The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is cautioning gardeners and anglers to be on the lookout for invasive jumping worms.

These destructive worms can quickly degrade soils and damage plants and lawns.

“Jumping worms are a relatively new invasive species in Minnesota, and they are a threat to gardens and forests,” said Laura Van Riper, DNR terrestrial invasive species coordinator. “They make rich soil more like coffee grounds. They eat plant roots, damaging garden plants and sod.”

Jumping worms are a type of earthworm that looks similar to other common earthworms such as night crawlers. They are called “jumping worms” because they wiggle intensely when disturbed and sometimes appear to be jumping. Native to Asia, jumping worms have been confirmed in limited areas of Minnesota since 2006. 

It’s believed they were spread throughout North America by people moving potted plants, soil, compost, mulch and fishing bait.

Jumping worms cannot be legally introduced into the environment in Minnesota and are also a poor choice for bait, because they break into segments when handled.

Other steps that help:

• Don’t buy worms advertised as jumping worms, “snake worms,” “Alabama jumpers” or “crazy worms” for any purpose.

• Anglers should dispose of any unwanted bait worms in the trash.

• Gardeners should inspect incoming mulch or plants for jumping worms and if swapping plants with friends, wash off the soil and share the plants as bare root plants.

• Recreationists should brush the mud off their boots and equipment.

To help Minnesotans identify and report jumping worms, the DNR has produced two short videos.

One video features Dr. Lee Frelich, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology, talking about how jumping worms are sometimes found in garden soils and packaged garden mulch products.

Another video focuses on why jumping worms should not be purchased or used for fishing bait.

If people think they’ve found jumping worms, they should take high resolution photos showing the ring around the worm’s body in relation to its head and report jumping earthworms using www.eddmaps.org, or contact the DNR information center at 888-646-6367 or info.dnr@state.mn.us.

The videos and more information about jumping worms and other terrestrial invasive species can be found on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

- Photo courtesy of the Minnesota DNR Web site