Jumping worms, which are native to Japan and Korea, arrived in the United States in the 1920s as fishing bait and as hitchhikers on imported plants and soils. Jumping worms first appeared in the Eastern United States in 2013 and have upended local gardens and lawns for several years turning rich soil into small crumbles ultimately depleting nutrients.
Jumping worms live in the leaf litter and the top few inches of soil on the forest floor. They contribute to major forest ecosystem disturbance by negatively impacting soil structure and reducing plant growth.
Tim McCay, a biology professor at Colgate University, New York, said:
These Asian exotics devour organic matter more rapidly than their European counterparts, stripping the forest of the layer critical for seedlings and wildflowers. Jumping worms grow twice as fast, reproduce more quickly, and can infest soils at high densities. In areas of heavy infestation, native plants, soil invertebrates, salamanders, birds, and other animals may decline. Jumping worms can severely damage the roots of plants in nurseries, gardens, forests, and turf.
Jumping worms are on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation invasive species prohibited list. The department has advised the general public to be on the lookout for the jumping worms.
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