Attention, fall gardeners! While earthworms are usually a welcome sight in your garden, not all earthworms are alike. Jumping worms, sometimes known as “crazy worms,” are an invasive species native to Asia that are being found increasingly in many parts of New York State.
Jumping worms primarily stay in the top layer of soil, leaching nutrients and turning topsoil into a texture similar to coffee grounds. This makes it difficult for many plants to grow, including garden plants, trees, and lawns. You can tell the difference between a jumping worm and a less destructive European earthworm by examining the worm’s collar (clitellum). Jumping worms have a collar that is milky-white, relatively close to the head and flush with their bodies.
Here’s how you can help prevent the spread of jumping worms:
- Know the signs: Look for dark soil that looks like coffee grounds. Jumping worms have a milky-white smooth collar, close to their heads.
- Play. Clean. Go: Check your soil, compost, tools, boots, and plant roots. Clean everything of worms and egg casings before transporting.
- Be worm-wise: When purchasing soil, compost, plants (even trees) or worms for bait, check for jumping worms or egg casings to prevent jumping worms from invading your yard.
- Report: If you find one, take a picture and report the sighting to www.nyimapinvasives.org.
Check out the Homeowner’s Guide for Asian Jumping Worms from the NY Invasive Species Research Institute for more information.
Need help identifying a worm, insect, or plant disease? Email a photo and description to DEC at [email protected].
Photo by Heather Dockstader via iMapInvasives