What is a Railroad worm? – One of the more rather peculiar insects on the planet is the railroad worm. A species of glowworm beetle, the railroad beetle gets its name from the bioluminescence “windows” it has on its body. Female railroad worms have sections of their bodies, when they light up, are similar to train windows. Often the males of these species won’t be in larvae form, instead are adult beetles. The males have very elaborate, antennae, which they use to detect and follow the pheromones produced by the female.


How to identify a Railroad Worm?

Oftentimes, they will be mistaken for millipedes. An easy mistake to make due to their appearance, they are long and ovalish, similar to a millipede. However, one of the key differences is that the railroad worm has six legs, and the millipede can have several hundred. Furthermore, the outer shells of both insects are different in color, a millipede’s outer shell is typically grey, while a railroad worm will have a black and orange outer shell. When it is very dark, the railroad worm will light up the orange sections of its body and become glow in the dark. This is thanks to the organs located on each body segment, called photic organs, which allow them to glow in the dark.


What do Railroad Worms eat?

Ironically, the insect they are mistaken for is the same insect they prefer to eat, the millipede. To no surprise, these insects are welcomed into gardens because they help eat all of the garden pests. It is believed, their luminescence is used to deter nocturnal predators from eating them. A sign that they are unpalatable.


Where do Railroad Worms live?

Railroad worms can be found in wet soil and on the bark or leaves of trees. They are oftentimes found in tropical climates due to the high moisture, which provides them with a comfortable living condition. During the day, the females will be in their burrows underground. During the night, that is when they come out for food. Especially after a summer rain, these insects are known to come out of their burrows and look for food.


Thankfully, railroad worms do not go after humans and pose no harm. These insects are a lot of fun to observe due to their glow-in-the-dark abilities and can bring joy to any summer night. Now that you know what to look for in your garden, go exploring!



U.S. Pest is proud to serve Middle Tennessee and its amazing residents. From termite treatments to everyday pest protection, U.S. Pest can do it all. If interested in a free quote today, visit uspest.com!

To learn more about other interesting insects in Tennessee, visit us on Facebook at U.S. Pest!