You’re busy gardening one day when you realize that the earthworms look to be a great deal larger than usual. “Nightcrawlers” you mutter under your breath. No big deal.

Then one of those big, beefy boys jumps at you and you let out a deep, manly scream.

Or maybe a little higher pitched. Don’t worry. We won’t tell anybody.

When we find Asian jumping worms, we scream, too. These invasive worms are heck to get rid of and awful to deal with. Let’s take a look at what to do when the jumping worm terrifies you and your plants!

Do I Have Them?!

Find an identifying guide. However, if they look like a slender snake rather than a worm and are larger than usual, if they’re absolutely jumping (we’re not talking about wriggling, these guys get some air!), and if they have a reproductive band all the way around.

Yeah, you’re probably being invaded.

It’s okay. These invasive jumping worms are everywhere in the southeast right now and there is a major movement to get rid of them while there may still be time. The good news is that these are annual worms and if you manage to take out the next generation, you’ve got the whole problem under control. These worms die off in the winter.

…Oh wait, winter seems to be disappearing in the area that they’re most invasive in? Shoot.

What Do I Do?

There are a few tips and tricks. If you’ve only seen one or two, we recommend destroying the worms the old-fashioned way: manually. Kill them swiftly, because it isn’t their fault that they ruin the soil (more on that later). Make sure that you remove any cocoons that you see and soak the area you found them in during a hot day. This will essentially boil/steam any cocoons you haven’t found.

Identifying them is easy. We can’t give you a visual play-by-play, but:

*Jumping worms have a reproductive band that goes all the way around the body and is darker than the rest of the body.

*Jumping worms jump!

*Jumping worms are absolutely enormous.

*Jumping worms leave behind coffee grounds-like castings rather than typical worm manure.

Long-Term Impacts Of Invasion

While most worm species do an incredible job of enriching the soil, that isn’t the case with Asian Jumping Worms. No, instead, these worms will destroy your soil. This includes your fancy potting mixes, your hard-earned compost; everything!

The worst part of this is that it’s probably your fault for having them show up. They’re becoming more prevalent in nursery-grown plants and soils non-native to gardener yards. If at all possible, wash your plants to the point of bare roots before you plant them. This might, maybe, save you.

The Solution

Generally speaking, gardeners know that living with nature is the only way to actually make the world work. We find hornet nests and we try to remember that they’re there when we’re weeding or mowing because we know that the poison we’d have to spray on them will hurt our plants, our pets, and maybe even our kids.

We know that storms are just a part of life. That the beautiful Brussels sprout plant you’ve been working on for months gets murdered by a lightning strike for no real reason other than bad luck.

And sometimes, these things just happen.

That, too, is the way we approach Asian Jumping Worms. Unfortunately, there is no other way around them other than extermination. If allowed to thrive, they can survive off of almost anything. There have been invasions overseas in cardboard factories, and paper mills; if it is plant matter and rotting, in any form, these worms will do wonderfully.

Related: Earthworms

And there is no way that something is not decaying in a garden. Whether it is the ground manure of a cow (which is just decaying plant matter and stomach acid when you get down to it), old plants that you’ve tilled under, or just the fall leaves that fell last year and you tilled into the soil. These worms will find something to eat. And then they will grow and expand so quickly that there is nothing left except dead soil and a writhing mass of worms that are still looking for something to eat.

As said above, kill them swiftly and as painlessly as possible. It is not their fault that they exist. But we cannot allow them to do so in our gardens without losing everything. No matter if permaculture or chemical warfare wins against these worms. They are extremely resistant to pesticides.

Final Thoughts On Jumping Worms

Years ago, I saw these worms in a garden in Okinawa, Japan. I paused and wondered what the heck I was looking at until one threw itself at me. I screamed, ran down the hill, and had the situation explained to me by a wonderful person who’d been there longer than I had.

I can’t verify if these worms came from Korea a long time ago, though that seems to be the general train of thought throughout scientific research. Though true worms, these worms certainly act and look enough like snakes to fool anyone for a moment or two.

None of us enjoy killing pests in our gardens, but without doing so with this particular species, we will lose everything that we’ve worked so very hard for. This is not as simple as planting a “pest garden” or a “rough” area as some gardeners do to contend with this sort of thing. This invasive species can knock out your garden and gardening ability permanently.

The extent of the damage done in Japan and Korea is high. There are areas so infested that it is impossible to garden and even raised beds end up filled with these jumping worms.

I hate digging them up when I find them. I hate killing them. I hate hurting them. But I know that without doing so, my garden is toast. And if I have to choose between them or my garden, I know which way I’m picking. How about you?

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