“I found these tiny white (clear) and black worms in my mattress in Hot Springs, Arkansas”, writes this reader in his submission regarding the critter pictured below. “What are they and are they harmful? Will they spread? Also, how do I get rid of them? Thanks.” To begin with, we want to thank our reader for the plethora of fantastic photos, the best of which we included. On top of that, he asks good questions, and the context has already helped us to come to a conclusion about the worm’s identity. The worms our reader has been finding are not actually worms but flea larvae.
Flea larvae are not harmful. Their adult counterparts do suck the blood of animals like dogs, cats, livestock, and sometimes humans, and are a particular nuisance for farmers and pet owners. Depending on the species, fleas can spread disease. They are considered ectoparasites, which means they feed on the nutrients of their hosts on the outside of their bodies, rather than on the inside (like the tapeworm, for example). We should note that fleas that feed on humans are not common in urban areas. With all of that said, we maintain that the larvae of fleas are not harmful. They feed on organic debris like dead insects, faeces, hair, and fur. Of course, where there are larvae, there are likely adult insects. So, if our reader does have pets, or he lives in a rural area, he should take this seriously.
Since he has found multiple larvae, the chances are high that his place is infested. And it will spread if left unchecked. To get rid of them, our reader must vacuum his entire home, and launder any textiles present in infested areas. It might even be worth laundering items near the areas that the larvae were found, as it is possible that the adult fleas laid eggs there (which are typically invisible to the naked eye). He might want to check the deep recesses of his closets, wardrobes, and dressers, as flea larvae like to stay in the dark where they will not be found munching away. Likewise, if he does have any pets, we recommend taking them to the vet to get checked and potentially treated for fleas. If this does end up being the case, he will have to repeat the cleaning steps multiple times, as the infestation will spread from the pet until they are completely free of fleas, which they can also only become if the larvae and eggs are consistently eliminated so the dog does not get infected again and restart the vicious cycle.
In conclusion, the black and white worms our reader found on his mattress are actually flea larvae. The larvae themselves are not harmful, but the adult fleas can be. If he lives in a rural area and thinks he might have been bitten by a flea, we recommend consulting a medical professional. Likewise, if he has pets, he should definitely take them to the vet. We hope this helps, and we wish our reader the very best!
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