Horsehair Worm (Phylum Nematamorpha)
Wriggling in leaf litter in a flooded forest understory (near a bubbling spring). These creepy crawlers were very interested in me and would raise their heads (?) to investigate me while I photographed.
Possibly Gordius sp., but I'm looking into it.
Despite their cringe factor, horsehair worms are fascinating insect parasites. They are most known for parasitizing crickets, cockroaches, beetles, mantids, and grasshoppers. Their lifecycle is complex, usually beginning with mayfly larvae eating their eggs from bodies of water. Once the mayfly develops into an adult, it is then eaten by other insects which then "activates" the growth of the horsehair worm inside its body. Free-will is hijacked by the parasite, and the insect is driven to find a body of water in which to plunge itself. Here, the parasite exits these parasitized insect in order to reproduce and lay eggs.
A wild video of this process:
No species identified
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