First Jumping Worm Appearance Confirmed in Iowa

News Article

The invasive species of earthworm described in Horticulture & Home Pest Newsletter on May 7, 2017, has now been confirmed in Iowa.  

Jumping worms are also known as crazy worms or snake worms, names that describe the way they violently writhe and squirm when disturbed and move more like a snake than an earthworm.  Jumping worms are surface-dwellers; they consume leaf litter and organic matter at the soil surface.  Once established, populations can build quickly. They can out-compete and push out the other earthworms and degrade ecosystems, especially forests and woodlands by stripping the soil surface of protective organic matter.

Read more about the jumping worm discoveries in the Iowa State University Extension & Outreach news release from July 25, 2018.

Reports have been received to indicate that jumping worms may be more wide-spread than previously realized and that more will be found as gardeners start looking.  Please send videos and images of possible infestations to insects@iastate.edu.

Correction to information in the news release, courtesy of Samuel W. James, Associate Professor, Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa:  "There are many species of native earthworms in Iowa, belonging to three families, one genus each: Diplocardia, Bimastos, and Sparganophilus, generally in the southern half of the state away from past glaciated and periglacial permafrost areas."  As to the introduced nature of Iowa earthworms, "for better or for worse, most earthworms in Iowa agricultural fields are European in origin.  There are exceptions, including some of the tougher Diplocardia."

The jumping worm is dark brown to gray, smooth, and with a milky-white to gray clitellum.
Photo credit: University of Wisconsin

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