Jumping worms are a harmful invasive species. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), these worms change the soil in a negative way, more than any other earthworm we have in Wisconsin. This active and damaging pest was found in Wisconsin in 2013. It is known and sold under a variety of common names including crazy worms, Alabama jumpers and snake worms.
How will you recognize a jumping worm? The name speaks for itself! These worms slither and thrash when handled and behave more like a threatened snake than a worm. Jumping worms can be 1.5 to eight inches long, and you won’t have just one.
The worms are smooth in smooth, glossy gray in color. The narrow band around their body (clitellum) is cloudy-white and smooth, unlike other species which have a raised clitellum. A jumping worm’s clitellum will also completely circle the body.
Jumping worms are voracious eaters and live off the organic layer of soil, devouring essential nutrients needed by plants and insects. These worms turn good soil into grainy, dry worm castings that can inhibit germination and destabilize plant root structures. Because of these reasons, and unlike many other invasive species, the Jumping Worm poses a threat to natural habitat, horticulture and agriculture.
Jumping worms reproduce on their own and a single worm can start a new population. You won’t see adults until late June since the adults will die in winter. However, their young will survive the winter in cocoons, which are microscopic and buried in the soil. These worms can be spread through multiple means, so it is important to minimize their spread.
How you can help
Jumping worms are easy to find since they stay on the soil surface, unlike European Nightcrawlers that tend to live deep below the soil surface. Follow these simple steps to reduce the spread of jumping worms:
Educate yourself and others to recognize jumping worms
Watch for jumping worms and signs of their presence
Only use, sell, plant, purchase or trade landscape and gardening materials and plants that appear to be free of jumping worms
Only sell, purchase or trade compost that was heated to appropriate temperatures and duration following protocols that reduce pathogens
Arrive clean, leave clean – clean soil and debris from vehicles, equipment and personal gear before moving to and from a work or recreational area.
It is illegal to buy, sell, bring into the state, or release jumping worms to water or land in Wisconsin under Invasive Species Rule (chapter NR 40, Wisconsin Adm. Code).
For more information, feel free to contact Katie Wantoch, UW-Extension Dunn County Agriculture Agent, via email email@example.com or phone 715-232-1636.
Or visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website at dnr.wi.gov, keyword “jumping worm” to view the DNR ID card and brochure. The Wisconsin DNR is asking people to report jumping worms and other invasive species via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.