ST. CLOUD, Minn. — While digging in your garden or planting something in your yard, hopefully you are likely to come across earthworms. Earthworms are not native to Minnesota, but were brought over with European settlers.
Most of the time we see earthworms as a contributor to our garden environments. They assist in incorporating organic matter and help water move through our soil. However, in some cases, earthworms can have negative impacts and this is the case for a recently-discovered species: Amynthas.
Amynthas originated in Asia and is sometimes referred to as the Jumping Worm. It earned this name due to its very un-worm like movements. When disturbed, Amynthas, moves quickly and snake-like to get away. It also has the ability to drop off its tail section in the event a predator was to pick it up.
The Amynthas breaks down organic matter extremely fast — taking away key nutrients from plants and destroying habitats for insects and other small animals. If infested with Amynthas, your soil will likely take on the texture of coffee grounds. You may also notice the earth appears to have pulled away from your plants suddenly and that plants may tip over unexpectedly.
It only takes one worm to start a population as they reproduce asexually. The adults die each winter, but the eggs and larval cocoons are not killed by the cold. Often times the worms can be spread when plants are sold with the original garden soil. If you are in an area where Amynthas has been identified, consider exchanging only bare root plants or plants that had their roots washed prior to being put in sterile potting soil.
If you are considering vermicomposting, ensure that you are only purchasing the true Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida). The Red Wiggler is the only worm which has been found to be able to handle the heat of a compost pile. They also have not been found outside of compost environments. Amynthas are not the vermicomposting worm and will not stay in the compost pile.
If you believe you may have found an Amynthas in your garden, take a photo and short video, if possible. Remove the worm from your garden and put it in a plastic bag, then dispose of the bag. Please report your finding using the Great Lakes Early Detection Network app or to the Department of Natural Resources. You may also reach out to your local Extension educator and they can help you with the reporting.
If you would like more information about the Amynthas, visit www.extension.umn.edu and type “Jumping Worms” in the search box.
This article was submitted by Katie Drewitz, University of Minnesota Extension.