The hammerhead flatworm is thought to have entered the country in the early 1900s in landscaping materials, but since then, the population has exploded in areas with a warm, wet climate.
Experts say the flatworms can grow up to a foot long or more and are known for their distinctive hammerhead-shaped heads.
"They live where earthworms live, so with the heavy rains, they tend to get flushed out," said Ashley Morgan-Olvera, the research director at the Texas Invasive Species Institute.
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The institute said once it usually receives a report of the worms leaving their underground ecosystems from the winter season, it usually means they’ve been out in an area for a while and either have just not been reported or seen by humans.
Complete eradication can be difficult as very few methods lead to the insects’ demise, and even when you think they might be dead, rejuvenation can lead to the population multiplying.
"We encourage everyone to eradicate in their own area, but to completely say that they are removed from an entire county, it is going to be hard because once they’re there," said Morgan-Olvera. "So, if you cut them up into three pieces, it’ll become three new flatworms. So that’s why we want you to make sure that when you remove them, it’s in a closed container, to make sure they can’t leave and populate."
In addition to physical removal, both citrus oil and vinegar have proven to be effective in killing the annelids.
Experts believe the hammerhead flatworms are significant predators of the common earthworm and can lead to a substantial population demise if not kept in check.
The disappearance of earthworms can lead to a lack of nutrients in the soil and increased erosion due to unhealthier vegetation and poorer ground compositions.
The institute is working with a host of other organizations to spread raise awareness about the threat posed by invasive species. To report a sighting, visit: http://www.tsusinvasives.org/home/edrr/reporting.html.