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

Polarbear

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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. The worm was first seen in 2015 in northern Illinois and in 2016 in southern Illinois.

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.

Scientist Chris Evans, a forestry extension and research specialist based at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center in Southern Illinois, said:

Most likely, it was an accidental introduction – hitchhikers if you will. So far, we have found them in over 40 counties. They are fairly widespread all the way from the Ohio River down here in Southern Illinois up to the Wisconsin border. We don’t know every county that they are in yet. We are still getting reports. And we are very interested in having people report new counties to us.

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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