All photographs copyright (2003-2013) by Kris H. Light

<strong>Horsehair worm</strong>
<em>Gordius</em> spp.
This horsehair worm was found coiled around a stick in the river at Tremont. It could be a male waiting for a female to come to the river. These roundworms have an interesting life cycle beginning...
Horsehair worm
Gordius spp.
This horsehair worm was found coiled around a stick in the river at Tremont. It could be a male waiting for a female to come to the river. These roundworms have an interesting life cycle beginning as eggs in water. When an insect, such as a roach, cicada, beetle, grasshopper, or cricket, eats a worm cyst (or 2 or 3!), the cyst hatches releasing the larval worm. The parasitic larva eats its' host and develops into an adult worm throughout the year. When the host is ready to die, it goes to water. As it comes in contact with water, the adult worm (which can be up to 2 feet long!) leaves the host's body. When the male and female mate, the female lays her eggs in the water and the cycle starts all over again. I found out in an interesting way how this happens! While I was at Tremont, the Smokies field school, a few years ago, the director (Amber) handed me a jar with a camel cricket. She told me to put a little bit of water in the jar and watch what happens. The cricket was a female and I was surprised when her "ovipositor" got longer and longer. I was amazed, shocked, and a little horrified when I realized it was a thin, brown worm coming from the cricket's body! It got quite a lot of attention from the other participants just before lunch! Good thing we didn't have spaghetti that day! :)

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