‘Jumping worms’ in your garden mulch? These days, it seems almost anything is possible – National Post

‘jumping-worms’-in-your-garden-mulch?-these-days,-it-seems-almost-anything-is-possible-–-national-post

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Not only is it a bit ewww, this invasive species can kill your topsoil — and entire forests Author of the article: Shari Kulha How to spot the difference in a regular earthworm and the jumping worm: The clitellum — the lighter-coloured band that holds the reproductive organs is pink, and near the middle of the body but on jumping worms, it’s milky white and sits nearer the head, and goes completely around the body rather than just partway. Photo by Getty Images Last year it was murder hornets. In the past it’s been pine beetles, zebra mussels and Asian carp. Quietly and slowly expanding their territory recently, to an invasive degree, has been the “jumping worm.” The genus Amynthas was introduced into North America in the 19th century and has spread to more than 15 states and has crossed the border into Canada. Their populations have suddenly grown in the past decade. The jumping worm looks like a regular earthworm, but it’s not. It varies in size but often runs large, plump and up to 20 centimetres in length, and most unusually, it jumps and shakes when disturbed. When it’s going about its business — which is devouring the nutrients in the earth — it slithers along the surface like a snake. Like other worms, it reproduces on its own and can regenerate a tail if it pops off in a battle. Sometimes called a “snake worm,” it also congregates in masses — as many as 100 in a single metre of earth. Advertisement This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. One quick way to tell the jumping worm from the common earthworm is the appearance of the clitellum — the lighter-coloured band that holds the reproductive organs. In other worms, it is raised, pink and near the middle of the body but on jumping worms, it’s flat, milky white and sits nearer the head, and goes completely around the body rather than just partway. More On This Topic B.C. and Washington state unite in battle against invasive giant ‘murder’ hornet B.C. council gives $40,000 to cull program to eliminate up to 250 invasive Canada geese There is more than one species of jumping worm. What really makes them a danger is that, unlike other worms, its insatiable appetite ruins the topsoil in which it lives. In its wake, it leaves loose, granular soil that looks like ground beef or coffee grounds, and renders the earth unable to hold moisture, alters its chemical and microbial elements, and makes it prone to erosion. It boots out the regular earthworms, and can quickly ruin entire gardens and forest ecosystems by chomping through the thick forest-floor blanket of duff, a mille-feuille of slowly decomposing leaves deposited over time. That layer creates a home for insects, amphibians, birds and native flowers. This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below. Article content The jumping worm (also known as “the crazy worm”) appears to be more dangerous to forests than to the average home garden, but they have been transferred to residential areas through compost and mulch. Unlike other worms, it doesn’t burrow as such, but lives in leaf litter and the top four or five centimetres of soil. Any worms visible now are unlikely to be jumping worms, as they won’t mature until mid to late summer. They’ll only live one year, but will have laid eggs (two or three times per summer) that can survive temperatures as cold as -40C in cocoons through winter. Gardeners planning to till compost into or spread mulch onto existing gardens should ask suppliers as to the origins of the material and whether it has been heated at 40C for three days to kill off any worms and eggs, writes Will Cushman for PBS Wisconsin, where the worms were found in 2013. And sifting compost through a screen should catch them. Skipping plant swaps and buying only bare-root plants can also keep them out of your plot. Cushman suggests using an insecticidal fungus called Beauveria bassiana, pouring on solutions of water mixed with soap or mustard powder, and applying organic soil additives that contain byproducts of tea seed oil, which is high in saponins. But back to those forests. As Julia Rosen describes in The Atlantic, these worms can prevent the regeneration of trees. University of Vermont soil scientist Josef Görres told her his theory: the worms take out all the understory plants, leaving nothing for deer to chew on but the young trees. And that could spell trouble for the region’s prized maple syrup industry. That’s just one reason Canada needs to prevent the worm’s spread. Posted Newsletter Sign up to receive the daily top stories from the National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. By clicking on the sign up button you consent to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc. You may unsubscribe any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails. Postmedia Network Inc. | 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4 | 416-383-2300 We encountered an issue signing you up. Please try again
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