A reader wrote to us recently about the hundreds of skinny worms that appear on her back patio after it rains. The worms are a little over an inch long (about three centimeters), and they are coming from planter boxes nearby. The worms not only spread out over the tiles on her patio, but also on the walls and doors of her house. Once the rain stops and the worms dry out, they produce an unpleasant odor, so the reader is left to clean up a ton of dead worms that smell bad. She is understandably keen to remedy this problem, and wants to know what to do to discourage the worms from invading her terrace. Interestingly, the reader has a front patio that is unaffected by the problem, even though planter boxes are near this patio as well. What can our reader do to get rid of the hundreds of skinny worms that are overwhelming her patio after it rains?
We were given no pictures to go along with our reader’s question, so we aren’t entirely sure how to visualize the worms, but in this instance it isn’t all that important because our reader isn’t interested in identifying exactly what she found. (For the record, we have received questions about skinny worms on the patio and slugs on patios, so our reader can consult these if she wants to learn about what she might be finding.) It would, however, be helpful to see a picture of the front and back patios so that we could see if there are any relevant differences between the two.
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For instance, one of our first thoughts was that the front patio might be covered, and in which case it obviously wouldn’t be getting wet and therefore wouldn’t be an attractive place for a worm to crawl. (A worm’s body must stay moist for it to breathe through its skin.) We also aren’t sure where the planter boxes are located. They are (of course) planter boxes, so they are perhaps on the patios themselves, but this isn’t explicitly mentioned. If the planter boxes are on the back porch but not on the front porch, this could explain why they are taking over the back patio and leaving the front patio alone. Indeed, the reader seems to imply something like this when she mentions that the planter boxes around the front patio are “next to open gardens.” Maybe the worms in the front boxes crawl into the more inviting gardens, but since the worms in the back have no such option, they just crawl on the open space around them, which happens to be a patio.
Given how little we know about the reader’s exact patio setup, it is difficult to offer any advice that isn’t pretty obvious. To the extent that it is possible, our reader should try to mimic the situation on her front patio; if the planters boxes are near an inviting worm habitat in the front, can the same setup be achieved in the back? More generally, can the boxes in the back be moved off the patio, or at least further away from the house, which might help with the worms crawling on the walls and doors? Again, we don’t know if these suggestions are possible, but given that the reader knows where the worms are coming from, it seems like it is most natural to put some distance between them and her patio/house.
And in truth we don’t really know what other advice to offer. In general, worms are good for plants, so their presence in planter boxes is most likely a good thing, and in any case we wouldn’t recommend trying to kill the worms with some sort of chemical solution. As a general policy, we always caution against the use of pesticides, and it isn’t clear what good they would do in the case. (We doubt our reader wants to coat her patio, walls, and doors with insecticide, nor should she want to.)
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Hopefully our reader is able to find a simple solution to worm problem. We wish her luck.