A reader recently sent us a video of a mysterious creature. We use the word “mysterious” because all we know about the worm-like organism is what we witness in the video. Our reader didn’t include a message or any specific questions, so we don’t know where she found the worm, or any other information about it. Here is the video:
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As you can see, this mysterious worm is white, thin, and possibly several inches long (we can’t determine its exact size). At first we thought this could be a horsehair worm. A horsehair worm has a similar physical appearance as the worm in this video, however, horsehair worms are not typically discovered on plants. Other than extremley rare occasions, horsehair worms are always found in water. Horsehair worms are free-living as adults, but they develop and mature in the body of an arthropodal host, which means they are parasites. When a horsehair worm is ready to leave the body of its host, it ejects itself from the host when it is in or near water, often killing the host in the process. Since this worm wasn’t found in water (or at least we don’t think it was), we don’t think it is a horsehair worm.
We think it might be a grasshopper nematode. Grasshopper nematodes look very similar to horsehair worms, and therefore they also look like the creature in the video that our reader sent. Like horsehair worms, grasshopper nematodes are also parasitic organisms, most often to grasshoppers. Female grasshopper nematodes lay a bundle of tiny brown eggs, which attach onto plants. These eggs are then accidentally ingested by insects when the insect is eating the plant. Then the eggs hatch and the larvae develop inside of the host. Sometimes several nematodes develop inside a single insect. The presence of this nematode will often kill the host, and if it miraculously doesn’t, then the host will die when the nematode ejects itself. Grasshopper nematodes typically live in the soil, but they may be see crawling on plants when they are laying eggs in late spring. Since the location and physical description of the grasshopper nematode match what we have observed in the video, we think this is a match!
To summarize, one of our readers sent us a video of a worm that is white, thin, and long. We believe this specimen is a grasshopper nematode, or a Mermis nigrescens.
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