WJHL | Tri-Cities News & Weather

Invasive hammerhead worm spotted (and squashed) in East TN

A flatworm is seen at the home of a Norris woman in May 2022. Photo courtesy of Inga Kemnitz.

NORRIS, Tenn. (WATE) — They’re carnivorous, they’re potentially harmful, and they’ve now reemerged following a wet spring.

This week a Norris resident spotted a hammerhead flatworm outside of her home. It was slithering on her stone pathway. Inga Kemnitz’s discovery was made down the street from where four hammerhead flatworms were discovered inside a Norris man’s home back in October of 2021.

Pictures show there are differences between the flatworms discovered in October and the one discovered this week. Notably, they are different colors. Hammerheads are typically orange, yellow, or brown.

Experts say hammerhead flatworms produce a neurotoxin that can be potentially harmful to people or pets if touched with bare skin or eaten.

If you encounter the invasive species, the North Carolina State Extension Office recommends dissolving it in salt or rubbing alcohol, or putting it in a bag and freezing it.

Kemnitz did not know a lot about hammerhead flatworms when she saw it, but she had a feeling it was harmful, so she says she says she squashed it.

Hammerhead flatworms have distinctive half-moon-shaped heads. The species is believed to come from Southeast Asia in the soil of nursery plants and preys on earthworms.