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Toxic Worm in Tampa Area   arrow

People native to the Odessa area are used to dealing with dangerous wildlife during the summertime, cautiously avoid Florida’s reptiles, such as snakes, snapping turtles and alligators. But a new threat has entered the Tampa area, and like so many others in recent years, it’s not from the local area. And it’s name is the New Guinea flatworm.

“I never heard of them at all. We have all kinds of bugs in Florida, so I thought I’d seen it all,” said Alicia Tait, a local mother.

The New Guinea flatworm originated in that South Pacific Island, but made it’s way all the way to our coast in recent years, probably mixed in with shipments of plants and tropical fruits. And the unfortunate thing about this new invader is that experts warn against touching the slimy worms, thanks to the toxic slime that coats them that can cause an allergic reaction.

This troubled worm can also carry a parasite that can infect people, and even lead to a bad case of meningitis. “I’ve got two dogs, and they eat things that they aren’t supposed to eat all the time. I’ve got a toddler and a baby, so any kind of toxic bugs definitely alarm me,” said Tait.

Thankfully, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Comission has said that this creature’s danger has been overstated, but the real concern is to our ecosystem because the worm eats snails.

The worm can be killed by pouring boiling water on them and using a plastic bag to pick them up.

“I will definitely keep an eye out for them. I’ve heard of some ways to get rid of them so I’m going to take that advice and make sure that they are nowhere on my property,” said Tait.