Dear Answer Man: I was at the leaf dump last weekend and saw big warning signs about jumping worms in the compost pile. What are jumping worms and why do we have to be warned about them? — Signed, Worm Concerns
Dear Worry Worm: Well, the warning is to stop the spread of jumping worms. According to Answer Man’s good friends at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the jumping worm, which goes by the scientific name Amynthas agrestis, is an invasive species from Asia. They get their name from a penchant for moving like a snake or even, at times, appearing to jump when disturbed.
The problem with these invertebrates is that they tend to eat mulch and strip vital nutrients from topsoil, the DNR says. That means ruining valuable topsoil everywhere from our Minnesota ecosystems to Answer Man’s own tomato garden.
A good sign that jumping worms are present is topsoil that has a consistency of coffee grounds, the DNR reports.
So, what can you to do keep these invaders at bay? Well, the DNR has some helpful advice there as well. For starters, avoid buying any worms advertised as jumping worms, snake worms, “Alabama jumpers” or “crazy worms” for any purpose, whether that purpose be to help your compost pile or as bait at the end of your fishing hook.
Second, there are no native earthworm species in Minnesota, so if you use any species of earthworm as bait, don’t just let the unused bait go. You’re not releasing it to the wild, you’re contaminating the environment. Instead, throw them in the trash where they will be sent to a landfill.
Hope this answers this slippery question for you. Now, I hope we can all jump on board to preserve soil health.