The horsehair worms are interesting threadlike roundworms that resemble the "hair of a horse's tail or mane. They may also be found on damp garden soil or vegetable plants after a rain.
Amazingly, the entire horsehair worm grew and developed as a parasite inside the body cavity of crickets and other large insects such as grasshoppers, katydids, beetles and cockroaches. This internal parasite of insects does not harm humans, animals or plants. Parasitized crickets are thirsty and go to water to drink. While there the horsehair worm emerges from the insect's body and swims away in the water, an essential step in the life cycle of this internal parasite.
Insects infected with horsehair worms die as a result of the parasite. Horsehair worms are white when they first emerge from the host's body. They turn yellowish-tan to brownish-black after a short period of time. The worms often squirm and twist in the water, knotting themselves into a loose, ball-like shape, resembling the "Gordian Knot.
Horsehair worms resemble hairs from horses actively moving in the water. A superstition once surrounding this species held that the worms in water troughs and puddles had miraculously come to life from the long, thin hairs of a horse's mane or tail that had fallen into the water. Horsehair worms are completely harmless.
They do not infest people, livestock, pets or plants. They are beneficial because of the small percentage of crickets that they kill. No control measures are needed when this interesting worm is found. You are here Home. Horsehair Worm Encyclopedia Article.
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Description of horsehair worms The horsehair worms are interesting threadlike roundworms that resemble the "hair of a horse's tail or mane. Life cycle of horsehair worms Parasitized crickets are thirsty and go to water to drink. Do you live in Iowa and have an insect you would like identified?These may be the first photos of a Horsehair or Gordian worm erupting from inside a Huntsman spider.
The photos were taken by our good friend Andrew this week in Cairns, Australia. In the circumstances, the pesticide was probably an act of mercy, but still — tut tut. Horsehair worms are long, slender wormlike animals and can be between cm long! They are sometimes called Gordian worms because of their ability to tie themselves in complicated knots. Scientists are not too sure how bugs get to be infected — either they eat the eggs or larvae or they come into some other physical contact.
Once inside, the larva grows up and finally bursts out as a mature adult. Horsehair worms are pretty tough customers — they can survive even if their host gets eaten. Our unfortunate huntsman may have eaten an infected cricket or beetle and so become infected itself. Huntsman spiders do not build webs but go out hunting for food. They mainly eat insects and other invertebrates but will sometimes tackle small skinks and geckos. They like to live in the cracks of tree bark but will often wander into homes.
They can run very fast and a mother spider will defend her eggs fiercely. If they get frightened, they will often try and look as threatening and dangerous as possible and only bite as a last resort.
Horsehair worms do not hurt people, pets, or plants and may be considered beneficial because they keep down populations of pest insects. Huntsman spiders, for their part, can deliver a nasty bite but are also considered beneficial for the same reason. There are no real heroes or villains in nature!
Both comments and pings are currently closed. Insect House Small Game Hunters. Spiders are all very spooky and scary at Halloween, but this is just downright gruesome… Horsehair worm emerging from a huntsman spider. Horsehair worm leaving the Huntsman spider host.Horsehair Worm
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Our Book More Info. Use this linkand Henry gets a small reward for your purchase. You don't HAVE to buy our book, just go through the link.Gordian worms belong to a small phylum, the Nematomorpha: a name that means 'form of a thread'. Their habit of writhing and contorting themselves into knots, with one or more worms tangled together, accounts for their common name, 'Gordian' Worm.
This is after Gordius, King of Phrygia, who tied an intricate knot and declared that whoever untied it should rule Asia. Alexander the Great cut the Gordian knot with his sword.
Adult Gordian Worms are shaped like long, thin pieces of cord. They taper slightly at each end and reach lengths of about 22 cm to 30 cm. The diameter is usually not much more than a millimetre. They are brown or black in colour. There is no distinct head and the male differs from the female in having a forked tail. The males are often very active in their swimming, while females are more sluggish. Gordian Worms are found all over the world, in still water such as puddles, ditches, ponds and quiet areas in streams.
Sometimes they get into domestic water supplies, such as toilets or bowls of water. They are usually found after rains, their sudden appearance leading to stories to explain their presence. Some communities believe that a 'rain of worms' has occurred, others that horsehairs have 'come to life' after falling into a pond or stream. Since they often appear in animal watering troughs and their appearance is not unlike that of horsehair, although they are thicker, it is not difficult to see how this explanation came about.
This also led to other common names, such as 'Horsehair Worms' and 'Horsehair Snakes'. Adult Gordian Worms are free-living in water, but the juveniles are parasitic in land-dwelling insects and spiders.
