Voracious foot-jumping worms found in California

CALIFORNI — Earthworms are a gardener’s best friend, but a trickster and invasive species known to extract nutrients from the soil has now been discovered in 34 states, including California.

The jumping earthworm gobbles up nutrients from the soil, leaving it barren and unable to sustain forests. It was recently confirmed in the Golden State and residents are warned to watch out for the voracious little floundering worms. They are capable of expelling earthworms from their native habitats and causing serious damage to forest ecosystems.

These invasive Asian jumping worms — their scientific name is Amynthas agrestis — deserve their nickname and reputation. They are also called Alabama jumpers, Jersey wrigglers, wood eels, crazy worms, snake worms and crazy snake worms.

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Their common names describe “the way they forage around,” USDA Forest Service soil scientist Mac Callaham said in a post on the agency’s website last month. “They can knock themselves a foot off the ground.”

Beneficial earthworms aerate the soil and help prepare it for growth. But once jumping worms make their way into your dirt, it’ll be the consistency of coffee grounds — and about as useful for growing things as Joe’s morning pot dredges.

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An entomologist performed DNA sequencing to confirm the first finding of a jumping worm in Napa County last year.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, “It is likely that Amynthas agrestis will be able to achieve widespread distribution through California’s forest habitats and floriculture production sites, particularly in residential and commercial settings.”

They can become a real problem for the Golden State.

Amynthas agrestis poses a particularly serious threat to California’s forests.
they can also be harmful to commercial ornamental nurseries due to the pest’s presence in field and container plants that can be distributed to residential and commercial gardens and parks,” according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. serve as root media, disrupting the natural decomposition of leaf litter on forest floors and turning the soil into granular, dry worm excrement that cannot support undergrowing forest plants… Once established,

are impossible to eradicate.

Springworm populations grow rapidly for a few generations per season. Like other worms, they are hermaphrodites, meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs, but with one distinction: Jumpworms reproduce on their own.

They develop their own ecosystems

Jumpworms wreak havoc in soil and ultimately in the circle of life, Callaham told Sarah Farmer, a science writer for the Forest Service’s Southern Research Station in Asheville, North Carolina.

Jumpworms expend a lot of energy, which they feed by eating everything in their path. That includes leaf litter, the first layer of soil on the forest floor — not only many unseen little creatures, but an important source of nutrients that plants need to germinate and grow.

All earthworms feed on leaf litter, but jumping worms are “voracious,” Callaham said.

“Soil is the foundation of life – and Asian jumping worms are changing that,” the soil scientist continued. “In fact, earthworms can have such a huge impact that they can actually develop the ecosystems around them.”

It’s a mystery to scientists, who say they should know more about the ecology of springworms before prescribing a management plan. The information about them so far by about two dozen scientists was collected last year in a research paper describing the second wave of jumping worm infections in North America.

“We can’t really handle them when they’re here,” Andrea Davalos, an assistant professor of biology at the State University of New York-Cortland and one of the authors of the research paper, told Upstate New York.

“There is no suitable method for getting rid of them,” said Davalos, who is also a member of the Jumping Worm Outreach, Research & Management partnership in New York.

What Davalos and others in New York have found is that while jumping worms are widespread from Long Island to Ontario, Canada, their colonies are “very patchy.” A colony of up to 30 jumping worms can live in a 2.6-square-foot garden plot, but a similarly sized space nearby may not have one.

‘As far as forestry is concerned, it is disastrous’

Gary Fish, the state horticulturist from Maine, told NECN, an NBC affiliate serving the Northeast, that his office has seen reports of jumping worms increase over the past five years and that their spread is “a problem across the Northeast.” .

“In terms of forestry,” he told NECN, “I’d say it’s disastrous.”

Of particular risk, he said, are the Vermont maples used to make syrup, and others used for wood products such as ash.

Similar stories are popping up elsewhere in the country.

“Because of their ability to clone themselves, just one jumping worm can start a population, making them a different species to manage,” Ryan Hueffmeier, an ecologist, environmentalist and professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s College of Education and Human Service Professions, KSMP, a Fox News affiliate in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, told.

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