They look like something out of a horror movie.
But hammerhead worms are wiggling their way to the surface since the 1900s across the United States, an invasive species from Asia, but recently have really become a real problem.
“They can hurt you & your pets,” warns the pest control company Bug Squashers of Maryland. “And they prey on the earth worms you absolutely want in your garden.”
Professor of entomology at the University of Maryland Michael Raupp’s recent “Bug of the Week” post is really giving people the creepy crawlies.
“Slice these little guys in half and they fully regenerate the complementary portions of each body part, a miraculous two from one deal,” Raupp wrote. “Well, as members of the flatworm clan, it turns out that hammerhead worms can also regenerate missing body parts.”
“My friend reported the individual segments of his fractured hammerhead worms independently slithered off the driveway into the grass where we can assume that they regenerated missing parts and resumed their hunt for small invertebrates,” he added.
Even more creepy, hammerhead worms lack a mouth, they kill their prey in a more insidious way.
“These flatworms immobilize victims with a coating of sticky slime, evert part of their digestive tract, and plunge it into the prey, where they slurp up body fluids and small particles of tissue,” Raupp explained.
They secrete potent, paralyzing tetrodotoxin, the same lethal toxin found in puffer fish, according to Raupp.
That can incapacitate large prey, but it can also protect their worm from predators.
It also means pets that contact or consume these worms may experience discomfort or illness and people who have handled the worm report skin irritations, Raupp wrote.
So what do you do if you have them in your yard?
“Don’t touch it, eat it or chop it!” according to Bug Squashers of Maryland.
“Mix up a little vinegar & salt, and spray it on the hammerhead worms,” the company said. “That will cause them to dissolve. If you cut them up, you are simply making more, as they will regenerate from the pieces.”
And that’s enough to make your skin crawl.