Author: Tera Shewchenko, Invasive Species Centre
In the summer of 2021, several sightings of invasive jumping worms were reported in Ontario, predominantly in home gardens. Jumping worms, species of pheretimoid earthworms belonging to several genera including Amynthas, Metaphire, and Pheretima, are native to East-Central Asia and had previously invaded the Northwest and Midwest regions of the United States. They can be introduced into urban gardens through mulch, compost, nursery stocks, or potting mixes from areas with established jumping worm infestations, and have the potential to cause major harm to surrounding forest areas. Given their relatively recent spread into Ontario, early detection and rapid response (EDRR) is critical to managing the Canadian jumping worm population. So, if you see a jumping worm, the best way you can help is to report it! The easiest time to spot jumping worms is late summer. You can find them in the topsoil where they tend to appear in large numbers and will thrash wildly from side to side if disturbed. If you suspect your soil is contaminated, you can also coax them to the surface using a mustard pour. Jumping worms can be distinguished from other earthworm species by their smooth, firm skin, and their grey-white clitellum (a collar-like band around their bodies that allows them to create cocoons for their eggs). See JWORMfactsheet (ccetompkins.org) for a useful guide to jumping worm identification.
Another sign of jumping worm infestation is unusual soil properties such as quicker than usual consumption of mulch from the topsoil, and changes in soil texture caused by their coffee ground-like castings (see photograph below).
Other ways you can combat the invasion of jumping worms into Ontario include:
- Avoid buying mulch, compost, nursery stocks, or potting mixes from areas with established jumping worm infestations.
- Avoid buying baitworms, especially those advertised as “snake worms,” “Alabama jumpers” or “crazy worms”.
Any jumping worms encountered should be killed before being disposed of. The most humane method to euthanize jumping worms is using isopropyl alcohol, which will kill them within seconds.
For more information on jumping worms, you can visit the species profile on the Invasive Species Centre website.
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