NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Hammerhead worms have a unique look. They were first introduced to the United States from Southeast Asia in the early 1900s and are considered invasive.

Although they have not been found in overwhelming numbers so far, they have turned up in Tennessee and surrounding states.

Experts say they pose a threat to Tennessee’s environment. “They’re predators,” explained Dr. Karen Vail, UT Professor and Extension Urban Entomologist.

“They feed on earthworms and slugs and other invertebrates, and even on other hammerhead worms.”

Dr. Vail added the biggest threat would be toward anyone who is keeping or growing earthworms, “We don’t want to decimate our native earthworms or earthworms that we have in our yards.”

  • Hammerhead worm
  • Hammerhead worm
  • Hammerhead worm

Another note of caution: don’t pick them up with bare hands because hammerhead worms produce a toxin that is a skin irritant.

And, there’s one thing you should not do when it comes to getting rid of them.

“If we do see them, and people want to kill them, we need to make sure they don’t use a hoe and chop them up into little pieces,” Dr. Vail said.

Hammerhead worms can grow up to a foot long and regenerate.

“That’s how they reproduce asexually. They break up a part of their body and then it regenerates the rest of it. So, if you were to hack it up into several pieces, you’re going to be having that many more hammerhead worms present.”

Instead, Dr. Vail suggested dousing them with salt, vinegar, or alcohol to kill them.

There is a bit of good news, as far as these slimy creatures are concerned. “We’re just not seeing the high numbers of hammerhead worms to cause any significant damage at this time,” Dr. Vail pointed out.

For now, the hammerhead worm is something the experts will continue to monitor.