They can grow up to 15 inches long, multiply when cut in half and are poisonous when eaten by pets and other animals.
People across social media have reported seeing hammerhead flatworms in Texas this year and are warning others not to touch the invasive species.
Are hammerhead flatworms dangerous?
Hammerhead flatworms can cause skin irritation on humans, so it’s recommended when handling live flatworms to use gloves, a paper towel or a stick. After handling, it’s strongly advised to wash hands in warm soapy water and rinse them in alcohol or a hand disinfectant.
Hammerhead flatworms are also a threat to the local environment because they are natural predators of earthworms. Earthworms provide nutrients to soil and provide many other benefits to the ecosystem.
When eaten by other animals and pets, hammerhead flatworms secrete chemicals through their skin that cause animals to become sick.
How do you get rid of hammerhead flatworms?
Hammerhead flatworms can be killed with citrus oil, salt, vinegar, or a combination of the three. They must be applied directly on the flatworm.
The [Texas Invasive Species Institute] recommends sealing the hammerhead flatworms in a Ziploc bag to ensure they do not crawl away afterward, then dispose of the sealed bag.
The hammerhead flatworms can also reproduce when portions of their body are removed. According to TISI, if a fragment of the worm is removed, within 10 days a new head will begin to form so it’s advised to dispose of the entire worm.
The TISI is asking people to send a photo and coordinates of where they found hammerhead flatworms to [email protected] so they can understand the range of the predatory species.
I’m going to turn off the internet now and sit quietly in a dark room for a few minutes. Please go about your business until I return. You can listen to this CityCast Houston episode about these critters if you want to know more.