Carnivorous hammerhead worms invade local lawns

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – It’s slimy, can grow to over a foot, and has a head that resembles a very unique shark. Meet the hammerhead worm that roams many lawns across the state.

If you see any of the worms, don’t pick it up. Experts say the worm emits a poison that can irritate your skin.

“You certainly don’t want to pick them up with your bare hands because they can secrete this toxin, and as far as we know we don’t have much research on it, but it can cause skin irritation,” said Katelyn Kesheimer, an entomologist at Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension system.

If they are around, experts say you should also keep an eye on your dog and young children, although no serious reactions to the worm have been reported so far. If you touch any of the worms, experts recommend simply washing the affected area with soap and water.

Another reason entomologists are concerned about hammerhead worms is that they are not a friend of the earthworm that helps keep the soil healthy.

“They are carnivores, which means they eat other insects and their preferred food is earthworms,” says Kesheimer.

Fortunately for Kesheimer, the number of hammerhead worms does not appear to have grown enough to affect the earthworm population.

The worms are not new to the area, but due to the wet summer we had, they were more common.

If you spot a hammerhead shark, don’t panic, says Kesheimer. There is also no need to call an exterminator or lawn expert. A small amount of vinegar or salt can easily kill the worm.

About Clayton Arredondo

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