Is it a leech or slug or snake? I saw this unknown creature appeared at least twice in the newspapers. People seem to be bothered by this slimy worm that has a head looks like hammer. A smart ass reader even said it was a “wire snake”, making me chuckled a little. Actually it is a land planarian, also known as hammerhead worm or shovel head worm, it is something very common in countryside.
What Are Hammerhead Worms?
Hammerhead worms are known by a variety of different names, including hammerhead flatworms, arrowhead flatworms, and broadhead planarian (which is technically a larger category of flathead worms of which hammerheads are only one member). Also known as “toxic terrestrial flatworms” these pests are carnivorous creatures that play on all kinds of other insects, like earthworms, insect larvae, snails, slugs, and even other hammerhead worms (that’s right – they’re cannibals).
Hammerhead worms are named for their distinctive heads, which are shaped like spades. They also have elongated, flat bodies that can be as long as more than a foot. Hammerhead can be green, gold, brown, or gray. They move around like slugs, producing a slime trail as they do.
These predatory planarians are native to tropical and subtropical regions of the globe, so they love wet, warm spots. The best time to find them is at night or early morning. You would see it gliding on moist surface such as wet soil and leaves. Its body is long and flat, with narrow stripes. Wherever it goes, it will leave a slimy trail behind, like snails and slugs.
What do they eat?
– Hammerhead worms are carnivorous and often even cannibalistic. They are sensitive to light and are active mostly at night, feeding on a variety of small, soft-bodied animals — snails, slugs and earthworms, although they occasionally feed on other small invertebrates like insects.
– A hammerhead worm can survive for several weeks on food reserves in its digestive tract – and if food is still scarce, it will actually cannibalize its own tissues for food.
How they eat their prey?
– They detect their prey with chemoreceptors located just below the head. Once they find the earthworm’s body, they press it against a surface and entangle it in slimy secretions of toxins, immobilizing it.
– They wrap around their prey with sticky mucus, and use a mouth located on their belly in the middle of the body to consume prey. They use special enzymes to digest the prey outside of their body.
– After the digestive juices have done their business, effectively turning prey into a puddle of goo, the hammerhead worm sucks its victim in with the help of a bunch of tiny hairlike structures on its underside, called cilia. The cilia also help the worms in locomotion, acting like hundreds of microscopic legs to pull them along on a thin film of slime the worms secrete.
Life cycles of flatworms are complex and differ from species to species. Hammerhead worms are hermaphroditic — they have both male and female reproductive organs — and can reproduce either sexually or asexually, though asexual reproduction is more common. Hammerhead flatworms reproduce primarily by fragmentation. Any part that breaks off will form a new one within 10 days. Basically, if cut in half, this worm will turn into 2.
Are hammerhead worms Ԁɑпɡᴇгᴏᴜѕ?
– Hammerhead worms use a powerful neurotoxin (tetrodotoxin) to paralyze their prey. As far as dangers to people, they don’t prey on humans or household pets. That said, should your dog or cat eat one of these nasties, they will be very sick.
– Hammerhead worms aren’t likely to bite humans but the chemical that they release can cause skin irritation in humans.
– Although you probably won’t find yourself snacking on a hammerhead worm, the neurotoxin can also cause nausea when ingested – something to be aware of if you have pets or small children who like to put things in their mouths.
– They are not harmful to humans but can be extremely Ԁɑпɡᴇгᴏᴜѕ to a garden. They’ll Decimate the earthworm population in your soil if you aren’t careful about taking care of them.
Difficulty in Kɪʟʟing Them
Hammerhead worms are, as previously noted, very hard to kɪʟʟ. If you cut them in half, they regenerate into two worms. Two worms become four worms and so the cycle goes on.
That’s right – cut off the head and a new one will grow in its place. Creepy – and it makes these pests super hard to kɪʟʟ. You can’t just smash one up and squish it to kɪʟʟ it. It will regenerate quickly. That said; it’s not impossible to kɪʟʟ these pesky troublemakers – you just need to use the right stuff.
How Do I Kɪʟʟ Hammerhead Worms?
There aren’t many ways to kɪʟʟ these little pests but the best way is to dissolve them. Yes, you read that correctly; you must dissolve them in certain substances in order to kɪʟʟ ‘em.
The things that work are:
– Citrus Oil
– Boric Acid
– Soap Sprays
Regardless of the type of solution you turn to in order to get rid of hammerhead worms, it’s a good idea to capture it first.
– Put the hammerhead worm or worms in a sealable plastic bag or plastic container. That way you can ensure you will be able to apply your solution effectively without the worm getting away first.
– When you pick up the worm, make sure you use a rag, rubber or work gloves, or even a stick.
– You don’t want to get any residue from the worm on your hands so don’t something think like a paper towel or a napkin…
– After applying your solution and disposing of the dead hammerhead worm, treat the container with salt and put it in the freezer for 48 hours. This will help you disinfect it. You can also use a glass container and disinfect with alcohol.
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Video source: WATOP