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

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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 jumping worms have been found in several counties in Michigan. 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.

Oakland University Professor Scott Tiegs said:

We don’t know a lot yet about how these relatively recent invaders, this Asian species, are going to impact our forests. One thing we want to address is that we really don’t know anything about their distribution in Michigan. For example, we have some soil that is very rich in organic matter and some that is very sandy, and I suspect that the abundance of the Asian Jumping Worm is going to vary across these different soil types, as well as across different landscapes.

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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