Bug infestations are one of the grossest everyday problems we humans have to experience. It doesn”t matter who you are, George Clooney or some Joe Schmo down the street, we”ve all dealt with bugs at some point in our lives. The fact is that they need to be dealt with…and dealt with swiftly. (Because, ewww, gross.) That”s what one man thought when he saw a bug on his floor and squished it.
Then, he looked closer and saw something far more horrifying than a normal bug.
This is the Nematomorpha.
More commonly known as horsehair worms, they 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 arthropods, such as beetles, cockroaches, mantids, orthopterans, and crustaceans
Horsehair worms have been found emerging from a cockroach trapped in fossilized amber dated at 15-45 million years ago.
These horsehair worms are born as parasites in a variety of different insects, mainly roaches, crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles. Once inside of the insects, they grow and penetrate through the gut and into the body cavity of the cricket. Here the worms grow up to adults. This growth period takes from 4-20 weeks. Interestingly enough, the worms can only feed while inside their insect hosts. So, all of the energy the worms need for living in the water, mating, etc., is acquired while inside the insects.
As a final act, the worms manipulate the behavior of the insect host, and it commits “suicide” by jumping into water. Once the worms sense the presence of liquid, they start actively exiting the host. A process which can take a few seconds to a few minutes. Thus the insect host dies, but the worm continues to live.
I normally don”t like to have any bugs in my house, but if that one showed up? I think I”d be thoroughly freaked out. Beware of these parasites, because not only are they gross to look at, they actually can insert themselves into human bodies as well.