Invasive garden threat: Asian jumping worm

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Just if you suppose you have turn out to be accustomed to the noticed lanternfly invasion, alongside comes one other menace to the ecosystem: the Asian jumping worm.


Allow me to introduce you to Amynthas agrestis, often known as “Alabama jumper,” “Jersey wriggler” and the rude-but-accurate “insane worm.” Unlike garden-variety earthworms, these flipping, thrashing, invasive miscreants are ravenous customers of humus, the wealthy, natural, important prime layer of soil fashioned by lifeless and decaying small animals, bugs and leaf litter in locations like forests, plant nurseries and your garden.


Plants, fungi and different soil life can not survive with out humus, and “Asian jumping worms can eat all of it,” Sarah Farmer of the U.S. Forest Service wrote in a USDA Southern Research Center weblog publish revealed in May.


A decline in humus would additionally threaten birds and different wildlife that depend upon soil-dwelling bugs for meals.


The insatiable invertebrates, native to east-central Asia, are believed to have been launched to the United States within the late 1800s, doubtless as hitchhikers in potted crops. But their existence went largely unnoticed — or maybe underreported — till the previous decade, when ecologists flagged them as problematic, in line with Dr. Timothy McCay, a biology and environmental research professor at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.


Since then, the worms’ presence has been confirmed in 35 states throughout the nation.


Although their annual life cycle ends in winter, Asian jumping worm cocoons survive to spawn a brand new technology in spring. Their tiny eggs are practically not possible to note in soil or mulch, however grownup worms, which vary from 3 to eight inches lengthy, are straightforward to identify near the soil floor and may usually be seen transferring underneath mulch or leaf litter, McCay stated.


As they devour their approach by the soil, the worms go away two issues behind: cocoons and castings. The cocoons are tiny and soil-coloured, so they’re straightforward to overlook. However, the castings, or excrement, have a granular, coffee-ground texture that can warn you to their presence.


The shiny worms may be both grey or brown, with a clean cream or white collar that wraps totally round a part of their our bodies. When touched, they thrash backward and forward, leap, and should even slither forwards and backwards like a snake. That behaviour, coupled with their skill to breed quickly with out a mate, provides them a bonus over predators, McCay stated.


“Robins and different birds, shrews, garter snakes, and amphibians like toads could not be capable of successfully suppress their populations,” he stated.


McCay, whose analysis focuses on understanding how the worms invade intact forests, and their impact on forest biodiversity, cautions that “gardeners ought to do what they will to keep away from spreading jumping worms to new areas.” Because the worms sometimes transfer into forests from close by gardens, he stated, management in dwelling and group gardens is critical to gradual their invasion into pure habitats.


So throughout this season of plant dividing and swapping, gardeners have to be vigilant. Keep a watch out for the worms’ castings, a tell-tale sign of their presence. Inspect the soil clinging to plant roots and within the floor surrounding them. In addition, McCay advises, don’t eliminate waste from contaminated gardens into close by forests, and share solely crops which were reported after their roots have been cleaned of clinging soil.


Unfortunately, there aren’t any good management measures accessible for established populations of jumping worms. But McCay stated choosing them out by hand and dropping them into containers of vinegar will cut back their numbers. He is aware of of 1 gardener in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, who eliminated 51,000 worms that approach in 2021.


  

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