Horsehair Worm vs Huntsman Spider
Because these hosts are not found in water, the larvae must reach them by a two-step process. The adult Gordian Worms attach long egg-strings to waterweeds and other debris in water. From these eggs, tiny larvae hatch and sink to the bottom, but can only survive for a short time unless they find a host. Many animals, such as fish, snails and small crustaceans, get infected.
The Gordian worm larvae are thought to bore into the first host's tissues by means of an armature of spines on the proboscis feeding structure, 'nose'.
The larvae then form cysts protective shells on their outer surfaces in the body, but usually do not proceed further through their life cycle within these aquatic hosts. Many insects, however, have an aquatic, worm-like, larval stage for example mosquito and dragonfly larvaeand if these animals are infected, then the Gordian cysts can be carried from the water when the insect larvae metamorphose into flying insects.Horsehair worms, also known as Gordian worms, belong to the group Nematomorpha.
They 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 open outdoor container with water. These harmless, curious creatures writhe slowly, contorting their hair-like bodies into intricate knots.
Horsehair worms develop as parasites in the bodies of grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches, and some beetles. When mature, they leave the host to lay eggs.
They are not parasites of humans, livestock, or pets and pose no public health threat. Adults mate in water and females lay long gelatinous strings of eggs. Depending on water temperature, the eggs hatch in 2 weeks to 3 months. The life of the microscopic larvae is not completely understood.
Within 24 hours of hatching, the worm is thought to form a protective covering or cyst. If the cyst is eaten by a suitable insect, the protective covering dissolves and the released larva bores through the gut wall and into the body cavity of the host.
There, it digests and absorbs the surrounding tissue. When mature, it leaves the host insect to start the process again. These long, slender creatures are harmless so there is no need for control. Their presence indicates that a cricket or some other host insects got in the container and died, releasing the worm. Check for cracks or openings that can be screened or sealed. The horsehair worms are not a problem but contamination from other sources can be.
Tangled masses of these worms can be found In the spring. This has led to a variety of stories about their origin. Cabbagehair worm is used in some localities because they can be found in the water droplets that collect in cabbage leaves.
According to Greek legend, King Gordius of Phrygia tied a complicated knot. The first person to untie it would be the future ruler of Asia. Alexander the Great was not able to untie the knot so he cut through it with his sword. Although biologists have partially untied the mystery of these knotty worms, certain aspects of their biology are still coiled up tightly.
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Horsehair Worms. Life Cycle Adults mate in water and females lay long gelatinous strings of eggs. Control These long, slender creatures are harmless so there is no need for control. Legends Tangled masses of these worms can be found In the spring. Images: University of Kentucky.Horsehair worm left and the cricket from which it emerged.
Horsehair worms are parasites of certain insects, especially crickets and grasshoppers. They are commonly found in puddles of water, on damp sidewalks and patios, or as they emerge from bodies of their insect hosts. Despite their sometime frightening appearance, these creatures are not harmful and have no economic importance. The long, thin structure of these worms is so similar to that of a hair that it was formerly thought that they were transformed from the tail hair of horses.
Horse hairs frequently drop into watering troughs where they can accumulate. Coincidentially, insects including those parasitized by horsehair worms also frequently fall into the water of horse troughs and die.
Horsehair worms are insect parasites that belong to the phylum Nematomorpha. One of the most common species in the United States in Gordius robustus. The body of the horsehair worms is extremely long and thread-like.
Lengths of a foot or more are not common. The body diameter is about the width of a pencil lead. They are creamy to blackish in color, and frequently are twisted and coiled like a discared thread. Not much is known about the life of horsehair worms. Adults, the stage most commonly seen, live in water or very moist soil. Adults live in all types of fresh-water habitats and can be found in both temperate and tropical regions. They commonly swim or crawl about with a whip-like motion.
Immature stages are parasites on insects or crustaceans living in or near water, or in moist soil. One species of horsehair worm lives in salt water and parasitizes crabs. Beetles, cockroaches, crickets or grasshoppers are the most common hosts in urban areas. Emergence from the host occurs only when the host is near water. Since horsehair worms are parasitic, they are assumed to be beneficial in the control of certain insects.
Its true value as a parasite, however, is questionable because the worm does not kill its host until it matures. Horsehair worms are not parasites of humans or pets. If their presence in a swimming pool is bothersome, they can be safely removed by hand or with a net.
