Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Horsehair worm

From the puddle on the cats' drinking stone, I pulled out a maple helicopter and little bit of string - like a piece of silk from an ear of corn.

As the string began to writhe and knot itself I saw that it was a horsehair or gordian worm, (named for its likeness to Alexander's famous knot). 

There are over 300 species of these parasites that grow inside the bodies of crickets and grasshoppers and other insects.  As they mature within as a larger and larger knot, the insect gets thirstier and water-obsessed until zombie-like, it is ready to drown itself in a body of water.  And when it does, the knot unwinds and an aquatic horsehair worm bores its way out.

They're harmless to pets and humans, though I knew perfectly well Monica wasn't going to allow me to put this one back in the cat's drink.  I hadn't the heart to dump the creature in the grass, so I put it into the rain barrel.  Maybe it will find a mate and if I water the garden with the million eggs of grasshopper-zombifiying gordian nightmare worms so much the better.  I prefer my garden to be a predator-infested hellscape for my arthropod pests.