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HorseHair Worms

HorseHair Worms , also known as Gordian worms, belong to the group Nematomorpha. They are similar to nematodes but much longer (4 inches or longer) and very thin (1/80 to 1/10 inch diameter). Horsehair worms normally are found in water or wet areas, such as in or alongside streams or puddles but they can occur in cisterns, livestock watering troughs or most any open container with water. These curious creatures writhe slowly, contorting their hair-like bodies into intricate knots.

HorseHair Worms

HorseHair Worms

Habitat: These active, long, thread-like roundworms are occasionally found on sidewalks or patios, in water-troughs and domestic water supplies, on cabbage plants and garden soil, and in the body cavities of various pest insects. Many homeowners wonder whether they are harmful to humans, domestic animals, or plants. Adult worms are free-living and non-parasitic. Immature stages are internal parasites of grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches, beetles, and other insects and millipedes and centipedes.

Identification: Horsehair worms are slender, very long and yellowish-tan to brownish-black in color. They often squirm and twist, knotting themselves into a loose, ball-like shape, resembling the so called 'gordian knot,'; in freshwater pools.These worms may be found in masses of 100 or more, especially after rainfall. In water troughs and puddles, they resemble horsehairs actively moving in the water. Some people still believe that these worms develop from the long, thin hairs of a horse's mane or tail that fall into the water as a horse drinks.

Life Cycle: The adult worms mate in fresh water or damp soil. The female lays up to several million eggs in water in long strings or slender broken cords. Eggs hatch in two weeks to three months, with the .01 inch larvae not resembling the adults. Some believe that within 24 hours after hatching, the larvae encyst on vegetation near the water's edge. After the water level drops, the exposed vegetation is eaten by a grasshopper or cricket. The cyst covering dissolves, permitting juvenile worms to bore through the gut wall and into the body cavity of the host. All nutrients are absorbed across the body wall of the worm, as no alimentary system is present.


Horsehair worms are most commonly seen following rains in November and early December in Oklahoma. They have also been collected in the late winter and early spring (mid-January to March).

HorseHair Worms

HorseHair Worms

Management:Control of horsehair worms in natural water sources is impractical. Furthermore, the worms can be beneficial because they will parasitize a few pest insect species, although their effect on natural invertebrate populations is minimal. If the worms are found in livestock water troughs, the water can be kept clean with routine flushing. A fine mesh filter should be used if water is pumped from a surface supply such as a canal or pond. Domestic water supply systems should be filtered and chemically treated and inspected for necessary repairs, especially when the homeowner discovers horsehair worms in wash water, bathtubs, or sinks.

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Beyond Environmental P.C

Our pest control specialist services NYC & NJ and all boroughs including Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Long Island, Suffolk County, Nassau Country & Staten Island, Westchester County & Rockland County, Hudson County in New Jersey including Jersey City, West New York, Union City, Hoboken, Bayonne.

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