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New Invasive Species Affecting Pennsylvania Soil

Last week, the Penn State Extension’s College of Agricultural Sciences announced the spotting of invasive jumping worms in Montour County. For anyone who relies on soil quality for their livelihood or hobby garden, a jumping worm (Amynthas spp., also known as Asian jumping worms, crazy worms, Alabama jumpers, and snake worms) infestation is their worst nightmare.

Jumping worms destroy soil quality by consuming large amounts of organic matter. When consumed, all plant nutrients in the worm castings are rendered unavailable for a long time, and the castings form a dry pellet. Once the soil’s organic matter is gone, it leads to a dry, coffee-ground-like consistency.

As of this writing, it is unknown how widespread the jumping worms are in Pennsylvania. According to the Penn State Extension, “the Montour County growers believe they have been on their farm for at least two years.” During this time, the growers noticed the jumping worms feeding on roots.

Differences between jumping worms and nightcrawlers

jumping worm found in pennsylvania

Adult jumping worms are about 5 or 6 inches long, with clitellum (the narrow band around their middle) that is flush around their entire body. The clitellum on nightcrawlers is slightly raised and does not go around their underside.

Dealing with jumping worms

If jumping worms are discovered on a property, the best known way to contain them is to make sure they cannot use soil to move from farm to farm. Soil can contain eggs even if adults are not present—cleaning soil from equipment and even shoes before moving to the next field can help keep them contained.

Currently, there are no insecticides labeled to control jumping worms. If found on a small scale, the worms can be collected, destroyed, and disposed of. Do not use them for fishing or in a compost bin. The Penn State Extension says they currently know “very little about this pest, but that will change. Keep your eyes and ears open for now.”

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