Tiny Red Worms in Water

Tiny Red Worms in Water
••• BWFolsom/iStock/GettyImages

In 2013, residents of a town in Oklahoma near the city of Tulsa were startled by the sight of tiny red worms – most between a half-inch and an inch long – in their drinking water. Town officials drained and cleaned the local water tank and turned the water back on a few days later. By then, the officials had consulted health experts and determined that the worms, rare in the American "dustbowl" but common in the Southeast, were harmless. Nevertheless, town residents were drinking bottled water donated by Walmart. After all, who wants to drink wormy water?

What Are Bloodworms?

Small red aquatic worms, called "bloodworms" because of their appearance and also because the blood protein component hemoglobin is what gives the worms their color, are found in many areas. They represent two distinct classes of animals, one of which is, in fact, a worm or group of worms – the Tubifex species. The other is a fly in the larval stage. Neither type of bloodworm bites humans, and although they may be disturbing to see, they do not injure people or make them sick.

Tubifex Species

Tubifex bloodworms include several distinct species, often going by such alluring names as "sewage worm," "detritus worm" and "sludge worm." These creatures are worms that are closely related to the common earthworm. They are divided into distinct segments and do not have an easily identifiable head at a glance. They sometimes have small bristles. In addition to the red species, tan, brown and black types exist. They move as earthworms do, by stretching and pulling themselves along, often at the bottom of freshwater streams.

Tubifex worms can be confused with horsehair worms, which look similar but are not segmented and therefore move by bending and unbending, not by stretching and pulling.

Chironomus Cloacalis

Chironomus Cloacalis bloodworms are insects. Like many insects in the larval stage of development, they resemble worms in appearance. Their red color, like that of Tubifex worms, is owed to the presence of hemoglobin.

These insects have distinct heads. They have chewing parts but do not bite other animals. Instead, they use the mouthparts to feed on organic matter such as plants. They live at the bottom of streams and in stagnant water – sometimes collect in sizable clusters. They are slightly larger than Tubifex worms but are still usually no more than an inch and a half or so long.

'Sewer Creatures' in North Carolina

In 2009, an ambitious group of Tubifex worms made headlines in Raleigh, North Carolina. A resident and blogger who had witnessed what was described as a pulsating ball of slime posted a video clip online, and city officials took notice. As with the bloodworm incident outside Tulsa, city officials quickly determined that the worms were harmless and a normal part of everyday sewer life. Nevertheless, the unusual sight of the Tubifex cluster mesmerized viewers.

Related Articles

What Flying Insects Live in Your Hair, Skin & Home?
Worms That Bite Humans
Worms in the Ecosystem
What Animals Eat Worms?
List of Insects That Eat Dead Flesh
Types of Aquatic Plants and Animals in the Mississippi...
What Is the Gray Bug Found Under Bricks and Dirt?
How to Identify Indoor Insects by Droppings
How Do Roundworms Reproduce?
The Importance of Red Worms in the Ecosystem
Blood Sucking Insects & Bugs
What Are Some Adaptations of a Sea Cucumber?
Animals & Plants in Lake Superior
Natural Enemies of Bedbugs
What Predatory Wild Animals Are Local in Pennsylvania?
What Do Mahi Mahi Fish Eat?
List of Tiny Insects
Types of Spiders: Black With White Dots
Differences Between Segmented Worms & Roundworms

Dont Go!

We Have More Great Sciencing Articles!