through the carpet. As we say above, it’s “extremely unlikely” that an earthworm could come up through a foundation and then through a thick carpet. Other worms, yes, but not an actual earthworm.