This is my first year composting. I decided to compost due to turning my above ground pool area into a garden. It was overrun with weeds and grass which needed to be pulled out. Building my new garden, I knew that I was going to need garden soil. To save some money this seemed like a good idea.
While pulling up some weeds and grass I would come across worms in which I thought to be beneficial to add to the compost pile. As a kid, you learn that earthworms are good because they aerate and fertilize the soil which is beneficial for vegetable gardens.
The first sign that I should have questioned (but I did not) was how fast they moved. It has been a while since I had picked up a worm and was not quite sure if they could move that fast. When I picked up these worms, they literally jumped out of my hand, hence the name “Asian Jumping Worms”.
Well, it all came together when I started seeing articles in my garden news feeds and spotted a bunch of them while turning my compost pile.
Asian jumping worms are quite easy to mistake them for common earth warms or also known as nightcrawlers (like I did). By looking at them the best way to tell them apart, is by their “clitellum”, the band around the body of the worm. The color of a clitellum around an Asian jumping worm is milky white to gray color whereas the earthworm’s clitellum can be more of a reddish to pinkish color.
Another characteristic I noticed is that they were about twice the size from when I first discovered them pulling weeds earlier in the summer. The larger size made them appear to slither more like a snake than a worm, which is why they are also called “snake worms”.
If you pick them up, they feel smoother. Whereas an earthworm will feel slimy.
Why Are Jumping Worms Bad?
Asian jumping Worms live and feed close to the surface of the soil. The problem with these worms is that they reproduce faster, are twice as big, and have a much more voracious appetite than earthworms.
They can live together in higher densities and process nutrients so fast that plants do not have a chance to process what they need. Their castings look like coffee grounds in which they contain important nutrients such as potassium and calcium, but they also contain higher levels of heavy metals than earthworms such as iron, aluminum, and even mercury.
They devour the nutrient-rich topsoil so fast that it washes away to a nearby water source or is leached down into the soil where plants cannot access what they need to survive.
How to Get Rid of Asian Jumping Worms?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way right now to get rid of this invasive species. The only way to get rid of jumping worms is when you find them … kill them. Put them in a plastic bag, roast them out in the sun, and then throw them away.
If you do find them in an area of your yard, try not to spread them into other areas. Wipe of garden tools and the soles of your shoes with rubbing alcohol. Their eggs are tiny and are transported easily. Find and kill as many as you can.
One way you can force them to the surface is by mixing 1/3 of a cup with mustard seed with a gallon of water and then slowly pour the mixture over the suspected area. They will soon come to the surface where you can bag and cook them in the sun.
Help Find a Solution
Researchers are currently studying this invasive species, their long-term effects on our environment, and what to do about them. You can help them with their research by reporting them if you think you have them on your property.
Listed below are a couple of websites to report your findings:
Beyond the Home Garden
For a small-time gardener like myself, these worms are a nuisance and can be managed. They can be caught and killed. I can add nutrients or replace the soil if these worms cause enough damage.
However, for the large-scale farmer who depends on their land to make a living, these worms can be detrimental, destroying a whole crop. One of the other disturbing aspects of these creatures is that they feed on roots.
Asian jumping worms are also very bad for the forests of North America. They can change the whole ecosystem. Plants cannot take root when they devour the topsoil of the forest. This causes a cascading effect in which animals that rely on certain plants cannot survive.
When the soil erodes it disrupts the microbial ecosystem. This then causes even further damage to plant life making it much harder for plants to grow.
Researchers are now finding that the jumping worm cocoons cannot survive soils above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. This is good news if you bought garden soil that has been heat-treated but this does not help the large-scale farmer or our forests.
If fishermen have not seen this worm yet, they will probably discover it sooner or later. It is an attractive bait because of its wiggly movement and can be twice the size of regular earthworms. This can be a big problem because their eggs can survive underwater for quite a long period. Also, if fishermen are not aware of the damage that they can cause, they might not take certain precautions of limiting the spread of Asian Jumping Worms. They might throw their extra bait on the ground instead of in the garbage.
Hopefully, the more researchers learn about jumping worms the closer they find a way to mitigate this invasive species.
If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you. Please spread the word about Asian jumping worm control and how to help mitigate their destructive nature.
Thanks for reading and happy gardening,