Red Rain

Bloodworm Showers?

Naturalist Philip Henry Gosse, in his book The Romance of Natural History (London: James Nisbet and Co., 1866; vol. II, Second series, pp. 98-99),
had an experience with a phenomenon that closely resembled drops of blood. In Ashburton, a neighborhood in Devon, England, the scientist noticed that in the cratered white mud at the bottom of a shallow pond, there appeared to be many patches of "what looked exactly like blood...." It appeared to the experienced natural scientist that two or three drops of blood had fallen in one spot, half-a-dozen in another, and so on.

Upon examination of the spots, Gosse determined that their color was very-bloodlike, and that the spots even had what he called "just that curdled appearance that drops of blood assume when that fall into still water." Upon "minute examination," Gosse saw a motion within the spot and found that each "drop" was composed of many thin red 1.5 inch-long worms protruding from the mud. He took samples and found the creatures to be worms with transparent bodies, red-hued by virtue of their visible blood-vessels (Gosse, p. 100).

In his Secrets of Earth and Sea, Sir Ray Lankester (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1920), explains "showers of blood" as being due to showers of red insects. He feels that there may be falls of hundreds of small red river-worms (such as Tubifex) or aquatic "blood worms," not unlike those described by Dr. Gosse. The red larvę of harlequin flies, insects of the genus Chironomus and related genera are also responsible for such blood showers. The mechanism for these showers proposed by Lankester is the ubiquitous whirlwind that lifts the worms out of the water and drops them elsewhere (p. 207).


©Mark Chorvinsky, 1995