What Does a Wool Worm in a Squirrel Nest Look Like?
If you’ve ever wondered, “What does a wool worm in a nest look like?” you’re not alone. Hundreds of thousands of these critters live in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. In fact, they’re so common in the United States that many people aren’t even aware they’re there. But did you know that a woolworm’s life cycle can be as long as five years? And how do you tell if you’ve got one?
The larvae of the Cuterebra emasculator parasite are harmless, though they are a nuisance because they can infest a variety of rodents, including squirrels. While there are no known treatments for this parasite, many veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators will remove the larvae if necessary. Forceps are used to grasp the larvae at their posterior end and remove them. The empty warble pore may be flushed out using antiseptic. There are no anti-parasitic drugs available to treat Cuterebra emasculator infestations in domestic animals, although it is an option.
The adult tree squirrel bot fly first appears in early summer and flies in search of a female Cuterebra emasculator. Male tree squirrel bot fly species may congregate at a physical feature to attract a female, or may wait for a female Cuterebra emasculator to lay eggs. The eggs are laid on natural substrates, such as logs, bark, and other plant material.
The larva of the Cuterebra emasculator needs an opening to enter the mammalian host. Tree squirrel bot flies lay their eggs on branches that are frequently visited by gray squirrels, and their larvae wait inside these white eggs. During pupariation, they molt and grow to a larger size. They then emerge from the egg and attempt to attach themselves to passing mammal.
A hunter may come across a squirrel with a tumor. The tumor is actually the larvae of squirrel bot flies, a natural parasite of both squirrels and rabbits. Earlier, the parasites were called “wolves” and the hunter was instructed to toss the infested squirrel or wait until the first frost. Today, most hunters are not aware of the parasitic condition, and some simply do not want to kill a squirrel infested with these insects because they’re afraid of burrows.
The species that inhabits these insects is called the tree squirrel bot fly, and there are approximately 30 species of this fly in the Americas, five of which are found in Florida. The larvae of this species are parasitic on both native and non-native rodents, including lagomorphs, which do not normally have cuterebra larvae. Cuterebra emasculator Fitch named the species of the tree squirrel bot fly about 150 years ago. Today, the species has been reported in twenty states of the U.S., as well as two Canadian provinces in eastern North America.
Once inside the host, the Cuterebra larva anchors itself with its head against the body of the host and lines up with a hole in the host’s butt. The larva excretes a liquid excreta. The host squirrel’s skin forms a cozy pocket around the Cuterebra larva. This pocket is called a warble pore, and the cuterebra larvae remain in the host squirrel’s body until it matures.
Cuterebra adult fly
The Cuterebra emasculator is an insect with a remarkably recognizable appearance – it’s a new world species of skin bot fly. It belongs to the family Oestridae and was first described in 1856 by Asa Fitch. The larvae feed on the testicles of squirrels and chipmunks and are therefore named after their hosts. While adult Cuterebra flies do not pose any health risks, the larvae may irritate skin tissue.
The larvae of the Cuterebra emasculator are black and whitish, with a specialized pad on the end of their legs. Their first instars sway back and forth during questing behavior and may attach to a substrate with a sticky substance. The larvae then hatch into an adult fly in the spring. The infestation of Cuterebra emasculator occurs in squirrels and chipmunks, and in some cases on humans as well.
The larvae of the Cuterebra emasculator Fitch are parasitic in tree squirrels, chipmunks, and fox squirrels. Their larvae are parasitic, spending ten months underground in the pupal stage. Infestations generally occur in mid-late July and end-of-October. Cuterebra emasculator is a native parasite of chipmunks and squirrels, and there is no specific treatment for the infestation.
What does a wool worm in a squirrel look like?
A wool worm in a squirrel looks like a small white Caterpillar-like creature.
Where do wool worms come from?
Wool worms come from the cocoons of moths.
How do wool worms get into squirrels?
It is unclear how exactly wool worms get into squirrels but it is thought that they enter through the squirrels’ mouths or noses.
Do all squirrels have wool worms?
No not all squirrels have wool worms.
What do wool worms do to squirrels?
Wool worms eat the squirrels’ fur which can lead to bald patches on the animals.
Are wool worms harmful to squirrels?
While wool worms are not harmful to squirrels in and of themselves the bald patches they can cause can make the animals more susceptible to cold weather and predators.
How do you get rid of wool worms?
The best way to get rid of wool worms is to take the squirrel to a vet or other professional who can remove the creatures safely.
Is there anything else I should know about wool worms?
Wool worms are also known as “fur moths” or “squirrel moths.
What is the scientific name for a wool worm?
The scientific name for a wool worm is Inura montana.
What family do wool worms belong to?
Wool worms belong to the family Arctiidae.
What order do wool worms belong to?
Wool worms belong to the order Lepidoptera.
What class do wool worms belong to?
Wool worms belong to the class Insecta.
What phylum do wool worms belong to?
Wool worms belong to the phylum Arthropoda.
What kingdom do wool worms belong to?
Wool worms belong to the kingdom Animalia.
What are the natural predators of wool worms?
The natural predators of wool worms include birds bats and wasps.
Jessica Watson is a PHD holder from the University of Washington. She studied behavior and interaction between squirrels and has presented her research in several wildlife conferences including TWS Annual Conference in Winnipeg.