The Asian Jumping Worm in Ontario
The Asian Jumping Worm in Ontario:
A new invasive species has been found in Ontario soils, the Asian Jumping Worm. Also known as the crazy worm, this creature gets its name from the wriggling it does while threatened. They also possess the ability to detach their tail and flee when startled. Although their name makes them sound friendly, be warned, these creatures can be a hazard to your soils. They only dig into shallow soil and significantly reduce the amount of organic matter present. But there’s no need to worry as Gro-Bark is committed to not only providing top quality materials, but also to protecting our bio-diversity and horticulture. This article will explore the Asian Jumping Worm and help you find the best way to protect your assets.
The Asian Jumping Worm is a species of Earthworm-like creatures. They grow to a length of 7-20 cm. They can often be mistaken for typical earth worms which grow to a length of 10-13 cm. However, they do have some defining features that can be used to identify them. The first notable feature is their two-tone colour palette. They are darker on their back than their front and have a noticeably rigid body. A typical earth worm will be uniform in colour and will be flaccid. The typical flexibility of Earthworms you might see in the soil will be replaced by rigidity. In addition, their clitellum is significantly closer to the front of their bodies. This is unlike the typical earth worm as their clitellum is centred in their body and protrudes out slightly. The jumping worms’ clitellumis flush with their body as opposed to an earth worm. The last distinguishing feature of note is their movements. Jumping worms reel around like snakes and only appear in shallow soil. As mentioned previously, they will shed their tail when frightened. Lastly, their castings will look like coffee grounds and the soil will be particulate. Typical earthworms just leave piles so this will be immediately obvious.
The first step to ensuring that your garden or greenhouse is safe will always be prevention. Checking the soil or plants you purchase for contamination is essential. As mentioned above, if the soil is intact that’s good, however, if it looks like coffee grounds it could be contaminated. In addition, make sure whoever you purchase from knows about Jumping Worms and is actively ensuring their product is clean. Following these steps will protect your environment from unwanted pests.
If you believe that you may have some contaminated soil, there are a few ways to test. Crushing 1/3 cup of mustard seeds and adding it to 1 gallon of water and pouring it on the suspicious soil will help. All earthworms will wriggle to the surface after this mix is added to soil. This will allow you to distinguish if you have jumping worms or just regular earthworms present. Jumping worms are particularly sensitive to heat and isopropanol. If you find some of these worms, either soak them in isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) or solarize them using polyethylene. Cocoons are particularly hard to find as they blend in perfectly with soil. If you believe your soil may be infected, cover with clear plastic in the hot sun until soil reaches 40 degrees Celsius for 3 days or 2-3 weeks have passed. This will kill all jumping worms and cocoons in the soil. Make sure to solarize or pour boiling water into any bag/pot you use to ensure the jumping worms are eliminated. Do not compost the remains of the jumping worms or put them in your garden.
Prevention Measures at Gro-Bark:
Fortunately for our customers, Gro-Bark stays committed to ensuring our products are Jumping Worm free. Gro-Bark does not use topsoil in most of our mixes and our bark/compost contain no pests due to our production practices. We also ensure compost reaches and maintains an internal temperature of 55 degrees Celsius for 15 consecutive days which is above the survival threshold of this invasive species. We are well aware of the threat to your garden so we take extra precautions to ensure this pest isn't present in any of our products.
Gro-Bark continues to look for and inform you of potential threats to your local environment. We will continue to monitor the Jumping Worm threat and provide helpful follow-ups to this blog post if needed. Currently, there is no deterrence that can be used on these worms. Some are currently being investigated such as Abrasive Materials and Saponins. If any prove to be successful, we will update this post to reflect that. Until then, we hope you find this information helpful.