ST. LOUIS, Mo. – An invasive species of worm is wriggling its way into the Midwest. “Jumping Worms” are already in the Metro East and one local expert says they are likely in St. Louis too.
“As they are coming into the area, they are sort of the new pest invader,” he explains.
Jumping Worms are 4 to 8 inches long, move quickly like a snake, and can shed their tails when threatened.
“When they get startled or harassed by a person or another animal they thrash around almost like a snake would. They are very violently jumping trying to scare away a predator,” says Ted Yankoski, Senior Entomologist with The Butterfly House.
Yankoski says the problem with the invasive worms are that they turn through soil faster than other worms and cause major disruptions.
“They are in the most nutrient-rich soils which is important for trees and seedlings to sprout and develop,” says Yankoski.
He says they use the food source for other plants and animals who then get displaced. He says the most important thing right now is to slow their spread. That means be careful if you are moving top soil.
They also may have been brought to the US from Asia as fishing bait.
They have a distinct band near their heads. Yankoski says if you see one, take a picture and document it. Then, put it in a bag and then in the sun of the freezer to kill it.
The Jumping Worms originally come from Asia and were officially found in the Midwest by the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2013. Researchers have been tracking their movements since then.
The jumping worms were more common on the East and West Coasts of the United States. Now the worms have been spotted in Midwestern states like Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
They are in the Metro-East. The worms are confirmed in Madison County and suspected in St. Clair County. Some are in Missouri’s urban areas.