“Last night we found a small (maybe two inches long) worm-like thing squiggling in our living room”, states this reader in his submission. “Is this a worm? Parasite? Small snake?” he asks about the creature, which he describes as “charcoal-to-blackish grey. I live in Flagstaff Arizona at 7000 feet elevation. Not sure of [the worm’s] diameter: maybe the size of a strand of angel hair pasta.”
Now, although he does not attach any photos to his submission, we appreciate the context he provides, as well as the specific comparison he makes in terms of its appearance. With that said, we must say that it will not be possible for us to make an identification with 100% certainty, without having seen the organism, or without having been given very detailed descriptions of its appearance. A black coloration and thin body is not necessarily a very unique appearance to have as a worm-like creature. For that same reason, we cannot positively answer our reader’s questions with any degree of certainty. Nonetheless, we will try to help our reader as best we can.
If we were to guess what this might be, based on the organisms we have encountered before that are two inches long, black in color and as wide around as angel hair pasta (and are somewhat commonly found in households), we would say it might be a millipede. These critters are benevolent arthropods that tend to show up in people’s gardens, but have also been known to show up in homes, particularly in rooms that are damp and cold, such as basements. They are not to be feared, as they are completely harmless; the most they can do is secrete a fluid which may cause irritation to the skin. For that reason, as with any organism (especially if they are unidentified), we suggest avoiding skin-to-skin contact and scooping the worm up onto a dustpan if and when moving it. On that note, we suggest moving this creature outside. Since no more than one worm was found, an infestation is unlikely.
That said, we can of course not guarantee that it is a millipede: this is merely an educated guess. Besides, we do have some doubts that this is a millipede given that our reader described the creature as “squiggling”. Millipedes are known for their multitude of legs, which sprout from the underside of their bodies and thus are often not visible from a distance. This can give them the appearance of gliding across a surface when they walk. As such, they do not wriggle about in the same way that a worm with no legs would.
Moving on, when it comes to our reader’s questions, we, again, cannot answer them with certainty. We will say that if it is a millipede, then it is not a worm, parasite, or snake. However, if it is not a millipede, then we cannot say if it is a worm or a parasite, though we would say it is not likely for it to be a snake. There are species of small snakes, but even they do not get as small as two inches. The smallest snake is the Barbados threadsnake, which tends to be around four inches. Most importantly, if our reader is concerned about parasites, then we would not be able to identify it even with a picture or more context. This is because parasites are always a medical concern, and as we are not medical professionals, we are not qualified or legally able to identify parasitic organisms.
If he wishes to consult someone about a potential parasitic infection, we recommend seeing a medical parasitologist, as they specialize in this area. To find one, our reader can do one or more of the following:
1) Search for a medical parasitologist in their area using this directory of medical parasitology consultants: https://www.astmh.org/for-astmh-members/clinical-consultants-directory.
2) Search for a local parasitologist by doing a Google search for “medical parasitologist (name of the closest big city)” or “tropical medicine specialist (name of the closest big city)”.
3) Get in touch with Dr. Omar Amin at the Parasitology Center at https://www.parasitetesting.com.
4) Contact Dr. Vipul Savaliya of Infectious Disease Care (“IDCare”) at idcarepa.com.
We should note that both Dr. Amin and Dr. Savaliya are available for online consultation, so our reader does not need to be in the vicinity of their physical offices to get help!
In conclusion, we are unfortunately not able to identify the organism our reader found. We would have needed pictures or more context to make an identification with more certainty. It could very well be a millipede, or something else entirely. Nonetheless, we hope that this article proves helpful to some degree, and we wish him the very best.