Jumping worms threaten Ontario forests

by Jason Bain | April 13, 2022
a jumping worm in a hand
Photo by Kent McFarland

Invasive species experts are sounding alarms with the arrival of an earthworm native to east-central Asia that could menace Ontario’s forests.

Asian jumping worms, also known as just jumping, crazy, or snake worms, Alabama jumpers or Jersey wrigglers, have been in North America for more than a century, and are well-established in US states on the Great Lakes.

Their range has been increasing, however, and populations have been confirmed in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe Area, including Toronto.

They really jump

Paler and a bit smaller than the common reddish-brown dew worm, jumping worms are more easily identified by their erratic, wriggling movements.

The invaders can contribute to major forest ecosystem disturbances and even threaten your gardens, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters Invading Species Awareness Program Aquatic Program Specialist Brook Schryer said.

The species (Amynthas spp) only lives for one season and hatches in the spring under one to four inches of soil before spending the summer growing and laying next year’s eggs in August, he explained.

Be aware of risks

“They’re responsible for negatively impacting soil structure and will reduce plant growth where they have invaded,” Schryer said, encouraging everyone to be aware of the risks of transplanting soil and plants from other areas.

“Ensure you’re acquiring your plants and soil from a reputable seller and if you suspect you have encountered a jumping worm or other invasive species, report it to the Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711 or online at www.EDDMapS.org,” he stated. “If you do suspect you have contaminated soil or plants, put them inside two clear plastic bags and put them in direct sunlight for at least five days before taking them to the landfill.”

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