We recently received a question from a reader who found a “very tiny and almost transparent white” worm in her soil. She sent a picture along with her question, and this does indeed show a very small worm or worm-like creature that is white and kind of transparent (or technically translucent, we suppose). The reader was only trying to identify the tiny white worm in her soil, so we’ll focus on identification and leave the matter there.
First, here is the picture the reader submitted with her question:
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The timing of this question is fortuitous because we just dealt with a similar question about white worms in a garden. As noted in this article, when we hear a description like “small white worm,” we can’t help but think of larvae (because the description fits many larvae). Probably around 70 to 80 percent of the questions we answer are about larva, and about 95 percent of the time these larva are identified by our readers as worms. In this last article and in the present case, though, it seems as if the reader is actually finding a worm, as we understand the word “worm.” The creature pictured above has an especially elongated body – it is skinny relative to its width, in other words – and it has no trace of legs. Not all larvae are stout and have visible legs, but we don’t know of any that look like the creature above. This is long way of saying, as we did above, that we think the reader found a worm, and potentially the same type we suggested in the previous article about white worms.
That is, we think our reader might have found a species that belongs to the family Enchytraeidae, which are annelids, and thus they belong to the same phylum as earthworms. She might have found potworms specifically, which are generally found in compost bins because they live in highly organic environments. The reader only mentioned that she found the worms in soil, so perhaps this is garden soil that is enriched by a composting operation. One thing that we found interesting is that it looks like the reader’s soil is covered in ice. (This is easier to see in the original picture we were sent, which we had to crop for formatting reasons.) There is a particular genus (Mesenchytraeus) within the family Enchytraeidae that is made up of the so-called “ice worms,” who spend their entire lives in glaciers. Presumably, the reader isn’t seeing one of these specific ice worm species (unless she lives right by a glacier), but perhaps she found a closely related species of a different genus, given the icy circumstances in which she found the white worm.
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So, we think our reader found some of type of worm that belongs to the family Enchytraeidae, or at least this is the most promising suggestion we can offer. Our reader can look further into the matter, perhaps searching for any known species that live in her part of world (wherever that may be).