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Very fine wormlike creatures in garden -> horsehair worms

Hi There,

I have a veggie garden that I just started this year. Today is a rainy cool day. I was outside this afternoon and noticed these very fine, wormlike creatures in the garden. They are fine like a thick thread, white and they move sort of like a mini snake. There are a bunch of them in the garden. They are maybe only a few inches long, and they look sort of like a bean sprout, only much thinner. It's interesting to see them - the movement caught my eye from a distance. i thought it was a little snake, but it is much too small and too fine to be one.

Any idea what it might be? It's in an area near where I spread a half a bag of Moo Grow organic potting soil, but I don't know if they are there because of the soil or if that's just a coincidence.

Here are some images of a sample I've taken. Notice the stringy, very fine (angel hair) worms in the picture. Also notice the small shovel with the inch reference marks for scale.

Thanks in advance.

Last edited by cynergyou on Wed Jun 10, 2009 1:23 am, edited 2 times in total.

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I don't see anything harmful? Worms are good for your garden becuz they dig holes around the roots which lets them get air. Those long things in your pics look like a root?

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Man, those are wierd looking worms. I thought I might have seen these worms in my garden, but I looked at your high res, and it looks nothing like I have ever seen. I have seen 2-3 yellow smallish worms with many legs, like a milapid.
Why buy produce when you can grow it?

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thread like worms

I did some browsing around. Closest I could come was something called an entrachyadid worm and I couldn't find a picture of this beast. Sounds like yours, white, very thin, not too long. (There's a different one called horsehair worm, but those guys while thin, get a foot or more long, scarey!)

Anyway the entrachyadid if that's what you have, is related to earthworms, is harmless and aids in decomposition. It was noted that they often show up in compost piles if the pile gets acidic. You might check that. If your pile is acidic and you want the worms to go away, you can just add lime...

All this is not from my direct experience and is a bit speculative...

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Thanks all for the replies.

Here's an update on my situation. I went to the shop that sold me the dirt and they were surprised and weirded out. They had no idea what it was but suggested that I call the manufacturer. I called the manufacturer and spoke with one of the co-owners. She was very pleasant and I e-mailed her a link to the photos. She is going to investigate and see what she finds out from her end.

I then took a bunch of the worms to our local vet's office/animal hospital (small animals - mostly cats and dogs). The staff was very freaked out by the worms and they got their vets (their were 3 vets present) to look at the worms.

The vets said that they had never seen this particular worm before. They said it does not look like a round worm that is common for a cat or a dog, but one vet said it does look like some kind of nematode (round worm). They didn't know whether or not it was parasitic but suggested that I take it to the University of New Hampshire's cooperative extension to have them look at it.

Before I went to the vet's I called the Univ of NH Coop. Extension and they said to bring it in. They normally identify bugs, but the person i spoke with said they would look at the worm as well.

My concern is that the worm might be parasitic - some kind of intestinal parasite. I only noticed the worm in the garden that I spread my extra bag of Moo Grow Potting Soil. Curiously enough, I put two bags of Moo Grow into two 16" pots yesterday as well and did not see any worms there.

I wonder if the rain and the composte might have drawn the worms to the surface. Anyway, the worms are pretty creepy and I'll post some additional pics.

It was funny - everyone that I showed the worms to were completely weirded out by it. At the garden store, the staff was all amazed at it and one customer who saw them was very excited and anxious. He was totally shocked by the worms.

At the vet's office, the staff was really freaked out by the movement of the worms (they twirl around and move A LOT - that's why my eye was drawn to them in the soil, even though I was standing about 6 to 8 feet away). We used a pen to move the worms so they could see them better and afterwards the staff promptly threw the pen out in the garbage they were so weirded out! They gave me a glass test tube with a rubber stopper to store some of the worms so I could give them to the university. They were very helpful, even if the vets did not know precisely what it was.

Anyway, here are some more pics of the worms. Yes, they do look like roots or fine pasta.

Here's a low res pic of the worms in a test tube. Note that in the photo they are curled - that's because they are writhing around in the tube. it was tough getting the worms into the tube. I used some tweezers that the vet staff gave me and the worms coiled around the tweezers and around the mouth of the test tube. I told the staff that it reminded me of the movie Slither and one of the staff members, who saw the movie, agreed.


Also, here's a link to a larger resolution version of the picture,


I'll post an update when I get more info.

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i had the same things in my garden in vt when i was there...saw them usually after it rained, too...could be a locally occurring thing...or it could be moo-grow, since that's what i used up there for composted manure. will be interested in the outcome.

(fyi, a number of people ate a lot of produce out of that garden, and no adverse effects)

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The spelling on those was wrong...should be "enchytraeids" or " pot worms". But I do not think that is what you have. It does not have the body structure. Your worm is very distinctive and if I had not heard where you found it and just saw the picture I would have immediately thought "Nematomorpha"... the horse hair worms. They have the classic look and motion of round worms (nematodes), but are much much longer and thinner. They are parasites of insects (grasshopper, crickets, roaches etc) so are thought to be beneficial. They can be found locally in large numbers, but generally in water or very wet soil (you may find a puddle with a mass of them in it). The juveniles grow inside the insect's large blood sinus and then make the insect seek out water before the adult worms break out to find other adults and mate. I found one on my boot the other morning after walking through wet grass next to the garden, it looked just like your specimen.

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Thanks for the posts!

My samples do look like the Nematomorpha or the Mermithidae worms (which are also parasitic to insects). Here's the Wiki on the Mermithidae,


My worms have yellowish tips, and also like a yellow stripe down its middle. The yellow stripe is due to a brownish band around the middle of the body that makes the mid section of the worm look skinnier (since the brown blends in with the dirt and the remaining yellow color stands out).

It would make sense that the worms (if they are Nematomorpha) would appear where I spread Moo Grow. I spread the leftover Moo Grow soil in the low areas of the garden - to try and level the surface out. These were the areas where lots of water was collecting.

Thanks again everyone for the help. I will update when I get more info. If you have any additional info, please post and let us know. This has been so very helpful!

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How about horse hair worms as a possibility?

Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.

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hendi_alex - Thanks for your post.

I think you and TZ-OH6 are right. I think they are horse hair worms. I am going to try and take them to our local university and see if they can provide a definitive ID.

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I heard back from the Univ of NH's dept of Zoology last week. The worms in my garden are indeed horsehair worms. They are benign to humans (although parasitic to insects) and are often found in wet areas.

I believe that the reason why I saw the worms in the area where I spread the Moo Grow was because those were low spots in my garden which were collecting water.

Anyway, thanks for all of your replies.

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Thanks for the update! I've been watching this thread with interest so it was great to learn the University verdict. :D

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Re: Very fine wormlike creatures in garden -> horsehair worm

I know this thread is old, but I wanted to point out that they could be eelworms. Eelworms are parasitic that live off of the host plant. I was unable to see the picture posted, but your description sounds exactly like eelworms. They are not what you want in your soil.

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