Asian Jumping Earthworms Are on the Rise!


What IS an Asian Jumping Earthworm? 

The Asian Jumping Earthworm is an aggressive earthworm that is negatively impacting our gardens and ecosystem and displacing the more beneficial European Nightcrawlers. 

According to the Penn State Extension, "Asian jumping worms are ravenous feeders and they quickly consume the organic matter and degrade the soil. Nutrients from their castings are rapidly released with a small amount actually reaching the roots of plants. During heavy rainstorms, the nutrients are quickly lost and the soil may be unable to support plant growth. Where there was once lush vegetation and wildflowers, there is only bare soil. When such a disturbance happens, it provides an opportunity for an invasive plant species such as garlic mustard or stilt grass to move in. The structure of the soil is also damaged and often there will be voids under tree roots that are near the surface of the soil."

How do you know if you have Asian Jumping Earthworms?

Look for granular soil created from worm castings (the soil left behind by worms). The texture is similar to coffee grounds.

Dig into your soil to uncover worms.  Asian jumping worms are far more active than European Nightcrawlers.  (see the above video for an example of their "erratic, snakelike movement" (PennState)). Asian worms can grow to 6 inches in length. 

Examine worms close-up.  Asian Jumping Worms have prominent bands around their bodies called the clitellum. On a jumping worms, the band completely encircles the body, is milky white to light gray, and is flush with the body. On European nightcrawlers, the clitellum is raised and reddish-brown color and does not wrap entirely around the body (Penn State). 

What to do you do if you find an Asian Jumping Earthworm?

Reduce the amount of organic matter that you add to your garden each year. 

Use reputable mulch producers that offer material that has been heat treated to 130°F for at least 3 days to destroy the cocoons. 

Buy bagged mulch.

Examine any plants you bring into your garden.  Look for the telltale signs of Jumping worms (see above).

If you discover the signs of the Asian Earthworm in your new plants you can either throw out the plant, or attempt to save the plant by removing ALL soil and rinse the roots thoroughly before planting. 

If there are only a few jumping worms, you can bag them and throw them in the trash.  

To avoid spreading worms to other parts of your yard, work infested areas last and clean your tools and shoes afterwards. (NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation). 

MOST IMPORTANTLY:  If you believe you have Asian Jumping Earthworms, please do not hesitate to report your findings to NY iMap Invasives

Want to learn more?

Both Cornell University and Penn State Extension have great information on dealing with the Asian Jumping Earthworm: 

Penn State Extension  "Look Out for Jumping Earthworms!"

Cornell University eCommons  "Asian Jumping Worms: A Homeowner's Guide"

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Last updated October 4, 2021