“I found this worm in my toilet bowl”, states this reader in Turkey about the red-striped worm pictured below. “I had not used this toilet for almost 24 hours. It looks like an earthworm. But I also wonder if it could be some sort of parasite. Thanks for any comment.” Based on the excellent image our reader sent in, we would say this is an earthworm, specifically a tiger worm. These creatures, otherwise known as red wigglers or red Californians, are completely harmless creatures, just like the common earthworm. They are not parasitic, and they do not bite or sting, so our reader needs not worry for her health and safety.
Tiger worms, unlike the common earthworm, do not live underground most of the time. Instead, they live among the decaying matter they feed on, leaving them far more exposed to predators. Because of this, they are a popular choice for people starting a vermicomposting bin: an area in which people discard their organic waste to be broken down by worms and turned into nutrient-rich fertilizer. Likewise, the worm has been exported to all corners of the world, where previously it could not necessarily be found internationally; this is a common story for many earthworm species, many of which originated in Europe but which we later brought to other continents via settlements and trading.
Although tiger worms are not harmful, they can secrete a toxin which can be harmful to some invertebrates. It would not cause any real harm to a human, but it is possible it might cause an allergic reaction. For that reason, we recommend our reader avoid skin-to-skin contact with the earthworm. With that said, we will suggest she move the worm outside, but that she do this by scooping the worm onto a dustpan using an oblong object. Likewise, the worm’s presence in her toilet might be indicative of a leak, so our reader may want to contact a professional if she thinks she might be experiencing one. Signs of a leak include: Discolored water. Foul-tasting and/or -smelling water. Inconsistent water pressure. Unusually low water pressure. Inconsistent water temperature.
In conclusion, the worm our reader found in her toilet is a tiger worm. They are not dangerous, but she will want to avoid getting the toxin on her skin. Likewise, since tiger worms are benefactors of the environment, we advise that she avoid killing it. We hope this helps, and we wish her the very best!
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