Minnesota anglers, gardeners: Beware of jumping worms

Img 8361 Jumping Worms By Beth Solie
(Minnesota DNR)

The Minnesota DNR is cautioning gardeners and anglers to be on the lookout for invasive jumping worms. These destructive worms can quickly degrade soils and damage garden plants and lawns.

“Jumping worms are a relatively new invasive species in Minnesota and they are a threat to gardens and forests,” said Laura Van Riper, DNR terrestrial invasive species coordinator. “They make rich soil more like coffee grounds. They eat plant roots, damaging garden plants and sod.”

Jumping worms are a type of earthworm that looks similar to other common earthworms such as nightcrawlers. They are called “jumping worms” because they wiggle intensely when disturbed and sometimes appear to be jumping. Native to Asia, jumping worms have been confirmed in limited areas of Minnesota since 2006, mainly in the Twin Cities and western suburbs and in Rochester. It’s believe that they were spread throughout North America by people moving potted plants, soil, compost, mulch and fishing bait.

Jumping worms cannot be legally introduced into the environment in Minnesota and are also a poor choice for bait because they break into segments when handled.

“The good news is, jumping worms are not well established in Minnesota and there are actions people can take to prevent their spread. We need gardeners and anglers to be vigilant and to contact the DNR when they think they’ve found jumping worms,” Van Riper said.

Other steps that help:

Don’t buy worms advertised as jumping worms, “snake worms,” “Alabama jumpers” or “crazy worms” for any purpose.

Anglers should dispose of any unwanted bait worms in the trash.

Gardeners should inspect incoming mulch or plants for jumping worms and if swapping plants with friends, wash off the soil and share the plants as bare root plants.

Recreationists should brush the mud off their boots and equipment.

2 Comments

Timothy Molko

This article really stood out to me. I was doing some weeding in an area near my house & decks, when I encountered what I thought were young vibrant crawlers. As I disturbed more of the ‘ancient mulch’, I was surprised to find crawlers in this area as I had never before. I put some in the decayed mulch an put them in the garage fridge.
Then I see this article, and right away I was thinking these ‘lively crawlers’ weren’t crawlers at all, but possibly these ‘jumping worms’!I had quarantined them, raked up all the old mulch, and put all that in a open container in case I missed a few… I will be contacting someone asap.

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Scott Stankowski

Nightcrawlers and most fishing worms are invasive as well which is probably more of a problem than jumping worms. Worms eat all the natural detritus that plants and trees have evolved to use for thousands of years. Without the detritus these plants are unable to survive with the potential benefits of the detritus. Moisture loss, nutrient uptake, and winter insulation. Not to mention the potential risk from fungal development or encroaching plants that survive in such circumstances

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