Hillside's Jumping Worms

By Benjamin Seto-Glick

Invasive worms found throughout Hillside Woods

Amynthas agrestis, better known as jumping worms, are an invasive species of worms native to Asia. They can be identified by their distinctive clitellum - the cloudy-white or gray-colored ring at the front of their body, near their head - and their tendency to “jump” or thrash when disturbed.


Much more voracious than their European cousins, which gardeners appreciate for soil aeration, jumping worms eat leaf litter at a rapid pace. In fact, jumping worms can reduce leaf litter by 95 percent in just one season. Leaf litter is important because it retains moisture in the soil, it adds organic matter and nutrients, and it filters sediments and helps prevent soil erosion. Jumping worms strip nutrients from leaf litter and topsoil and turn it into small, friable pieces that resemble coffee grounds. This altered topsoil, which contains the most nutrients of every soil layer, washes away easily in our area’s increasingly heavy rainstorms. Meanwhile, leaf litter provides native plants with conditions they need to germinate. As a result, jumping worms make it difficult for young plants to survive.


Besides impacting vegetative regeneration, erosion is a major problem in Hillside Woods for several other reasons. The first is that when soil is washed away, it clogs waterways that control storm surges. Secondly, the soil washed downstream into local ponds smothers fish and frog eggs. Thirdly, in major storms such as the one last year, loose soil containing rocks can flow downhill and damage infrastructure.


Unfortunately, there are currently no solutions for getting rid of jumping worms. However, to prevent jumping worms from spreading, you can take the following steps:


First, if you notice signs of jumping worms in the soil, do not move it.

Second, make sure you don’t release worms bought for fishing.

Third, worm eggs are nearly invisible and can exist in plants bought from nurseries. Consult with your grower.


Sources:

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/invasive-jumping-worms-damage-soil-threaten-forests

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/terrestrialanimals/jumping-worm/index.html

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/ks/newsroom/features/?cid=stelprdb1242736#

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0107789#

An invasive jumping worm

The "coffee grounds" they leave behind