Invasive snake-like ‘jumping worms’ are spreading in California

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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 Midwest in 2013 and have upended local gardens and lawns for several years turning rich soil into small crumbles ultimately depleting nutrients. The worm was first seen in California last July by a California Department of Food and Agriculture entomologist.

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.

A statement from the California Department of Food and Agriculture said:

These earthworms are extremely active, aggressive, and have voracious appetites.It is likely that Amynthas agrestis will be able to establish a widespread distribution through California's forest habitat and ornamental production sites, particularly in residential and commercial environments. it poses a serious threat primarily to California's forests. However, they may also be detrimental to commercial ornamental nurseries due to the presence of the pest in field and containerized plants that may be distributed to residential and commercial gardens and parks.

Currently, there is no known prevention to jumping worms, however, an organic fertilizer used by golf course managers has been effective in eliminating jumping worms. The fertilizer made from tea seed meal irritates and eventually kills these worms when applied to the soil.

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