We received a query from a reader who found a worm in his shower. He would like to know what it is, and if it is harmful. He has included a photograph to help us identify it.
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Judging from the photograph, the worm appears to be no more than a couple inches long, but is probably a half inch or less. The only thing in the photograph to provide a sense of scale are the air bubbles, and they come in a lot of different sizes. The skin is slightly translucent and brown in color.
Our first thought whenever we hear about worms in showers or sinks is that we are dealing with drain fly larvae (family Psychodidae). Drain fly larva like to eat the gunk that occurs on the sides of drainpipes, and are a very common visitor to household toilets and showers. However, drain fly larva are not the only option.
For example, this may be a bloodworm, which is not a worm at all. The so-called bloodworm is, in fact, the larva of the midge fly. Midge fly larva are commonly found in moist locations where there is organic material to consume. It is common to find them in toilets and showers because they live in the pipes, eating the material that collects on the sides.
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Though they go by different names, the advice we give for both drain fly larva and bloodworms is the same: don’t worry. Neither species is harmful to humans, though both are unsettling to find in our bathrooms. Our reader can simply pick up his wriggly visitor and deposit him outside.
Our reader only mentions finding one of these little critters in his shower, so this does not sound like an infestation. If he does find more of this fellow’s buddies in the shower, then he can convince them to leave by removing their food source. We recommend that he use a stiff pipe brush to scrub the pipe as far down as he can reach, making sure to scrub all around the pipe, so that he can remove the organic matter that the worms or larvae are eating. After scrubbing, he can pour boiling water down the pipe to help wash away the broken-up gunk (but he should be careful not to burn himself!).