If you haven't heard, there's a new worm in town and it isn't a good one. In fact, no worms are good for your soil, but this one is the worst of the bunch. Wait a minute...we've all been told that worms are good for our gardens, at least that's what we learned growing up. However, contrary to popular belief worms really do more harm than good and prior to European settlement, there wasn't a worm in the state of Wisconsin.
The worms that we've grown up with aren't great for the soil, especially soils in our natural areas, but none are as terrible as the newest invaders - several species of jumping worm, Amynthas. Jumping worms are super aggressive consumers of organic matter and quickly transform a fertile well-structured garden soil into a dry pelletized soil that resembles coarse coffee grounds. It is interesting to note that the soil is so adversely altered that no other earthworms survive in it after the jumping worms do their thing.
So, how do you know if you have these bad guys in your garden? Easy – just go the Wisconsin DNR's ultra-informative website and educate yourself on what to look for in both the worm and the soil they create.
Fortunately, experts at the DNR are incredibly knowledgeable and at the forefront of the latest research on the jumping worm. Everything you need to know and then some is on their website so definitely check it out for detailed information and photographs.
As the DNR experts point out, there is no "magic bullet" to control jumping worms at this time, but we can all help prevent their spread until better control options are available. Here are some things they recommend we all do:
- Educate yourself and others to recognize jumping worms
- Watch for worms and signs of their presence – impacted soil, cocoons, etc.
- Don't spread the worms or their dormant cocoons through soil, pots, and divisions of plants, infected equipment, leaves, mulch, etc.
- If you own property in "The Northwoods" or a similar natural area, be extra careful not to spread the worm to them.
We all care about gardens and our natural world and love the beauty of what Mother Nature has so generously given us. The world is getting very small these days, which is both good and bad and unfortunately, invasive species arriving from all over the globe each year is part of the bad. The jumping worm is just one of thousands of organisms that are negatively affecting our environment. We can all make a difference by educating ourselves about invasive species, volunteering with groups that are helping with the environment and by treading lightly on the land each and every day.
Director of Horticulture
Olbrich Botanical Gardens