There are many different types of worm. Your common earthworm, for example, is just one species and contains many sub-species including the jumping worm.
Although we are only recently understanding the importance of earthworms in our gardens, the stigma around these creatures has started to spread yet again, this time due to a specific type of earthworm: the jumping worm.
Indeed, these little creatures are making headlines due to their impact on the environment, but as it stands, very few of us actually know anything about jumping worms.
What are they? How are they different to earthworms? Where do they come from? Let’s find out.
Is a Jumping Worm an earthworm?
Jumping worms (scientific name: Amynthas agrestis), also known as Asian jumping worms, crazy worms, snake worms, or Alabama jumpers, are indeed a type of earthworm.
Jumping worms are, however, relatively easy to distinguish from European earthworms.
Over the past few years, we have begun to hear a lot more about this invasive species. The spread of jumping worms has caused severe damage to plants, forests, and agriculture everywhere.
If you believe that your garden could have some jumping worms, it is definitely time to treat the garden before the problem becomes too severe.
First of all, you need to identify what jumping worms actually look like – so you know what you’re dealing with.
How do you identify a jumping worm?
Whereas earthworms are of a light, pinky color, jumping worms are grey, dark brown. Their clitellum is also of a lighter color than the rest of their bodies.
They move like snakes, slithering from side to side, and of course, they are named after their invasive jumping habits.
Although you may not be able to notice it immediately, an adult jumping worm will also be smaller than an adult earthworm.
They tend to only grow to between four to five inches, whereas earthworms can reach six to eight inches long.
Are Jumping worms bad?
Sadly, although the presence of earthworms in the ground is generally much appreciated, jumping worms only ever cause problems.
First of all, they feed on live organic matter, unlike many earthworm species which only feed on dead matter.
They have been proven to drastically change the soil structure, causing severe damage to gardens, trees, etc.
Where Do Jumping Worms Live?
Though they can occasionally dwell deeper, they mostly live on the surface of the soils or forest floor, consuming the nutrients before they can nourish the ground, the plants, and the trees.
They generally live in leaf litter, mulch, and compost.
Spreading their eggs is very easy for them, too, as they reproduce parthenogenetically (alone), and their eggs are small brown balls, making them difficult to distinguish from other parts of the soil.
Their cocoons can also withstand very cold temperatures.
Where did jumping worms come from?
Although they are native to eastern Asia (sometimes even called Asian jumping worms), jumping worms were initially found in Wisconsin, as the Wisconsin DNR (Department of Natural Resources) states.
Specifically, they were found by the University of Wisconsin Madison Arboretum.
Although they are non-native to the upper midwest, research has shown that the spreading of the worms may have occurred years ago due to plants being moved around and sent from various countries.
Therefore, you’re likely to see them far beyond the UW Madison Arboretum – always keep a close eye on your soil.
Though jumping worms are a type of earthworm, there are also some key differences with many common and popular species, but there are also some similarities with others.
The main difference and characteristic is in the name; jumping earthworms can jump! And while they may not always do it (they tend to do it under stress), you can almost certainly tell from their color, size and erratic movements whether you’re dealing with one. or not.