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

Polarbear

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 first appeared around the Beaumont area in the 1980s and have invaded multiple Arkansas counties upending local gardens and lawns and attacking turf and a variety of common grasses.

The worms are anywhere from 8 to 12 inches long and contain a potent neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin 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. Reproduction seems to be primarily achieved through fragmentation.

Jon Zawislak, the extension apiarist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said:

The worms are thought to have been accidentally transported in soil through the global horticultural trade. These flatworms prefer warm climates and feel right at home in the southeastern United States.

Arkansans can report any suspected invasive species to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative Agriculture Pest Survey office at the following link.

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