Peculiar Worms Appear in Sichuan

October 22, 2007 12:00 am Last Updated: October 22, 2007 12:00 am

According to Sichuan's Tianfu Morning News , large numbers of black worms shaped like iron wires were found along the mountain road near the Watan Scenic Spot on Xiling Snow Mountain in Sichuan Province. The wiggly worm looks frightful but is harmless to humans.

“What on earth is this? It is black and smooth, and even can raise its head. Is it a little snake?” asked a tourist from Sichuan's Mianyang City, Mr. Sun, when he was reporting about the appearance of unknown species to local media on October 9.

It was reported that the worm is so thin that it looks like a “black iron wire.” These “black wires” are about 3 mm (0.12 inch) in diameter, and they range in length from 20 cm (7.9 inch) to 50 cm (19.7 inch). When it is stepped on, the other end of it rises like a snake.

According to the administration staff from Xiling Snow Mountain Scenic Resort, these worms are called “horsehair worms [1].” Every year, they are found in the scenic site from May to October, with a relative peak in May to June.

Research shows that “copper wire snake” is a local name for these worms. Its larva form is a parasite on the praying mantis, and its adult form lives in rivers, ponds or drainages. It mates and hatches in the water. After being eaten by mantises or grasshoppers, the larva develops in the host insect's body. Once matured, they are free living. These creatures are not parasites of humans, livestock or pets and pose no public health threat.

Note: [1] Horsehair worms, also known as Gordian worms, belong to the group Nematomorpha. Horsehair worms normally are found in water or wet areas.