A woman wrote to us about getting infested with horsehair worms while visiting Costa Rica, and wanted advice on how to permanently rid herself of them.
Recently, we got a note from a reader who found an interesting critter in the woods. He is wondering if this tiny creature is a member of the family Phasmatodea (he has read about Phasmatodea in a couple articles on our website).
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?
A reader from Texas wrote to us recently about some “hairlike worms” he is finding on the sidewalk after it rains. The hairlike worms (or hair-like worms – both are correct) are six inches to nine inches in length, which is long given their incredibly thin bodies. The reader wants to know what the hairlike worms are, and we are virtually certain we know the answer: horsehair worms. We suppose we could stop here, having unraveled the hairlike worm mystery, but below we’ll provide some information about and pictures of horsehair worms to round out the article.
We recently received a question from a reader about a horsehair worm in his toilet. Or at least we think this is what the question is about, as the wording is a little unclear: “I have horse hair worm .i thinking.in my toilet do i flush it?” Obviously, a horsehair worm (or “horse hair worm,” to use the reader’s understandable misspelling) is involved, and it seems to be in the toilet, and the reader’s only question is about whether or not he can flush it. So we’ll focus on the question “can you flush a horsehair worm down the toilet,” but we’ll cover a little more ground so the article has broader applicability.
A reader wrote to us a while ago about a long worm he found in the garden of his rural home in France. The reader found the worm “wriggling through the long grass” and estimated it to be about as long as wholemeal spaghetti (or presumably any type of spaghetti, for that matter). The reader was wondering what this very long worm might be, and our best hypothesis is that it is a horsehair worm (Nematomorpha), which are also known as Gordian worms (after the legend of the Gordian knot). Although a long worm that resembles spaghetti is very likely to be a horsehair worm, it is worth mentioning that it could be something even more common: a simple earthworm.
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.
A reader from Ojai, California wrote to us recently about a long worm found in his swimming pool. Relative to its width, the worm is actually extremely long, and in fact you would have trouble identifying it as any sort of living creature unless you know about horsehair worms (a.k.a. “Gordian worms” because their coiled up bodies look like Gordian knots), which we are fairly certain is what our reader found. The reader only asked if he found some sort of worm, and since horsehair worms are of course worms, the technical answer to our reader’s question is a mere “yes.” But one-word answers maketh a good article not, so we’ll give you some information about horsehair worms, with which we have some familiarity thanks to their prevalence and the frequency with which we receive questions about horsehair worms.
We recently received a picture of a worm (posted below) that was discovered by a reader who was wondering what type of worm she found. The worm was found in a puddle in Indiana, where the reader is from (that is, the reader is from Indiana, not the puddle, presumably). We have long awaited a simple question to answer, as we’ve been dealing with some difficult (and strange) questions as of late, and happily this particular reader’s question is within our ability to identify. We are very confident that our reader found a horsehair worm (sometimes known as “Gordian worms”), which is a nematode or roundworm (also spelled “round worm”).
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?
To get rid of horsehair worms, you can install a mesh filter or screen to keep the worms from water pumped from a surface supply such as a farm pond or canal or you can treat domestic water supply systems by filtering and treating with chemicals under the direction of the local health department.