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Asian Jumping Worm: How to Recognize them and What to do

Asian Jumping wormAsian Jumping Worm: How to Recognize them and What to do

Jumping worms, known called Asian jumping worms, crazy worms, Alabama jumpers and snake worms, scientific name Amynthas agrestis (and another common version, Amynthas tokioensis) , are invasive earthworms first found in the northern midwest of the U.S. in by Dr. Lee Frelich University of Minnesota first observed Amynthas agrestis in Loring Park in Minneapolis in 2006; other sightings in 2013 in Wisconsin. . As the name implies,  Native to eastern Asia, they harm the soil ecology since they do not aerate the soil as European Earthworms do.

The problem with Asian Jumping Worms

In a nutshell, they

  • multiply rapidly,
  • live near or on the surface of the soil and do not burrow down and aerate the soil like European Earthworms, This compacts the soil and makes it worse for plants and
  • although the adults die with the first freeze, they leave behind tiny egg-like cocoons that survive cold winters and emerge in the Spring.

Asian jumping worms are not native to the United States or Europe and feed on leaf litter and mulch. The soil they leave behind is dry and grainy like coffee grounds, which deprives trees and other plants of essential nutrients. They can deplete soil of nutrients, damage plant roots and alter the soil's water holding capacity. Asian jumping worms do not create channels in the soil for plants nor do they recycle nutrients into the soil for plants to use. They can cause invertebrates in the soil to die which can impact wildlife species that feed on them. They can also change the carbon nitrogen ratio in soils which can impact the effectiveness of pesticides in agricultural fields that have been invaded by these worms.

Identifying Asian Jumping Worms (AJW)

There are several key points to know to distinguish the Asian Jumping Worm from the common helpful earthworm. This youtube video is excellent.

  •  When handled, AJW's violently thrash around, jump into the air and can even shed their tails to escape. They move like a snake and sometimes appear to be jumping.
  • They are smooth, glossy dark gray/brown color and are 1.5 to 8 inches long. (3.8 cm to 20 cm)
  •  A light-colored ring (Clitellum) extends around the body and is a cloudy-white to gray. Its surface is flush with rest of body.
  • Look for soil with a similar appearance to coffee grounds. As jumping worms eat and excrete waste, the soil gets a unique texture like coffee grounds.
  • Jumping worms  secrete yellow mucus when agitated (see video from Wisconsin DNR (link is external) showing their movement).
  • Jumping worms do not burrow far into soil - they live on the soil surface in debris and leaf litter. Jumping worms are found in mulch and compost.
  • Carefully examine soil in potted plants. Only buy bare root stock if possible.
  • Unlike European earthworms, they their bodies are firm and not coated in “slime”
  • They tend to occur in large numbers; Where there's one, there are always more

Comparison: Asian Jumping Worms vs. European Earthworms

The state of Wisconsin produced this comparison and timeline:

Jumping worm European nightcrawler
Asian Jumping worm European nightcrawler
Brown/gray Pink/reddish
Bodies are sleek, dry, smooth and firm Bodies are thick, slimy, floppy
Thrash violently when disturbed; snake-like movement Wiggle and stretch when disturbed.
Mature worm 4-5 inches long (10 cm to 13 cm) Mature worm 6-8 inches long  (15 cm to 20 cm)
Light colored, smooth clitellum* that is flush with body, relatively close to head. Completely encircles body. Reddish or pink clitellum* slightly raised from rest of body. Partially encircles body (like a saddle).

Timeline of the Asian Jumping Worm's year

Time of year Activity
April -May Tiny jumping worms hatch from cocoon-encased eggs.
Summer months Worms feed and grow. It takes 60 days between hatching and reproduction
August - September Mature worms reproduce, depositing egg-filled cocoons into surroundings. Jumping worms are parthenogenic; each worm can reproduce on its own without a mate.
First freeze Adult worms die.
Winter months Eggs spend cold months protected in cocoons (about the size of mustard seeds!)

What can you do about Asian Jumping Worms?

At present, there are no known ways to effectively eradicate the worms. The recommendations are limited to prevention,

Prevention

  • When buying plants, choose bare root stock or seeds or remove the soil from around roots of potted plants, and discard it in a sealed plastic bag (first leave it in the hot sun to kill them inside) in your trash.
  • Do not intentionally buy AJW worms for composting, vermicomposting, gardening or bait.
  • Don't transplant mulch, soil or plants from contaminated areas to uncontaminated areas.

