Bloodworm

Long, Thin Red Worm in Air Vent of Bathroom

A reader wrote to us a couple of days ago about a long, thin red worm that she found in the air vent of her bathroom. The worm is about three or four inches (seven to ten centimeters) long and “about half as thick as your typical earthworm.” The head of the worm had two “‘horns'” on it. (The reader put the word “horns” in quotes, of course indicating that she is using the word loosely, and hence the double quotes in the preceding sentence.) The reader had only one question: what is the long, thin red worm (with some sort of horns) in the air vent of the bathroom, assuming it is even a worm?

Regrettably, the reader was unable to provide us with a picture, which would have been particularly helpful in this case because we are struggling to get a mental image of the creature in question. At first, it sounded like she was just describing a regular worm – potentially even an earthworm, despite its slenderness. (There are lots of different species of earthworm, and they come in many sizes.) However, this idea is essentially nullified by the fact that the creature has “horns” in some sense or another. Given that the horns aren’t literally horns, it is possible our reader might be describing the tentacles of a slug. The tentacles, which are commonly mistaken as antennae, have light sensitive tips that serve as “eyes” (in the most minimal sense of the term) and do in fact look a bit like horns.

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Another possibility is that our reader found bloodworms, and indeed this is what we suggested to readers in the past who found small red worms in the shower or thin red worms in the shower and on the shower curtain. The word “bloodworm” is imprecise because it can be used to refer to many worm-like creatures, but if our reader did find a bloodworm, it is likely the larval form of a chironomid, or a non-biting midge. In general, chironomid larvae are found in stagnant pools of water, but they can also be found in semi-aquatic environments, and perhaps the air vent leading into the bathroom is moist, or at least leads to a moist environment in the bathroom. Chironomid larvae have antennae on their heads and tubules on their posterior end, so either end of the creature could be said to be have “horns.” The major problem with this suggestion is that chironomid larvae are only about a half an inch in length, which is much smaller than the creature our reader found. Interestingly, one of the other creatures known as “bloodworms,” the polychaetes that make up the genus Glycera, kind of matches the description of what our reader found, as these creatures are pinkish or reddish color, they have antennae, and they can grow to be several inches in length. However, these bloodworms are aquatic creatures that are almost always found in shallow marine waters, and thus it seems exceedingly unlikely that one would be found in an air vent.

Unfortunately, we must conclude with uncertainty. We have reasons for thinking our reader found a few different creatures, but every suggestion has its problems, just like every rose has its thorn. Despite the size discrepancy, we still think it is most likely our reader found a midge larvae, but we wouldn’t wager much on this possibility. If our reader cares to investigate the matter further, she should keep in mind that she may not have found a worm – it could be a larva, slug, or potentially something else entirely. Hopefully this at least points her in the right direction.

And if she can provide us with a picture, we’ll be happy to take another run at determining what she has found.

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Long, Thin Red Worm in Air Vent of Bathroom
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Long, Thin Red Worm in Air Vent of Bathroom
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A reader wrote to us a couple of days ago about a long, thin red worm that she found in the air vent of her bathroom.
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