Small Gold Worms in Florida

A reader wrote to us about some small gold worms in Florida that reportedly bite. (More precisely, they are “a hard gold color,” although we’re not sure what the adjective “hard” adds to the color description.) The reader didn’t indicate she had found any of the worms (perhaps explaining why no picture of the worms was submitted), nor did she mention anything about the worms causing her distress or irritation. Indeed, her question was a mere sentence long, consisting only of a straightforward plea for information stripped of any other context. So, what are the small gold worms in Florida that bite?

Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that is difficult not only because it is about a seemingly rare creature (who has ever seen a gold worm?), but also because the reader’s email was short on details. We know a few things, but they don’t take us very far. For one, just how small is this worm? “Small” is obviously a relative term, and virtually every worm is small when compared to, say, many animals (with the notable exception of a few species of giant worms). Also, we’re not sure what type of environment/situation the worm was found in. Most basically, were the worms in water or on land, but there are lots of other important details that would be helpful to know, like if the worms were climbing on something (e.g., a tree, perhaps indicating that the creature is a pest) or emerging from the ground. So, we’re not working with much.

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We have so far used the word “worm” to described what our reader found. However, she may not be dealing with a worm, at least not as the word “worm” is generally used. Many creatures that are described as “worms” turn out to be similar creatures, like various types of larvae, especially caterpillars. Indeed, we have some reason to suspect that our reader might have found a caterpillar. It is a bright color, as are many caterpillars, and it is said to bite. We don’t know of any caterpillars that actually bite, but plenty of them sting, and this could be mistaken for a bite. In contrast, we don’t know of any worms (at least as the term is generally understood) that bite with the exception of bristle worms (i.e., polychaetes), which can bite and sting when threatened. Bristle worms are generally aquatic, though, and generally this type of thing is referenced in the reader’s question. (We also don’t know of any gold bristle worms, although there are over 10,000 species, so it’s possible.)

And so, alas, we must reach our conclusion, which is one of uncertainty. We have no concrete answers to put forward, but we did expand, for good or ill, the scope of the reader’s question by considering non-worms, like caterpillars, which our reader might have found for the reasons given above. As we periodically do (with fairly successful results), we call on our readers to supply via comment any information that they think relevant. Have you seen a gold worm before? Were you bitten? Do you live in Florida? Etc. Anything that may help us solve this golden-worm question is welcome.

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