As if a pandemic, wildfires, locusts, and a rocket falling to Earth aren’t enough to worry about, now we are being invaded by jumping worms! And there is nothing funny about jumping worms. Their name comes from their tendency to jump around when disturbed, and they display a single, wide, almost white ring around their body. They thrive in leaf cover and in the top couple of inches of soil and can weather our winters underground as tiny cocoons. Where they live is what they destroy, and there is no known remedy to an infestation.
They grow larger than our normal earthworms and live in concentrated groups. These packs of worms live in the top six inches of the soil and work through the soil relentlessly until it resembles coffee grounds. According to The Atlantic magazine, “the disturbed soil erodes easily, dries out quickly, and generally makes poor habitat for many plants.” This terrestrial invasive (MN Department of Natural Resources) has been located in North Oaks and throughout the Twin Cities metro area, the UMN St. Paul Campus, and in half of the woodlands at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
Preventing their spread is the only way to manage this invasive pest. The University of Minnesota Extension recommends that if you share home grown perennials this year, the bare-root method is advised. Completely submerge the plant in water to wash away the soil, any worms and cocoons. Repot the plants with sanitized, bagged potting soil. This Spring be vigilant to keep these destructive pests at bay, and only buy plants, dirt, and mulch from reputable dealers.
For more information, read “Cancel Earthworms” in the The Atlantic and “Minnesota's 'jumping worm' invasion upends spring plant sales” in the Star Tribune. Recommendations for staying pest-free at plant sales and other methods to prevent the introduction of jumping worms are available on the University of Minnesota Extension website. Please tell others about jumping worms to help to raise awareness of this new threat to our natural habitat.
— NOHOA Board of Directors