Blackworms can be found in just about any city, town or rural area in the United States. They typically live in muddy areas, especially shallow water. Blackworms can be found in droves in ponds and marshes. It is not uncommon for blackworms to migrate to other warm, moist or humid areas. Blackworms belong to the Phylum Annelida; Class Name Oligochaeta, Genus and Species Lumbriculus variegates. Blackworms are also called the “California blackworm” and “mudworms.”
Blackworms have anywhere from 150 to 250 body segments. While the blackworm does not have a skeleton, its body is supported by its own body fluid. Blackworms do not have lungs and they do not have gills so they breathe through their skin. Blackworms can survive for extended periods when there is no oxygen in the water they inhabit. In these cases, the blackworm will stick its dorsal tail up to the water surface to get oxygen.
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While blackworms could irritate the skin, much like any other creatures or insect, they do not feed off human skin. They eat mostly algae, bacteria and protozoa as well as leaves and wood or other dead or decaying vegetation. Blackworms have a digestive tract, which includes a mouth and an anus.
The blackworm moves its body around by using its muscles. It has a nerve cord made up of nerve cells, which can be found below the intestine. It runs the entire length of the body and it controls the blackworms muscles. In addition to using its muscles to move around, the blackworms body also has bristles along the side of their body.
When threatened in any way whether in the water or on land, the blackworm will withdraw its head and/or tail and it may even curl up into a c-shape. They have “eyes” called photoreceptor cells, which sense touch. These “eyes” can be found all along the blackworms tail segments. In the water, you will notice that the worm’s movements are corkscrew-like.
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Blackworms have both male and female sex organs, but they don’t reproduce by mating. Reproduction takes place by breaking apart. This is called fragmentation. When the worm breaks apart, each fragment becomes a new worm. During the process, the new worm grows a new head and/or tail.
If you have a blackworm infestation on the outside of your structure, there are many ways to get rid of them. Chemical insecticides may be used to get rid of blackworms outdoors as well as Bacillus thuringiensis. Infestations also disappear naturally due to the depletion of food supplies, bad weather conditions, and natural enemies such as parasites, pathogens, and predators.
If you have blackworms inside of the commercial structure, there are also a number of chemicals available that are specially formulated for indoor use. It’s best to contact an exterminator to discuss the options available to you. The vast majority of indoor worm killers are non-toxic to humans of course, but it is important to ask if they are also non-toxic to animals if you have any pets in or around the structure. In some cases, you may remain in the space during extermination as many of these chemicals are odorless. If the infestation is severe, which is very rare, you may have to vacate the space for several hours or so as stronger chemicals may be necessary.
If your skin comes in contact with a blackworm, there are several topical creams that can be purchased from your local drugstore if you are very sensitive to insects. Neosporin works to help prevent infection and cortisone cream helps alleviate itching. If you have severe allergic reactions to insects, please contact your physician for prescription strength antibiotics.