We believe the worms our reader noticed on the ground during his bike ride are horsehair worms! These worms need a wet environment to survive, so it is no surprise he noticed them after a heavy rain.
A reader recently submitted a question via the All About Worms Facebook page about a worm “coming out of the ground” in his garden. The most distinguishing characteristic of the worm is that it is “very thin, almost like nylon fish line,” and it moves in a “swaying motion.” The reader only asked if what he found is a type of worm, but we’ll do him one better by identifying the exact worm we think he found: a horsehair worm (occasionally spelled “horse hair worm”). Since horsehair worms are nematodes (roundworms), they are actually worms, not just creatures that everyday language, with its understandable but often frustrating contempt for scientific precision, has wrangled into the “worm category.”
A lobster sandwich is a beautiful thing until you find a tiny, thin worm in it, as a recent reader did who wrote to us via the All About Worms Facebook page. The reader purchased the thin worm-infused lobster sandwich at “a food fayre,” which we are assuming is a food fair that took place sometime in the 1800s for spelling-related reasons. After a few bites of the sandwich, the reader “saw a tiny (almost like a hair) sized worm that was striped black and white (ish) wriggling around on my lobster.” The reader said that it wasn’t a maggot, and again mentioned that the worm was “really thin like a piece of hair.” Naturally, the reader took the sandwich back, but was still worried about what she had found. What type of small, thin worms might be found in a piece of lobster?
We recently received several photos of a fairly long, skinny worm that a reader found in his backyard. We have received many questions about long, skinny worms, and every time we do our first thought is that the reader has found a horsehair worm (sometimes incorrectly written “horse hair worms”), as horsehair worms are indeed long and skinny. With respect to our present reader’s question, we also think there is a good chance he found a horsehair worm. However, the reader specifically asked about tapeworms (which is also incorrectly spelled frequently – as “tape worms”) and was wondering if the creature he found could “burrow” into a body. So, we’ll address the reader’s concerns concurrently, explaining why we think he found a horsehair worm (and not a tapeworm), and in so explaining it will be clear why there is no need to worry about this worm burrowing into a body.
A reader from Maine wrote to us about some long, thin worms she found in her mulch after it had been raining for a few days. Any time we hear of long, thin worms, we immediately think of horsehair worms (sometimes incorrectly spelled “horse hair worms”), which are nothing if not long and thin, shockingly so, in fact, to the point where you might not even think a horsehair worm is any sort of worm at all. (It looks more like, well, a horse hair, one taken from a horse’s tail.) The reader said she was happy to coexist with the worms as long as they are not harmful to her or her plants. Fortunately, horsehair worms aren’t harmful to either (although they are harmful to some types of insects – more on that in a second), so if our reader found a horsehair worm, she has nothing to worry about.
Recently, a reader wrote to us about the crickets he is raising, which as of late have been dying at a fast rate. The reader speculated that his crickets are falling victim to horsehair worms, which are parasites that belong to the phylum Nematomorpha. A horsehair worm can develop in the bodies of several insects, including grasshoppers, cockroaches, and, yes, crickets. The reader’s question was twofold: are his crickets dying from horsehair worms, and is there anything he can do to eliminate the problem to save his crickets?