ST. LOUIS — It sounds like something out of a horror movie, and it will probably give some gardeners nightmares, but an invasive species of ravenous jumping worms is slithering their way across Illinois and Missouri.
The worms which are native to East Asia, are a glossy gray or brown with a white band, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture says they thrash around and can leap one foot into the air.
Yes, you read that right — they literally jump into the air.
These slimy pests also devour nutrients from the soil, leaving it unable to sustain trees or plants and according to some scientists could slowly destroy entire forests.
There’s also mild concern the invasive species will end up in plants sold in nurseries which will then go into home gardens and local parks.
Illinois and Missouri are two of 34 states with jumping worms. They have been detected in 40 Illinois counties, including Madison near St. Louis. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the worms may be widespread across the state.
If you spot one of these creatures, you’re urged to take a photo and submit it to your local University of Illinois Extension office.
Jumping worms’ tails separate from their bodies when caught, so experts say the best way to get rid of them is to seal them in a plastic bag and then toss it into the trash.