Worms

Do you find yourself discussing worms very often? Me neither.

Map: Linda Tucker-Seniak, OSU

I’m making an exception because those of us in certain parts of the country are fighting an invasive worm that intends to make gardening of all types a real challenge.

Like real maple syrup? I do, but if the researchers can’t figure out a way to stop these critters in New England, the soil now supporting the maple trees and everything else in our part of the country will be unable to provide enough nutrients to sustain them.

If worms disgust you, feel free to stop right here but do remember the topic when you see it in the news down the road. These invasive Asian Jumping Worms definitely fall into the disgusting category. Friends have had them, but I’ve been lucky.

My luck ran out last week when I found them in two beds. In the first bed, I dug up the top 3-4″ of the soil and hauled it away while hand picking them out and making sure they were dead. Yes, disgusting and a lot of work in the very humid weather we are currently having.

If you are wondering why any sane person would go to that much work, let me say just one word – raspberries. They were in my raspberry bed.

They thrive on the top couple of inches of soil, and that is also where they leave their cocoons. Once removed, I had to replace the soil, and to keep from regifting them I purchased new bagged soil and made sure to check before shoveling. The other bed holds Hosta plants so I’m going to experiment with a couple of other options to see if I can impact their presence without replacing all the soil.

Next week, there is a free webinar sponsored by Oregon State Cooperative Extension, and I’ll include a link here. They are recording it, so if you sign up you can go back and check it out at your convenience.

Photo credit: A Way to Garden

I’m also including some articles if you would like  need to learn more. Bottom line – see worms, check them out.

How will you recognize them? They jump around and move like a snake and have a light colored band around them that holds their eggs which they gift to you multiple times during a gardening season.

They grow to 8″ long, and since they are bisexual, it only takes one worm to start an infestation. The adult worm itself will be terminated by cold weather, however, the eggs overwinter and will hang around to welcome you as you start the next gardening season.

By the way, there are no ‘native’ worms, these guys are just more aggressive and destructive than the ones we are accustomed to. The idea that earth worms are good for aerating soil, forget it, because these guys are eating the soil and leaving droppings that have been stripped of every nutrient a plant needs to grow and survive. Now, that is really disgusting.

A few other links for information:

About Judy @ NewEnglandGardenAndThread

Master Gardener who enjoys gardening, quilting, photography, and traveling.
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79 Responses to Worms

  1. susurrus says:

    An eye-opening post – I went on to read Larry’s too. I’m sorry you’re having to get to grips with these snake-like worms and hope your work will be rewarded.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dan Antion says:

    I’m sorry you’re fighting this fight. I’m sending this post to my wife. She’s had more problems than ever with her garden this year. I hope she can avoid this one. Good luck, Judy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ally Bean says:

    Well, ick. What a dumb problem, but one that you seem to be on top of. I didn’t know any of this re: worms. Thanks for the info.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is awful! How did they come to be here??

    Liked by 1 person

    • Depending upon which source you look at, there are options for their arrival, but they are all consistent that they came in ‘materials’ from Asia where they are in total control of the soil there. One other thing is when you purchase plants at a nursery, don’t hesitate to pop one out of its pot and just see if there are any in there because nurseries are passing them along as well as compost and soil companies. Or if a friend gives you a plant, take it out of its pot and check the soil before you just pop it in the ground at your house because your friend may not know she has them.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Joyce says:

    Oh no. I’m just sick thinking about all the extra work this infestation is causing you. And about the potential problems – expense, hard work, and anxiety – for farmers, all on top of the demise of bee populations and erratic weather.
    The thought of those eggs lasting over a winter reminds me of dealing with fleas. Years ago there was no way to rid a house of eggs brought in by a pet. With kids, cats, and a dog, it was a constant worry. All you could do is blanket your home and pet with chemicals and hope for the best.
    I used to think that when I die I am going to ask God why he made mosquitoes and fleas. Now I’m going to add Asian Jumping Worms to my query!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good questions for the big guy because all of us mere mortals down here are struggling. When you really think about the repercussions as you mention, can you imagine the problem when our grandkids are our age if they don’t come up with something to address it. There is one product that has a side effect kills the adult worms, but so far the cocoons just sit in the soil and happily wait for the next gardening season so the cycle starts all over again. No bees, no enriched soil = no food supply. Scary thoughts.

      Like

  6. Oh no! I hope you’re able to get rid of these worms with all the hard work you’ve put into ridding them from your garden. How in the world did you get them, a bag(s) of soil that was infected?

