HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – It’s slimy, can grow to be over one foot long, and has a head that resembles a very unique shark. Meet the hammerhead worm, making its way to plenty of lawns across the state.
If you see one of the worms don’t pick it up. Experts say the worm emits a toxin that can irritate your skin.
“You certainly don’t want to pick them up with your bare hands, because they can secrete that toxin and as far as we know, we don’t have a ton of research on this, but it can cause your skin to be irritated,” said Katelyn Kesheimer, an entomologist with Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
If they are around, experts say you should also keep an eye on your dog and young kids, though so far no serious reactions to the worm have been reported. If you happen to touch one of the worms, experts suggest simply washing the affected area with soap and water.
A second reason entomologists have been concerned about Hammerhead worms, they are not a friend of the earthworm, which helps keep soil healthy.
“They are carnivores, which means they eat other insects and their food of choice is earthworms,” said Kesheimer.
Fortunately, so far Kesheimer says the number of Hammerhead worms doesn’t appear to have grown large enough to impact the population of earthworms.
The worms aren’t new to the area but have been popping up in greater frequency due to the wet summer we’ve had.
If you spot a hammerhead, Kesheimer says there is no need to panic. There’s also no need to call an exterminator or lawn expert. A small amount of vinegar or salt can easily kill the worm.