Invasive toxic, self-cloning hammerhead worms are spreading in Ohio


Hammerhead worms, which are native to Japan and Korea, made their way to the United States on the soil of ornamental plants in the 1900s. Hammerhead worms have moved throughout the country through the movement of soils, especially in greenhouse production, and have been spotted in several Ohio counties recently.

The worms are anywhere from four to 15 inches long and secrete chemicals through their skin which can cause skin irritation in humans. They are harmful not only to plants but also to essential earthworms and animals.

The worms are immortal - ie; If you try to cut it in half - the most common way to kill a worm - it will just regrow into two separate worms. Individual flatworms can be killed by placing them in alcohol or into a bag and freezing them. Reproduction seems to be primarily achieved through fragmentation.

The Ohio State Extension office has received calls and questions bout sightings from several counties. It said:

What makes them dangerous? Well, first Hammerheads eat native earthworms by creating a neurotoxin that paralyzes the prey. That’s bad for the worm of course, but also can affect pets and people also. It won’t kill you but it can irritate pets and humans. These animals multiply asexually and by fragmentation.

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