Gardening & Outdoors
Scientists warn about new species called “jumping worms” threatening us
This is not good.

Newspapers across the country are warning Americans about an invasive species of “jumping worm.”

Amynthas agrestis is also known as the Asian jumping worm, Alabama jumper, or crazy snake worm – and people are being asked to destroy them.

While worms are a crucial part of ecosystems and crop growth, these particular worms don’t belong in the U.S.

They are native to east Asia and the Korean peninsular and have hitching rides on imported plants.


Now, they’re starting to cause big problems for U.S. farmers (and pretty soon, for the rest of us!).

How bad could a worm be?

These worms are really bad.

It turns out that just as worms can play a vital role in adding nutrients to the soil, the wrong worms can destroy it.

“Jumping worms:” are known for a “voracious appetite” and deprive the soil of nutrients.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

According to The Guardian:

“The worms, which can grow up to 8in (20cm) in length and have a milky white band around their dark body, are distinctive for their theatrical behavior, including wild movements and even detaching body parts. They’re also hermaphrodites and can reproduce without mating, and produce cocoons at the soil surface.”

Here, the jumping worm is the small one, but it has the tell-tale white ring around its “neck”:

How to spot a “jumping worm”

The jumping worms were first spotted in New England and Wisconsin in 2013, but now they’ve spread into a dozen states to the west, all the way into California’s Napa Valley.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) warned in a report:

“True to their name, they jump and thrash immediately when handled, behaving more like a threatened snake than a worm, sometimes even breaking and shedding their tail when caught.”

How high can they jump, you may wonder?

Up to 12 inches!

However, most of the time they’re identified by their fast movements and hopping (rather than full-on jumping up into your face – unless you’re this bird):

Talk about an early morning surprise!

Here’s what they look like in action:

What’s the damage?

Jumping worms can change a soil’s characteristics so that the crops planted there no longer thrive due to a nutrient imbalance.

They can also change ecosystems in a way that can increase allergies and Lyme disease, as well as reduce forest biodiversity in the area.

One of the ways they cause these changes is that the worms chew through fallen leaves, destroying the top layers of forest soil.

That might not sound like a big deal, but that top layer serves many purposes, including mulching the trees and providing shelters for other creatures that are vital to the ecosystem because they serve as food or to keep other species in check.

Jumping worms only need 2 – 5 years to destroy the organic material they’re living in.

They leave behind soil that looks like coffee grounds:

YouTube -
YouTube -

Jumping worms are taking a toll on all of us

We don’t have solid research showing the best ways to manage them, so at the moment we only have two options for keeping our soil safe:

1) Preventing the introduction of worms in the first place
2) Preventing them from spreading any further

Unfortunately, no pesticides help.

Researchers have found that stories about jumping worms have made people feel angry, tense, sad, and nervous.

This is totally understandable: people love nature, we often don’t feel like we can control it, we worry about others not doing their part to take things seriously, we’re all worried about crops and food prices, and it’s just one more thing to worry about in a series of big concerns we’re all facing these days.

The good news is that people report feeling more confident in helping to control this invasive species the more they learned about what they can do to help.

Doing your part to solve the “jumping worm” problem

Whether you’re a farmer, gardener, or someone who wants to help others learn about the threat, there’s plenty of information available online to help you learn more.

And that’s important since jumping worms will displace the worms already in the soil (the kind helping it thrive).

In the meantime, your can stop their introduction and spread by doing the following:

  • Inspecting soil and new plants for the jumping worms
    • They can be 1.5 – 8 inches long
    • They look similar to earthworms but their clitellum (light, collar-like ring) is smooth, cloudy white, and constricted
    • They move like snakes, in an S pattern and wiggle more wildly than other worms
    • They can jump (sometimes up to 12 inches!) when disturbed
  • Don’t buy worms labeled jumping worms, “snake worms,” “Alabama jumpers,” or “crazy worms,” even for fishing
  • Buy mulch from reputable businesses
  • Be careful when sharing plants with friends and transfer as little soil as possible when you do
  • Never release worms into the environment from a new plant or after fishing
  • If you see soil that looks like coffee ground and very active worms nearby, pick them out of the soil
  • Jumping worms can be put in bags and thrown in the trash
  • The best solution is to place the worms in a bag and lay it out in the sun for at least 10 minutes to destroy them

Checking for jumping worms

If you’re not sure you have jumping worms but want to find out, you can use something called a mustard pour (which should not harm plants at all).

Just mix a gallon of water with 1/3 cup of yellow mustard seed and pour it into the soil.

This should bring all worms to the surface so you can inspect them to see if any are jumping worms.

In the warm weather, you can also destroy their cocoons by putting transparent polyurethane over the soil for 2 – 3 weeks to kill them off and ensure they don’t hatch.

Ready to learn more? Check out the video below to see just what we’re facing.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.