“Found these worms in the back yard and there are a lot!” writes this reader in Greece about the light brown, segmented creature pictured below. “I have a small garden there with an orange tree but the garden is unattended. What are those? They seem to be active at night and light attracts them, I think.” Firstly, we want to thank our reader for the great photo. Clear photos like this one greatly help us identify the creatures that we are asked about. Secondly, we have identified this as a mealworm.
Mealworms are the larval form of the yellow mealworm beetle, a species of darkling beetle. Their diet consists of rotting organic material, which definitely includes oranges. So, the presence of the orange tree, especially in an unattended garden, is a recipe for attracting mealworms. The thing is, our reader should count himself lucky that these mealworms showed up in the garden. Since it is unattended, if the mealworms had not shown up to eat the rotting food, it would just lie there. By eating the rotting fruit, the mealworms break down the organic material much faster and return nutrient-rich fertilizer to the earth through their waste, much like the earthworm.
Similarly, besides playing an important role in the environment so far as breaking down decomposing organic matter, mealworms are also a popular source of food for many predators, so their place in the food chain is also vital. Some people even keep mealworms to compost their organic waste, or to feed to their pets. So, with that said, we advise against killing mealworms. What we recommend in terms of how to get rid of them is entirely up to what our reader wants to do. If he does not want creatures like mealworms in his garden, the best way to prevent them is by actually tending the garden and keeping the fruit from rotting by harvesting it. If he does not wish to tend the garden, then he should get used to infestations of mealworms, earthworms, and potentially a whole host of other worm and insect species.
To conclude, the worm-like organisms our reader has been finding in his garden are mealworms. They are not dangerous to humans or pets, and they actually play a vital role in the ecosystem, so we recommend just leaving these critters alone, especially if the garden will remain unattended. We hope this helps, and we wish our reader the very best!
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