DNR advises to keep an eye out for invasive jumping worms

Local News

This undated handout photo from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources shows an invasive jumping worm, bottom, next to a common nightcrawler. The DNR says the jumping worm , first discovered in 2013 in the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, now may be in up to 14 Wisconsin counties, and it’s launching a campaign to educate the public on how to spot them and slow their spread. (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources via AP)

(WFRV) – As the summer months come and go, Wisconsin residents are warned about an invasive species burrowing in the soil.

Jumping worms were first found in Wisconsin in 2013. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says the worms are native to eastern Asia.

They get their name from their behavior, as they violently thrash, spring into the air and can even shed their tails to escape. The DNR says jumping worms first arrived in North America sometime in the late 19th century.

The jumping worm has multiple names:

  • Asian jumping worms
  • Crazy worms
  • Alabama jumpers
  • Snake worms

Jumping worms aren’t the first invasive earthworms in Wisconsin, in fact, the DNR says there have been no native earthworms in Wisconsin since the last glacier moved through the state thousands of years ago.

The reason that jumping worms are a problem is they reproduce quickly and consume more nutrients than other earthworms. Once the species becomes established the DNR says they quickly transform the soil into dry, granular pellets that have a texture similar to discarded coffee grounds.

People won’t have to dig deep into the soil to find the jumping worms as they live on the soil surface in debris and leaf litter. They do not burrow far into the soil.

How does one identify a jumping worm? Well the DNR describes them as smooth with a glossy dark gray/brown color. Their bodies are firm and not coated in ‘slime’ and have snake-like movement.

The worms themselves are not the only threat the DNR warns about. Jumping worms have cocoons. Jumping worms are parthenogenic which means they self-fertilize and do not need mates to reproduce. The worms produce cocoons that can survive winter and hatch the following spring.

These cocoons can look like small pieces of dirt and are hard to see. With the small cocoons being hard to see they are often unknowingly moved in soil, mulch, potted plants, etc.

While the DNR says there is no ‘magic bullet’ to control jumping worms at this point, there are some steps to help prevent the spread.

The DNR provides the following steps to stop the spread of jumping worms:

  • Educate yourself and others to recognize jumping worms
  • Watch for jumping worms and signs of their presence
  • Arrive clean, leave clean. Clean soil and debris from vehicles, equipment and personal gear before moving
  • Use, sell, plant, purchase or trade only landscape and gardening materials and plants that appear to be free of jumping worms
  • Sell, purchase or trade only compost and mulch that was heated to appropriate temperatures and duration following protocols that reduce pathogens

It only takes 60 days between hatching and reproduction and jumping worms can easily complete two generations per year in Wisconsin.

The DNR has a timeline that shows their activities during parts of the year:

  • April – May
    • Tiny jumping worms hatch from cocoon-encased eggs
  • Summer months
    • Worms feed and grow
  • August – September
    • Mature worms reproduce, depositing egg-filled cocoons into surroundings
  • First freeze
    • Adult worms die
  • Winter months
    • Eggs spend cold months protected in cocoons (about the size of mustard seeds)

More information regarding jumping worms can be found on the DNR’s website.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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