“I found this critter in my kitchen last night”, writes this reader about the worm-like creature pictured below. “I live in Phoenix, AZ, where it is very hot and dry (usually about 115 in the summers) – low desert. We had a big rainstorm come through over the weekend and I’ve started finding worker/swarmer termites since the storm on the first and second floors (not sure if that’s related, so I wanted to include it). I have a good amount of houseplants, two of which are new. They were in my garage yesterday and the night before and I brought them in last night after treating them with a systemic insecticide and letting the soil dry out after watering through. They were brought in about a half hour before I saw the critter, and they were kept separate in another room about six feet from where I found this guy. (Again, not sure if related and wanted to mention it.) The critter has two clear antennae (pincers? snail-like eyes?) that are barely visible in the video. It’s a brownish color on top with a light/clearish underside. It appears to be mildly “fuzzy”, not sure if those are hairs or legs or something else. I’d appreciate any insight you can provide.”
A week later, our reader sent us a follow up, along with another photo. She said: “I wanted to follow up because I found another of these worms in my toilet on the first floor of my townhouse. It is not an infrequently used toilet – in fact, I’d used it maybe 45 minutes before I found this guy hanging out in it. I took the best photo I could, but it isn’t great. I wanted to send it, anyway. Please let me know if you have any information or questions. Thanks so much!” First, we want to thank our reader for sending in these photos, and for providing such ample context. It really helps!
Given the description alone, we would have thought these could be centipedes. The antennae, color, distinct upper and underside, and the possible multitude of legs all pointed to this conclusion. Even the first picture could have been of a centipede, though since the photos are unfortunately quite blurry, we cannot see the antennae or appendages our reader mentions. We also want to note that the worm in the second photo does not look at all like the first worm, either in shape or size, so they could be two different species entirely. Either way, after having seen the video, we do not think the worm in the first photo is a centipede; if this were a centipede, its multiple legs would have given it the appearance of seamlessly gliding across the surface. But the worm in the video is writhing about, and contracting its body to move forward, much like an earthworm.
After consideration, we now think the worm in the first photo is a hammerhead flatworm. This would explain the two antennae, which would be their signature spade-shaped head, as well as the fact that it has an underside to its body, as flatworms are flat. The “fuzziness” could just be debris that has stuck to the worm, as they do not typically possess bristles. When it comes to the worm she found a week later, we are not sure what it is, but we do not think it is the same type of worm as the ones she found in her kitchen and garage. In any case, we recommend moving the hammerhead worm outside without making physical contact (she can brush it up onto a dustpan), as touching them can cause allergic reactions. The same goes for the other worm she found. We also recommend that she clean her toilet and drains, and that she do so often. Likewise, mending or replacing torn window screens, sealing sizable cracks in walling and flooring, and installing screens in one’s vents can prevent future invasions of worms and other critters. It makes sense that lots of worms would want to come inside in Phoenix, Arizona – they’d want to escape the heat and dry climate.
To conclude, we think that our reader found hammerhead worms in her kitchen and garage, though we do not know what she found in her toilet. When it comes to her termite infestation, we suggest hiring pest control, as that needs to be handled by professionals. The two situations could very well be related, as hammerhead worms hunt insects, so they might be attracted to the infestation. So, it could be that if she gets the termite situation handled, the worm situation will follow. We hope this helps, and we wish our reader the very best!
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