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Toxic worms invading metro Atlanta gardens

Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 5:20 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - The invasive hammerhead or flatworm is starting to rear its odd-shaped head in metro Atlanta now that the weather is turning warmer and more people are getting into the garden.

“If you mess with them, they get slimy and they don’t want to be touched, and they’re just gross little things,” Curtis said.

Many have posted warnings not to touch the worms because of the belief the worms carry a certain toxin.

“Tetrodotoxin sometimes abbreviated as TTX is a very nasty compound something that’s found in Fugu pufferfish,” said James Murphy, an agriculture Agent with UGA Extension Rockdale. It was also found in the Hammerhead worm, but as far as being poisoned by touching them goes Murphy said, “It’s not to the point where touch it and you’re in trouble territory. If you do need to remove them from a space even if they’re not acutely toxic probably best to glove up.”

He said you would need to ingest the worm for any poison to likely enter your body and also most likely a lot of them to be severely poisoned.

Originally from Asia, the worms vary in size experts say from inches to even a foot. Unfortunately, there is evidence they aren’t so good for your garden.

“Undoubtedly they’re having some impact in their kind of range expansion because they are preying on things, they are eating things,” Murphy said.

“When I see them now I use something to scoop them up and bring them in and put them down the trash disposal,” Curtis said.

Murphy said if you do try and kill one by cutting them in half you will have actually just created two new worms and not killed it at all. He said a sure-fire way to get rid of them is to put them in a bag of salt or jar of vinegar.