Invasive hammerhead worms are spreading in Kentucky


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. Recently, over 100 sightings in the Atlanta area have been recorded and the worms have invaded multiple Kentucky 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.

Jonathan Larson, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky said:

The worst part is that hammerhead worms have no known predators. Most animals won’t eat them because they secrete a foul slime. They should not be used for fishing. There are proper ways to destroy the worm. While hammerhead flatworms might be present in your garden and backyard, there are usually no obvious signs of their presence outside of seeing a specimen. So keep your eyes peeled and always wear gloves when working in your garden.

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