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Giant Poisonous Worms Are Taking Over DC

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on July 27   |   Updated on July 31
The hammerhead flatworm / broadhead planarian (bipalium) is a predatory land planarian.

The hammerhead flatworm / broadhead planarian (bipalium) is a predatory land planarian. (samuel howell/Getty Images)

A killer worm that resembles a piece of cooked linguine is invading D.C. Nicknamed the hammerhead worm for its strange mushroom-like head, it can grow up to two feet long, can separate itself, and is highly poisonous.

The Bipalium worm is an invasive species and natural predator that hunts earthworms, snails, and slugs which can upset the forests' ecosystems. It secretes tetrodotoxin, a debilitating neurotoxin (also found in puffer fish) that can cause paralysis and even death.

Luckily for humans, the worm only causes skin irritation, but it can be deadly for pets. It can also break into multiple pieces, each functioning as its own worm that can regenerate into more sticky worms.

Bipalium worms were first spotted in the DMV 15 years ago, but recently sightings have increased. Residents in Oakton, Virginia are finding five to seven hammerhead worms in their yard per day.

Don’t touch! (samuel howell/Getty Images)

Don’t touch! (samuel howell/Getty Images)

Ecologists say don’t handle and definitely don’t eat the worms (not my first reaction, but just to be safe). Unfortunately, they can be hard to get rid of. The best thing to do is immobilize them with salt, use gloves to put them in a plastic bag, freeze them, and then trash them.

This is one of many invasive species that has been spotted in D.C in the last year like snakeheads, stink bugs, and spotted lantern flies to name a few. If you come across one, report it to your local county authorities or Department of Agriculture.

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