Experts say that Americans shouldn’t worry much about the jumping worm invasion. Although jumping worms are not new to America, the recent resurgence of the worms has sparked alarm among farmers and gardeners. Various individuals have recently reported spotting the jumping worms of the genus Amynthas. Reports of sightings have been logged in the states of Maine, Missouri, and California this spring.
Jumping worms are native to Korea and Japan, and receive their name from the the manner in which they move, in comparison to native American earthworms that crawl on the surface. The worms have been in the US since the late 19th century, but they are rarely spotted in the large numbers that have been seen in recent times.
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The jumping worms also differ from native European and North American worms in their appearance. The regular worms that you stumble upon in your garden are brownish to red in color and can be spotted easily. On the other hand, jumping worms are grey and hard to spot. Jumping worms also stay just a few inches under the top of the soil, while the normal earthworms stay much deeper.
Among the purported threats of the jumping worms is the fact that they feed on the nutrients available in the soil. The worms mainly feed on decomposing matter, which makes up nutrients for the soil. According to the USDA, most plant species will struggle to survive if the worms deplete the available nutrients.
“You want to get rid of them if you do have them,” says Bernie Williams of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “If you suspect that you may have them in your garden, or you’re seeing that your soil is getting pilled up like coffee grounds, you can take a scoop of that soil, put it in a bucket or container, and then fill it with water. Walk away from it for a few hours. And if you have jumping worm cocoons, they will float to the surface of the water.”
Even so, experts say that jumping worms should not be cause for alarm. They do not harm humans and are less likely to deplete other resources, according to Williams.
“They’re just like us, really, at the end of the day. We took the land; we moved earthworms here in North America,” Williams says. “There’s so many more [invasive species] coming there. I don’t think jumping worms should keep you up at night.”
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