Hammerhead Flatworms slither into East Tennessee home

Tennessee

A Hammerhead Flatworm is seen inside a Norris, Tenn. home. Photo courtesy of Connor Hester.

NORRIS, Tenn. (WATE) – A Norris man said he was startled after he discovered what appeared to be a snake on his laundry room floor.

But it wasn’t a snake.

The worm-like thing was more than a foot long with a narrow body and a head that resembled a medieval ax blade. Its slimy body shimmered in the light as it slowly made its way across his floor. Within the next two weeks, he said two more worms made their way into his home. But what were they? Not snakes. They were predatory hammerhead flatworms.

While the worms were new to him, they are not new to East Tennessee. However, more of the invasive, snake-like creatures are being seen now because of the wet weather we saw this summer across the region.

Hammerhead Flatworms are named for the distinctive half-moon shape of their head. They are not native to the U.S. but are believed to have arrived from Southeast Asia in the soil of nursery plants. The worms are carnivorous and feed primarily on earthworms and other soil-dwelling invertebrates. This creates a threat to healthy soil.

Experts caution against picking up the worms barehanded, as the slime they exude contains toxins that can cause skin irritation. As if that isn’t a nightmare enough, if cut into pieces, the worm will generate a new worm from each section. Experts at the North Carolina State Extension Office recommend dissolving the invasive species in salt or rubbing alcohol, or putting it in a bag and freezing it.

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