Seemingly part of the special effects of a bad horror movie, an invasion of long, thorny, green worms with black stripes (ugh) in northwest China has forced the evacuation of some 50 herdsmen and their families from their grassland homes.
The species of worm is unknown and samples of the 2-centimeter (1-inch) long critters have been sent to Xinjiang Agricultural University for further study.
Farmers have fled the worst plague to befall this area in three decades, taking some 20,000 head of livestock with them. The affected section lies in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, which is about 175 miles west of the Xinjiang capital, Urumqi.
News reports claim that these worms are packed up to 3,000 per square meter and chew through the grass like hungry lawnmowers, leaving only brown soil in their wake.
“The pasture was green a week ago. But now the worms are creeping around, and they even come into my house. I have to sweep them out several times an hour,” one herdsman told the press.
Locusts have ravaged the area over the years, and chickens, ducks and other birds were able to effectively ward them off. They too pose an enormous menace to the grasslands, but none of the natural locust predators have indicated any liking for the annoying, unpalatable and very ugly worms.
Most unsettling is the fact that these worms are an unknown alien species and no one knows why or how they appeared. One local official speculated that they might be moth larvae that have thrived in the plentiful rains of the relatively warm winter weather.
One thing is certain. The current situation presented to authorities in this region truly represents the opening of one gigantic….can of worms!