The early bird gets the worm — but you have to be even earlier to wrangle the jumping worm.
Experts are warning gardening enthusiasts to look out for jumping worms this summer, as the species is known to worsen soil quality and make it inhospitable for plants to grow.
“Invasive Asian jumping worms got their name because of the way they thrash around,” Mac Callaham, a Forest Service researcher from the US Department of Agriculture, wrote on the website in 2022. “They can flip themselves a foot off the ground. They’re voracious.”
The invasive, non-native worm originates in Asia, moving like an “S,” similar to a snake. If it thinks it’s in danger, the worm will flail and jump off the ground in order to distract the attacker and even shed its tail to escape.
Shocked horticulturists are taking to TikTok to share the erratic worms, unsure how to remove the flailing cylindrical critters from their gardens.
“Is there a club I can join,” an avid gardener complained, along with a bowl full of jumping, wriggling worms.
“Emotional support group maybe?” they continued. “Anything so it’s not just me and the worms.”
“I went out to my garden this morning and, oh my, the worms were having a party,” one TikToker exclaimed, showing footage of the long, dark worms flipping about in the soil.
“More Asian Jumping Worms. Kill it,” advised another TikToker, who found her garden in San Diego, California, littered with them.
Jumping worms are different from earthworms as they don’t burrow far into the soil and live in the “litter layer.”
Like many other worms, they eat leaves. But the problem with jumping worms is that they are never satisfied, so will keep eating the entire litter layer, which is home to many tiny insects. Many plants, the USDA noted, cannot grow without the littler layer.
The worms hail from east Asia, particularly Japan and the Korean Peninsula, and entered the US in the 1900s through the soil in potted plants, according to the USDA. Since then, the invasive nibblers have been spotted in 34 states, most recently, Wisconsin.
“Jumping worms are well adapted to these humid continental and humid subtropical climates, and so they have a strong potential to invade the entire eastern half of the United States and parts of Canada,” the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station explained.
“Soil is the foundation of life – and Asian jumping worms change it,” Callaham explained. “In fact, earthworms can have such huge impacts that they’re able to actually re-engineer the ecosystems around them.”
If in a garden, the worms can turn soil into “dry, granular pellets,” making it difficult for many plants to grow.
“In addition, they can deplete the soil of nutrients, impact soil organisms, and in many cases, invasive plants thrive where jumping worms live,” the USDA website added.
There aren’t any chemicals available yet to treat jumping worms, with experts suggesting physically removing them from your garden.
The Post has reached out to the USDA for comment.