Invasive species of worm makes way to Midwest, could be harmful to Kansas soils

The "jumping worm" is an invasive species that experts fear could cause harm to soils in...
The "jumping worm" is an invasive species that experts fear could cause harm to soils in Midwestern states.(K-State Research and Extension)
Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 11:16 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - An invasive species of worm is making its way to the Midwest, and even though experts say it hasn’t officially been surveyed in Kansas, this worm is still a threat to the state’s soils.

As consistently warm weather draws closer, experts worry about the invasive species that is native to eastern Asia. Matt McKernan with K-State Research and Extension in Sedgwick County said even though the jumping worm hasn’t been officially identified in Kansas, it could cause problems in The Sunflower State.

“Typically, the jumping worm feeds a lot and changes the soil chemistry and breaks down the overall soil,” McKernan explained.

He said if the jumping worm were to spread in Kansas, it would be detrimental to the gardens, landscapes agriculture and native soils.

“They breed and multiply very quickly and so the populations can expand, causing serious problems to our Kansas soils, making it difficult for our Kansas plants to grow in them,” McKernan said.

He explained how to distinguish a jumping worm from other worms typically spotted in Kansas soil, most notably by its dark gray color and being flat and smooth where typical earthworms are more ridged. And as its name indicates, the jumping worm does jump.

“Typically, when you handle a jumping worm, it’s going to wiggle and squirm a lot more vigorously than a typical earthworm would,” McKernan said.

While jumping worms are not a threat to humans, McKernan said if you see one, you should stop it from growing in the landscape.

“I would say it’s important to correctly identify the insect correctly,” he said. “So potentially reach out to your local extension agent or the department of agriculture so that we can document it and know that it is present in Kansas.”

So far in the state, jumping worms have been documented at Tuttle Creek State Park and at a farm near Kansas City. However, they have not been formally surveyed.

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