Invasive Toxic Worms Emerge in North Texas
Sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but apple snails aren't the only invasive invertebrates slithering around in Texas.
This invasive worm species, which can grow up to a foot in length, are more common in Southeast Texas. According to Ashley Morgan-Olvera, director of research and outreach for Texas Invasive Species Institute, hammerhead flatworms are currently gaining ground in and around Tarrant, Dallas, and Smith counties.
"So unfortunately, it seems they're widespread there as well," she told McClatchy.
Native to Southeast Asia and accidentally introduced to North America in the early 1900s, hammerhead worms prey on an essential part of a healthy ecosystem: earthworms. Identified by their half-moon shaped heads, they digest their victims by secreting a neurotoxin that can irritate skin and sicken pets if eaten.
Like slugs and snails, these creepy invaders can transmit harmful parasites to humans, which is why you should never handle them with bare hands. Another thing you don't want to do is cut them in half. Hammerhead flatworms primarily reproduce through fragmentation. Any part that breaks off will form its own head within 10 days. Basically, cutting one in half will give you two.
Speaking with WFAA, Morgan-Olvera advised that if you do come across a hammerhead flatworm, use a stick, gloves or paper towel to place it in a sealed bag with salt and/or vinegar, and freeze it overnight. You should also send a photo of the worm and the address where it was found to firstname.lastname@example.org.