Gardners and anglers should be on the lookout for jumping worms, an invasive species that can ruin gardens and lawns, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources warns.
Jumping worms are a type of earthworm that looks similar to nightcrawlers. They get their name because they wiggle a lot when disturbed, sometimes appearing as if they're jumping.
“Jumping worms are a relatively new invasive species in Minnesota and they are a threat to gardens and forests,” Laura Van Riper, DNR terrestrial invasive species coordinator, said in a news release. “They make rich soil more like coffee grounds. They eat plant roots, damaging garden plants and sod.”
The worms are native to Asia and were first confirmed in Minnesota in 2006 when they were found in Minneapolis' Loring Park, the DNR's website says. Now, they're mainly found in the Twin Cities and western suburbs, as well as in Rochester.
It's believed they've 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 the DNR says they're a poor choice for bait because they break into segments when they're 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.
To help prevent the spread of jumping worms, the DNR recommends not buying worms that are advertised as jumping worms, snake worms, Alabama jumpers or crazy worms, and anglers should dispose of their unwanted bait worms in the trash.
Gardners should inspect incoming mulch and plants for the invasive worm and if they're swapping plats with someone, they should share the plants as bare-root plants by washing off the soil.
Meanwhile, recreationists should brush the mud off their boots and equipment.
Greg Husak of the Minnesota DNR told BMTN they're sharing information on jumping worms now because many gardeners are buying mulch products for their fall gardening work and it's also a popular time for people to swap plants.
Identifying jumping worms
The Minnesota DNR has two videos that will help Minnesotans identify jumping worms:
If you think you've found jumping worms, take a high-resolution photo showing the ring around the worm's body in relation to its head and report it to www.eddmaps.org or contact the DNR Information Center at 888-646-6367 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The DNR's jumping worms website can be found here.