Beach Worms Are the Scariest Things You’ll Find Hiding in the Sand

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Written by Sharon Parry

Published: March 8, 2024

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Hyams Beach Sunrise NSW Australia
© lovleah/iStock via Getty Images

You may not be too keen to walk barefoot on this sand if you knew what was lurking beneath it! In this clip, captured on a beach in Australia, we see a family collect ‘beach worms’ and then use them to go fishing. There is a knack to finding and grabbing hold of the worms but once you’ve mastered it, it seems to be remarkably easy! So, let’s find out where giant beach worms live!

What Exactly Are Beach Worms?

The giant beach worm is in the Onuphidae family and they are known as polychaete worms. There are actually three species. Australonuphis parateres is known as the slimy, redhead, bluey, or bungum worm. It can grow to nearly 10 feet. Australonuphis teres are also known asking worms, greenheads, bonzeheads, and bullworms. Also, the juvenile worms are called stumpies, high-tiders, or standard beach worms. These can grow to around three feet in length. Finally, Australonuphis mariahirsuta has multiple common names including white-headed wiry, hairy Mary, and greasyback!

Where Are Giant Beach Worms Normally Found?

As you would expect, beach worms are found on beaches – specifically at the low water point. They are found along the eastern and south-eastern coasts of Australia. A favorite place to find them is from Yeppoon in Queensland to Noarlunga in South Australia.

As is clear from the above clip, most of the time they are hidden! They live under the sand in tubes or burrows and stay there unless they emerge to eat. Burrows are constructed by secreting mucus onto the sand to create a thin tube.

What Do Giant Beach Worms Normally Eat?

Giant beach worms are omnivores – they are also scavengers. Typically, they feed on seaweed and animal matter that is drifting around on beaches. The animal matter in their diet is mainly made up of dead fish and dead octopuses.

Collecting Giant Beach Worms

A man knots a fishing hook and lead at the beach

Giant beach worms can be used as fishing bait.

©Radka Danailova/iStock via Getty Images

It’s common for these worms to be collected to use as bait for fishing. They are collected by hand using the technique we see in this clip. Once you have grasped hold of the worm, you can drag it out and marvel at how long it is!

Despite this being a widespread activity, there is no evidence that it is damaging the overall numbers of these worms. As all the worms are collected by hand, it is unlikely that enough of them would be harvested to impact their populations.


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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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