All About Asian Jumping Worms
Have you noticed that some of your garden bed soil looks like coffee grounds? Do large worms jump out of the soil when you’re simply digging a small hole or pulling a weed?
If you can answer at least one of these questions, you probably are host to a population of Asian jumping worms. Why should we be concerned?
These worms over-aerate the soil and can destroy normal soil structure, particularly near woodland areas. They move very actively, close to the soil surface. The jumping worms are active in summer, unlike many of the European earthworm species we’re accustomed to which rest during the hot weather. Thus they avoid direct competition and may be found as the sole worm species in a given area.
Jumping Worms have just one generation per year in our region. Adults can be identified by a pale, milky-white band encircling the entire body approximately one-third of the way back from the head. They are sensitive to cold temperatures and die by the time winter arrives. However, their eggs can successfully overwinter, hatch in spring as cocoons, and develop into adults by summer.
No effective methods of suppression are known for this species. We are inspecting all materials and plants that we purchase for signs of jumping worms and have not discovered any to date. Remember that our vendors for compost and mulch have heat-treated their materials as part of processing, thereby killing the cocoons. Nurseries use specialized potting mixes that do not contain garden bed soil. Field dug stock is another matter. When transplanting and dividing, we have been careful this fall not to relocate divisions from one property to another. However, we remain vigilant.
Research is underway with solarizing garden beds using clear plastic sheeting for two to three weeks in summer, heating the soil beneath to 104 degrees or more. Cocoons are sensitive to heat and will not survive this treatment which unfortunately also will kill other soil microorganisms!
You may enjoy this interview with a Wisconsin scientist at the forefront of research into jumping worms.
And: Spotted Lanternfly arrives in Fitchburg, Massachusetts
Rather close to home, the MA Department of Agricultural Resources announced in late September that a small, established and breeding population of the invasive Spotted Lanternfly was detected on three trees in Fitchburg.
The showy adults native to Asia have been a problem in the mid-Atlantic states. Talks at professional gatherings for the past few years have warned about the increasing chances of the pest moving north on vehicles or goods moved from infested states. Alas, this time has come!
The Spotted Lanternfly feeds on the sap of over 103 different species of plants, including economically significant fruits (apple, peach, and grape among them), along with trees and shrubs that are important in both managed landscapes and natural areas. Maple trees that are tapped for maple syrup in spring are also at risk. The so-called non-native “Tree of Heaven” or the “Tree that Grew in Brooklyn,” Ailanthus altissima, is a favorite host plant located mainly in urban areas.
Learn how to spot egg masses or swarms of adults on tree trunks, rocks, and stationary items in your yard. This fact sheet is a handy reference guide. And it also includes a reporting form if you spot any sign of this pest.