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What are Jumping Worms?

What we know: Worms in general are alien to New England and until recently were not a concern. Some are considered a benefit! Not the Jumping Worm. This snake-like worm (Amynthas spp) that wiggles and thrashes rapidly when disturbed has the potential to strip nutrients from soils of our forests. They may possibly reduce nutrient availability to gardens and lawns. Affected soils are more susceptible to erosion as well. Familiar to scientists for a decade or more, the Jumping Worm has evolved into an alarming pest in the last few years.

In the Berkshires, our cool wet soils in July 2021 made an ideal habitat for Jumping Worms and probably contributed to their seemingly sudden appearance. Jumping Worms only live for one year. However, their cocoons (egg sacks) are small, imperceptible and overwinter allowing for the life cycle to continue. Research is underway to find a control agent for Jumping Worms but nothing is labeled for controlling them yet.

Right now, our goal is to limit the spread of the invasive species of worm, Amynthas spp., commonly known as the Jumping Worm. If you have an infestation, wash tools, boots, containers, etc. before visiting another garden location.

Currently, the best thing to do is avoid moving soil from place to place. If you have identified a population of this worm in your home or workplace landscape consider collecting any adults you come across and disposing of them in the trash. Wash soil off tools, boots, gloves, and containers that have been used in one garden before visiting another location. Don’t buy Jumping Worms online. Unwanted bait worms should be put in the trash. If sharing plants, wash off roots and repot in sterile potting mix to limit the possible spread.

Research has shown that Jumping Worm cocoons will die if in a composter maintained above 104 degrees F for at least 3 days.

We will keep you posted as news develops.

To identify this pest and find further resources, visit this UMass Agricultural Fact sheet online.

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