Louisiana Nature April 05, 2022
Be On The Lookout For A New Invasive Species Of Worm In Louisiana This Year
The hammerhead worm is a relatively new invasive species that’s making its way across lawns and gardens in the United States, and they’ve been found in Louisiana. These slimy squiggles of doom are a potential threat to our good friend, the earthworm, and you’re going to want to know what to do if you come across one, because it’s not as easy as just squishing them. In fact, you should never try to kill them like that. Keep reading to find out why:
Meet the hammerhead worm, A.K.A.
Bipalium... and your garden’s worst enemy.
This little creature goes by many names; you may have heard it called the hammerhead flatworm, shoveled worm, or arrowhead worm. Whatever you call it, just be careful around it. These things can grow to be over a foot long and come with a lot of problems.
Native to Southeast Asia, these worms are an invasive species and have been spotted all across the country, but they have a particular affinity for hot, humid locations...
Currently, there are four invasive species in the United States:
Bipalium adventitium, Bipalium kewense, Bipalium pennsylvanicum, and Bipalium vagum.
Bipalium vagum is the one you’re most likely to find in Louisiana. These worms have two dark blotches on the head and a thick black band around the neck, with three dark dorsal stripes.
They’ve also been thriving in California, Arkansas, Texas, and several other southern states.
These demon-noodles love subtropical climates, especially greenhouses. Just like slugs, they’re most active at night, or just after a rain when the soil is moist. They prefer to hang out underneath leaves and in dark areas, making them hard to find (not that we’d advise seeking them out).
These worms are carnivores, and their favorite meal is the earthworm.
They’ll also eat other slugs, insects, and snails. They cover their prey in toxic slime before devouring them whole, just like a scene out of
Stranger Things. So far, these invasive hammerhead worms have not grown large enough to impact the earthworm population… yet. Earthworms are super important in the underground scene; not only are they one of the major players when it comes to the decomposition of organic matter, but also they increase soil aeration, water movement, and plant growth.
If you happen to encounter one, do not touch it.
They can secrete a toxin that will irritate your skin. While no serious reactions have been reported (including from pets), we’d recommend grabbing a pair of gloves. If you find one, you should kill it. But you can’t just take your garden shovel to it and hack it into pieces.
If you cut it into pieces, the pieces will just regrow a new head, organs, and whatever else it needs to terrify you. If you cut it into three pieces, you’ve got three new hammerhead worms.
Toxic and immortal? Lovely.
To effectively un-alive this demon noodle, you’ll need to sprinkle some salt or vinegar on it.
We are all going to be channeling our inner Morton Salt girl if we find one, right?
Have you seen a hammerhead worm in your yard? Let us know in the comments below.