In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Snape says (through Demelza):

And he wanted you to know you'll be sorting out rotten flobberworms from good ones, to use in Potions and — and he says there's no need to bring protective gloves.

However, as far as I know flobberworms are harmless. In fact in Goblet of Fire, Harry says that flobberworms don't even have teeth:

"What's this rubbish about him" — he pointed at Crabbe — "getting a bad bite off a flobberworm? They haven’t even got teeth!"

So why would protective gloves be necessary for handling flobberworms? Is it simply because of the slime?

  • 8
    You can need protective gloves from things besides bites.
    – Joe W
    Oct 31 '19 at 3:34
  • 2
    Maybe it's the other way around and it's Potions work that normally needs gloves? Chemists in the real world often wear gloves - nitrile or latex as opposed to something more traditional, but I imagine wizards are old-fashioned that way.
    – Cadence
    Oct 31 '19 at 3:39
  • 29
    Well, would you want to handle rotten worms - flobber or otherwise - with your bare hands? :-) Oct 31 '19 at 4:06
  • 16
    Why would gloves be necessary for handling flobberworms? -Clearly they aren't necessarily, seeing as there's no need to bring protective gloves.
    – Misha R
    Oct 31 '19 at 13:21
  • 2
    @MishaR It's maybe not clear from the quote, but Demelza was being sarcastic/mean. Like, "Go jump out of a plane, and no need to check your parachute." Oct 31 '19 at 14:21

Snape always had it in for Harry, this being no exception. While flobberworms may not be harmful, the mucus sounds pretty unpleasant, even from good ones. But here, Harry is to sort the good ones from the rotten ones. If good flobberworms are already unpleasant, rotten ones would be doubly so.

So as part of the punishment (since this is detention), Harry is to handle rotten flobberworms with his bare hands.

  • 1
    OK so it was simply because of the slime as I thought. Oct 31 '19 at 21:20

Snape is pointing out that you don't need gloves to handle them, just your bare hands. Their mucus, while unpleasant, evidently isn't poisonous, something backed up by their Ministry of Magic classification as "Boring", one grade below "Harmless".

M.O.M. Classification: X

The Flobberworm lives in damp ditches. A thick brown worm reaching up to ten inches in length, the Flobberworm moves very little. One end is indistinguishable from the other, both producing the mucus from which its name is derived and which is sometimes used to thicken potions. The Flobberworm’s preferred food is lettuce, though it will eat almost any vegetation.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

One would assume that determining the good flobberworms from the bad would be made easier through tactile contact (or he might just be wanting to make them handle slimy stuff for his own amusement).

  • 3
    Excellent answer, this is the only one that actually cites the source material! :)
    – Obsidia
    Oct 31 '19 at 16:18
  • 3
    @TobyBartels Lettuce is pretty fragile. You really don't need teeth, acid, or even a particularly strong toothless bite to be able to tear some off and swallow it.
    – 8bittree
    Oct 31 '19 at 17:20
  • 4
    @TobyBartels - I can't recall if snails have teeth, but they certainly eat lettuce
    – Valorum
    Oct 31 '19 at 18:20
  • 5
    @TobyBartels I link(looked it up)[/link] snails have thousands of tiny teeth, but for most species, their bite lacks the force needed to cause a human pain or pierce their skin. Since the claim that Flobberworms have no teeth comes from Harry, not a more solid source, it’s possible that they simply don’t have harmful teeth.
    – Obsidia
    Oct 31 '19 at 19:57
  • 15
    @Bellatrix - Today I learned three things; 1) Snails have teeth. 2) Worms don't have teeth (naturedetectives.woodlandtrust.org.uk/naturedetectives/blogs/…) and 3) Looking at pictures of close-up worm and snail mouths is gross.
    – Valorum
    Oct 31 '19 at 20:08

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