Treatment

No effective methods are known at present that provide results,

You can remove and dispose of AJW by

  •  tossing them on a hot sunny driveway or street ( solarizing them) or soaking them in isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.
  • Putting them in a bucket of alfalfa pellets, vermiculite, dry cat litter or other desiccant which will dry them up very quickly
  • It is reported that a hot compost heap  (131 degrees F or above) should kill jumping worms and their eggs. If this is true, then scraping all of the leaves, plant matter and loose top soil and composting it could kill the adults and eggs.
    Obviously this would require a lot of green matter, liek fresh grass clippings) the get the compost pile up to a high temperature.
  • It is possible that "solarizing" the entire garden (and surrounding area) with plastic for a week during a hot summer, might help. To prevent infestation, you would have to clear the area around the garden, and perhaps establish a border area that the worms cannot cross (like diatomaceous earth?)

Reporting Asian Jumping Worms

See below to report any invasive species in your country.

In the United States

Reporting invasive species on your property

A: If you find invasive species on your property, it is up to you to decide what to do. You can leave them alone, or you might want to try and eradicate or control them. This may or may not be possible depending on the extent of the problem and whether your neighbors all around you have the species on their land as well. If you have a significant amount of property infested with invasives and would like to find out whether invasive species can be eradicated or habitats on your property can be restored, all of the sources in the question above may be of help. In addition, there are many Service programs and other government programs that could be of assistance. To find out more about these programs, please visit the Grants page of the Invasive Species Web Portal's Partnerships Page.

Where to report an invasive species on public land

A: If you are in a National or State Park, National Wildlife Refuge, or other piece of public land and you think you may have discovered a new invasive species, you should contact the closest park or refuge office and see if they are aware of the invasive species.

If you think you have found an aquatic invasive species, you should try and alert the local office as mentioned above, but there are two other ways you can report the discovery.

  • To report an aquatic invasive species by phone, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey maintain an ANS Hotline at 800-STOP-ANS (877-786-7267).
  • To report an aquatic invasive species online, please follow this link to the USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Sighting Report Form.

Also to get a list of the species that are considered invasive in your area, contact your State Department of Natural Resources.

 

Reporting in the United Kingdom

Anywhere in the UK

GB Invasive Non-native Species Strategy was developed to meet the challenge posed by invasive non-native species in Great Britain. This website provides tools and information for those working to support the strategy. Where to send your records You can record any non-native species online through iRecord (external link). Please include a photograph of your sighting if you have one to help with identification.

 

Scotland

Record a sighting of a non-native species

  1. Take a photo - or write down a detailed description.
  2. Identify the location - ideally to within 100m of the sighting of the non-native species.
  3. Note the date and roughly how many (or how much) of the non-native species you saw.

Report a priority non-native species

Prevention priority species' are non-native species that aren't yet established in Scotland, but are known to be highly invasive and are likely to arrive here soon. View the latest species alerts on the NNSS website.

By law, you must report a sighting on your land of:

  • muntjac deer
  • coypu
  • musk rat
  • exotic rabbit (i.e. not European rabbit)

You should report either type of sighting above promptly to Scotland's Environmental and Rural Services (SEARS).

Telephone: 0845 2 302 050
Email: [email protected]

Report other non-native species

Records of other non-native species can help us to better understand species distribution and thus support better management.

In particular, be sure to report sightings of non-native species of concern in Scotland.

You can submit your records of species of concern:

  • by completing the INNS reporting form
  • by contacting SEARS on the phone number or email address above.

An expert will verify your sighting. Including a good quality photo or description will speed up this process. You may be asked for more details about the sighting.

All records will be made publicly available via NBN Atlas Scotland.

 

Related

In the UK, If you suspect you have seen an Asian hornet you should report this using the iPhone and Android app ‘Asian Hornet Watch' or by using our online report form. Alternatively, e-mail [email protected].

References

  1. Cornell Cooperative Extension Jumping Worms Fact Sheet
  2. National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Species Spotlight
  3. Invasive Earthworms in the Northeast from The University of Vermont, Plant & Soil Science Department
  4. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Forest Health Fact Sheet
  5. Jumping Worm: The creepy damaging invasive you don't know from Cool Green Science blog
  6. Jumping Worm Field Guide from Wisconsin
  7. Photo: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

 


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