Horsehair worms can be confused with other parasitic worms of the phylum Nematoda. Parasitic nematodes are usually microscopic and can further be distinguished by the structure of the posterior tail of the body. In contrast, the end of Gordius horsehair worms have a cleft. For more information about crickets and cricket control, see the fact sheet Cricket Control in the Fall.Nematomorpha sometimes called Gordiaceaand commonly known as horsehair worms or Gordian worms are a phylum of parasitoid animals superficially similar to nematode worms in morphologyhence the name.
Most species range in size from 50 to millimetres 2. Horsehair worms can be discovered in damp areas, such as watering troughs, swimming pools, streams, puddles, and cisterns. The adult worms are free-living, but the larvae are parasitic on arthropodssuch as beetlescockroachesmantidsorthopteransand crustaceans. This relates to the fact that nematomorphs often tie themselves in knots. Nematomorphs possess an external cuticle without cilia.
Internally, they have only longitudinal muscle and a non-functional gut, with no excretoryrespiratory or circulatory systems. The nervous system consists of a nerve ring near the anterior end of the animal, and a ventral nerve cord running along the body. Reproductively, they have two distinct sexeswith the internal fertilization of eggs that are then laid in gelatinous strings. Adults have cylindrical gonadsopening into the cloaca. The larvae have rings of cuticular hooks and terminal stylets that are believed to be used to enter the hosts.
Once inside the host, the larvae live inside the haemocoel and absorb nutrients directly through their skin. Development into the adult form takes weeks or months, and the larva moults several times as it grows in size. The adults are mostly free-living in freshwater or marine environments, and males and females aggregate into tight balls Gordian knots during mating.
In Spinochordodes tellinii and Paragordius tricuspidatuswhich have grasshoppers and crickets as their hosts, the infection acts on the infected host's brain. This causes the host insect to seek water and drown itself, thus returning the nematomorph to water. There are a few cases of accidental parasitism in vertebrate hosts, including dogs  and humans.
Several cases involving ParachordodesParagordiusor Gordius have been recorded in human hosts in Japan and China. Owing to their use of orthopterans as hosts, nematomorphs can be significant factors in shaping community ecology. Absence of nematomorphs from riparian communities can thus lead to char predating more heavily on other aquatic invertebrates, potentially causing more widespread ecological effects.Horsehair worms often twist into a loose ball-shaped knot, such as these adults.
An example of a horsehair worm life cycle. After the egg of the horsehair worm hatches, an aquatic insect, such as a mayfly nymph, eats the preparasitic larva. Once in the mantid, the horsehair worm grows to an adult and emerges when the mantid seeks water.
Many variations of this cycle occur. Horsehair worms belong to the phylum Nematomorpha, from the Greek word meaning thread-shaped, class Gordioida. They are also called Gordian worms, because they will often twist into a loose ball-shaped knot resembling the baffling one Gordius created in the Greek myth and that is referred to as the Gordian knot.
Horsehair worms occur in knotted masses or as single worms in water sources such as ponds, rain puddles, swimming pools, animal drinking troughs, and even domestic water supplies. An old and still common misconception is that these long, thin, brown to blackish worms develop from horsehairs that fall into water. Because horsehair worms are parasites of invertebrates, especially certain insects, they are commonly encountered in agricultural areas, particularly those having water-impoundment and irrigation facilities.
There are four stages in the life of a horsehair worm: the egg, the preparasitic larva that hatches from the egg, the parasitic larva that develops within an invertebrate its hostand the free-living aquatic adult.
The worms spend the winter in water. After mating in spring, the female worm deposits a string of eggs 12 to 24 inches long in the water. About three weeks to one month later, minute immature larvae hatch. These larvae must parasitize an invertebrate host to develop. Suitable hosts for different species of horsehair worms include larger predaceous arthropods often mantids, water beetles, carabid beetles, or dragonflies or omnivores such as crickets and other closely related insects, or millipedes.
There are several ways that horsehair worms parasitize hosts and complete their development. Although some of these life cycles have been studied, others aren't well understood. Sometimes the host directly ingests the larvae, which immediately move into their parasitic stage and develop within that host.
For other horsehair worm species, the larvae of water-inhabiting insects mayflies, mosquitoes, and chironomids or tadpoles ingest the preparasitic larvae. When horsehair larvae are ingested by these organisms, they encyst enclose themselves in a cystlike structure in the host's body cavity and remain encysted as this initial host develops into an adult. If an insect such as a mantid, cricket, or carabid beetle consumes an adult with an encysted worm, the worm emerges from the cyst and completes its development in the second host.