Hammerhead worms reemerge in the Ozarks

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo – A Springfield family found an invasive species of worms from Southeastern Asia on their driveway.

Jen Serfass was playing with her children on Monday morning when she overheard her son, Maxwell, call for her.

“He said, ‘Mom, look at this worm. It’s got a mushroom head.’ I said, ‘Don’t touch it!'” says Serfass. She took photos of the “mushroom-headed” worm and called the Springfield Nature Center and the Missouri Department of Conservation. Both organizations told her to immediately dispose of it.

The worm Serfass found is called a Hammerhead worm. According to the University of Missouri Extension, these worms have the potential to exterminate earthworm populations. Earthworms are vital because they aerate and fertilize the soil. They have the ability to regenerate tails and heads. They also produce the same neurotoxins as pufferfish, which immobilize prey and deter predators.

“We do know from other non-native species that you know when they come in. Sometimes they’re at the top of the food chain, so they will eat some of our native earthworms or things that live in the soil and so over time that could decimate populations of some of our native existing creatures that we have here,” says Kelly McGowan, Field Specialist in Horticulture for the University of Missouri Extension.

“If you want to bring a sample into your local extension office put it in some kind of a container with plenty of soil and then try to deliver it as quickly as possible to the office,” says McGowan. The extension office would like to study the effects of hammerhead worms and whether or not they contribute to soil health.

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