We recently heard from a reader in Cape Town, South Africa. She explained that due to a severe drought, they are unable to flush the toilet as regularly as normal. They flush with ground water, a little bit of rain water that they capture in buckets, and used shower water. She was about to pour water into the bowl when she noticed some red worms swimming around. She described them as about 1.5 inches long and bright red. She said there were a lot of them, but she was able to flush them away. After doing a little research, she believes they might be bloodworms, but she wants to make sure that her identification is correct and that she isn’t dealing with parasites.
In the first photograph she sent us, we think the specimens she is referring to are three tiny worm-like organisms amongst the toilet paper. While we can see the creatures, they are so small that we aren’t able to notice any distinguishing or identifying characteristics. Here is the other photograph she sent us:
Again, we see the thin, potentially worm-like organism under all the toilet paper, but we can’t see any details of its appearance. Therefore we will have to make our identification using our reader’s description. Based on how she described the appearance of these worms and the location in which she found them, we believe her guess is correct: these are likely bloodworms!
Bloodworms, or midge fly larvae, are tiny, strikingly red creatures that live in water and feed on sediment and other organic matter. It makes sense that these larvae have made a home in our reader’s toilet since she is essentially filling it with dirty water that is probably delicious food for bloodworms. While their appearance is alarming, bloodworms are actually harmless. They aren’t known to carry or transmit any human diseases. To get rid of them our reader will need to clean out her toilet bowl and drain with a cleaning agent that will eliminate organic material. We understand that giving her toilet bowl a thorough cleaning during the drought might not be a realistic solution, but she doesn’t need to worry about the presence of these larvae in the meantime.
To wrap up, we believe that the small red worm-like organisms in our reader’s toilet are bloodworms. She was worried they might be parasites, and while we are confident that they are harmless, we do want to clarify that we are not medical professionals and that she should see a doctor if she is truly concerned about her health!