Jumping worm: Next invasive garden threat hard to spot

Jumping worms have been around in North America since the 19th century, scientists say, but have only recently been seen as a problem.

Just when you think you’re used to the firefly invasion, another threat to the ecosystem emerges: the Asian jumping worm.

Allow me to introduce you to Amynthas agrestis, also known as the “Alabama jumper,” the “Jersey curler,” and the rude but accurate “crazy worm.” Unlike garden earthworms, these overturning, stabbing, invasive plants are consumers of humus, the essential, organic-rich soil formed by dead and decaying small animals, insects and leaf mats in places such as forests, plant nurseries, and yards.

Plants, fungi, and other soil life cannot survive without humus, and “Asian Jumping Worms can eat them all,” Sarah Farmer of the US Forest Service wrote in a Chinese blog post. USDA Center for Southern Studies published in May.

Humus depletion will also threaten birds and other wildlife that depend on soil-dwelling insects for food.

The insatiable invertebrates, native to East-Central Asia, believed to have been introduced to the United States in the late 1800s, were likely hitchhikers in potted plants. But their existence went largely unnoticed – or perhaps under-reported – until a decade ago, when ecologists assessed them as problematic, according to Dr. professor of biology and environmental studies at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.

Since then, the presence of the worms has been confirmed in 35 states across the country.

Although their annual life cycle ends in winter, the Asian jumping worm cocoons survive to give birth to a new generation in the spring. Their tiny eggs are almost imperceptible in the soil or mulch, but the adult worms, 3 to 8 inches long, are easy to spot near the soil surface and can often be seen moving. under the mulch or leaf layer, says McCay.

As they dig deep into the soil, the worms leave behind two things: cocoons and casts. The cocoon is very small and has an earthy color so it is easy to miss. However, droppings, or droppings, that have a coffee bean texture will alert you to their presence.

Ballworms can be gray or brown, with a smooth white or cream neck that completely covers part of their body. When touched, they leap from side to side, jump and can even slide back and forth like a snake. That behavior, along with their ability to reproduce quickly without a mate, gives them an advantage over predators, McCay said.

“Robins and other birds, shrews, predatory snakes and amphibians like toads may not be able to contain their populations effectively,” he said.

McCay, whose research is focused on understanding how the worms enter intact forests and their effect on forest biodiversity, warns that “what gardeners should do possible to avoid spreading the jumping worms to new areas.” Since the caterpillars often migrate into the forest from nearby gardens, control in home and community gardens is needed to slow their entry into natural habitats, he said.

Therefore, in this season of differentiation and exchange of trees, gardeners must be very vigilant. Look out for the worms’ castings, a sign of their presence. Check the soil for attachment to the roots and the ground around them. Also, McCay advises, not to dispose of waste from infected gardens in nearby forests, and only share repotted plants after their roots have been cleared of soil.

Unfortunately, no good control measures are available for established populations of jumping worms. But McCay said picking them out by hand and dropping them in the vinegar container would reduce their numbers. He knows of a gardener in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, who removed 51,000 worms that way in 2021.

https://www.king5.com/article/news/nation-world/slithering-jumping-worm-next-invasive-garden-threat/507-4b417c6e-e616-43f2-b9cf-cea49b6510ec Jumping worm: Next invasive garden threat hard to spot

Edmund DeMarche

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