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Hammerhead Worms in Arkansas

Nashville, Ark. – A hammerhead worm was recently found in a residence in Howard County. Hammerhead worms are native to tropical and southeast Asia. They have become invasive worldwide and have been reported in Arkansas for at least a decade. Multiple species have been introduced into North America since at least 1901, but the data on their distribution is spotty. One species, the Shovel- Headed Garden Worm, has been observed in at least 10 counties in Arkansas.

Characteristics of Hammerhead Worm

The most visual characteristic of these worms is their broad, spade-shaped head. The Shovel- headed Garden Worm typically grows 8-12 inches. They are light-colored with 1-5 dark, thin dorsal stripes. These worms prey on insect larvae, slugs, snails, and various earthworm species. Hammerhead worms are also known to be cannibals.

Hammerhead Worms are Toxic

Many species of hammerhead worms contain a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin. They use this neurotoxin to immobilize their prey and defend themselves against predators. This toxin can irritate your skin if handled and will sicken pets if eaten. As a precaution, DO NOT handle these worms without gloves.

If you find one of these worms, using gloves, place it in a container or plastic bag with salt and vinegar, then freeze it overnight before you dispose of it. Do not try to kill the worm by cutting or chopping it. They will reproduce by fragmentation, only making the problem worse.

For more information on Hammerhead worms, you can contact the Howard County Extension office at 870-845-7517 or view our fact sheets online.

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

By Dawson Bailey
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Dawson Bailey
County Extension Agent - Agriculture
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.