KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is warning East Tennessee of potential hammerhead flatworms in the area.

“A long, slimy flatworm with a weird-looking head sounds like something from a science fiction movie,” TVA wrote on their website. “But it’s real and it has been documented in the Knoxville area.”

Hammerhead flatworms were found in Norris, Tenn., after Inga Kemnitz spotted one in outside of her home in May of 2022 and a Norris man also found four flatworms inside of his home in October of 2021.

According to TVA, hammerhead flatworms can cause a problem for native species. The flatworms eat earthworms and invertebrate, who are beneficial to creating healthy soil.

“Our ecosystem in this region depends on earthworms, as strange as that may sound,” said Jack Muncy, senior land conditions specialist. “If earthworms are removed from the environment, plants and crops, even trees, are not able to get the nutrients they normally would. This is a similar effect we see with invasive species in the water, like zebra mussels—they upset the normal ecological balance.” 

Flatworms also create a toxic slime to hide from predators and carry parasites. The slime can irritate human skin from direct contact.

TVA provided these tips to get rid of hammerhead flatworms:

  1. Do not touch it with your bare hands or cut them because they will regenerate.
  2. Cover the flatworm with ale or rubbing alcohol.
  3. Put on gloves then pick up the flatworm and put it in a bag.
  4. Place the bag in the freezer.