Invasive jumping worms are spreading across the United States

We are sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but there is a invasive species havoc on North American ecosystems that deserve our attention.

Amynthes agrestis has several names. They are called “Alabama jumpers”, “Jersey wrigglers”, “crazy worms” and most often “Asian jumping worms”.

“Invasive Asian jumping worms get their name from the way they thrash about,” explained Mac Callaham, a Forest Service soil researcher at a Southern research station. blog post. “They can roll over a foot off the ground.”

If that wasn’t hard enough to swallow, jumping worms feed on humus, the rich organic top layer of soil formed by small dead and decaying animals, insects, and fallen leaves. Humus is essential for the survival of plants, fungi and other forms of soil life. A drop in humus too threatens the birds and other wildlife that depend on soil insects for food.

Callaham describes the worm’s appetite as “voracious” and in some areas the damage has already been done.

“Soil is the foundation of life – and Asian jumping worms are changing it,” he added.

Originating in east-central Asia, these worms are believed to have been introduced to the United States in the early 1900s, likely as tagalongs in potted plants. They are considered invasive because they did not evolve alongside species from the United States and because they harm other species in the ecosystem.

Initially spotted in Wisconsin and across the New England region in 2013, the worms have since spread to dozens of states and as far south as Savannah.

Worms can be gray or brown, with a smooth cream or white collar that wraps entirely around one part of their body. They move like a snake and sometimes seem to jump when disturbed. Look for soil with a similar appearance to coffee grounds. As the jumping worms eat and excrete waste, the soil gets a unique texture like coffee grounds. (You can find more information about them here.)

Erin Buchholz, University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Erin Buchholz, integrated pest management specialist at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, said jumping worms thrive in cooler irrigated land with plenty of mulch. In times of drought, which is not favorable to their survival or reproduction, they have thrived in irrigated gardens where moisture is guaranteed.

Regarding distribution, Buchholz explained that the scientific community depends on the public to report sightings. This can be done by EDDMapS, a simple and free way to report different species that can harm our environment. For Southern states, the EDDMaps-linked phone app is called SEEDS, or the Southeast Early Warning Network. Simply take a photo of the suspicious species and report it from your phone to alert a state agency representative.

Gardeners are advised to clean the earth of any equipment (tools, gloves, shoes, carts, etc.) before taking it to another yard. Experts also recommend removing soil from all plants before transporting them as bare root plants or repotting them in sterile potting soil.

“If these worms weren’t spreading through forests and natural areas, they wouldn’t be such a problem,” Callaham concluded. “But unfortunately, they just won’t stay where you put them. The best way to prevent future invasions is to avoid moving the worms.”