    I thought tree eating beetles that are destroying our forests was bad enough, soil killing worms on top of that is really awful for trees and plants.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t have a clue how I got them, but I know they can come in with mulch, wood chips, soil, compost, and plants. They also move at a high rate of speed and can come in from forested areas, and our property borders a wetland/forested area. The amount of invasive species threatening our way of life is overwhelming right now.

      Like

  7. Yes our area warns of them so if I bring in plants I remove the soil in a bucket to make sure I have brought none home with me. It is not easy out here for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Joanne Sisco says:

    A jumping worm?!! Are you kidding me?!! As if I don’t already have worm issues, you introduce us to a snake-like worm that jumps!!

    Although I have a deep dislike for worms, I thought they were at least benign. Ugh – now I know my first disgusted reaction is correct. The sad part is that once an invasion like this starts, it’s virtually impossible to contain.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Annie says:

    It sadly sounds like no matter what you do they are here to stay. I have been naïvely gardening all summer without a thought of these worms. I’ll have to read all those articles in the links you provided.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been aware of them for about three years because of a MG friend who has been dealing with them. So, as I dug, I picked up every worm to see if they had the white band or if they went squirming out of my hand. I was lucky until last week. In the Hosta bed, when I lift the leaves, I can see what looks like coffee grounds on top of where there was soil. Sad state of affairs. There is one product on the market, Early Bird organic fertilizer, that was created for golf courses. This is effective killing mature worms but does nothing for the cocoons. To purchase it, you and I are looking at a 2.5 hour ride to either Maine or MA to even see if we can find it.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Rose says:

    Oh, my goodness….I had not heard of these. Of course I had to go look at a video and they are really disgusting!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh, my word! To the gods and goddesses of growing things I pray that those worms do not come north to central Maine. What’s the chance?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Murphy's Law says:

    Good grief, do the horrors of nature never stop? Ewwwww!! I freak out when I see, or God forbid touch, a “regular ” worm. Slugs to me are nothing less than very short snakes and they terrorize me the same as a snake does. Now we have jumping snaky worms!! WTH?!!

    I haven’t seen any here yet, but I do look…..although my eyes are probably closed because that’s what I do when I’m scared of what I’m going to find. My yard was invaded last year with Stinkhorns. Another invasive, next to impossible growth to kill. I’m watching for them to show up again.

    I hope all your hard work pays off and you can nip this in the bud, so to speak!! I know you won’t give up the good fight….you have so much invested in your beautiful gardens, and I don’t mean just money.

    Good luck. May the gardening gods be with you!

    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope those gardening gods are listening because I could definitely use the guidance. These suckers are nothing to sneeze at. I really don’t relish picking them up by hand but haven’t figured out another way to do it because they can break off their tail to escape. Yuck.

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  13. I had no idea. I thought all worms were good.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I had never heard of these invasive creatures… yikes! I thought worms, in general, were good for the soil. Oh well, another myth destroyed. I’ll be on the lookout for snake-like, jumping worms now.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. jkitt750 says:

    Thank you Judy for alerting us to this exotic and destructive species of earthworm. It’s too bad you had to go to so much effort in your attempt to eradicate them from your garden. I will definitely be on the lookout for them in the future. The links you provided were also helpful. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Norm 2.0 says:

    Ah crap! Another thing to keep an eye out for. With all these harmful critters to worry about, I honestly don’t know how people who produce food for a living stay sane and manage to sleep at night.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right. The first night after I found them, I couldn’t sleep. Seems stupid, but that’s all I could think about. Here’s hoping they don’t come anywhere near your veggie garden. It just seems to add insult to injury that the cold kills off the adults but the darn cocoons live right through it, and the cycle starts over again.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Eliza Waters says:

    More nasties! I think I learned about them last year in one of your posts, so keep sounding the alarm. When I share plants with folks now, I wash off all the soil and give them barefooted, which I hope helps.
    I hope your efforts have paid off. It feels Sisyphean!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Sue Harvey says:

    Our area has lost the battle with the Emerald ash borer. Most of those trees here in city are gone. Then we had the Stink bug invaders that I thought were just creepy crawling and flitting around the room, but we’re near fruit orchards. The farmers were losing crops d/t damage and there seemed to be nothing in their arsenal to prevent or kill them. Now jumping worms!!
    Remember the tv ad yrs ago.? Don’t recall what product “it’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature”

    Liked by 2 people

    • When we visited family in PA last fall, many of the trees had like strips like fly paper attached to them. They are dealing with the spotted lanterfly, a colorful red and black fly, that feeds on trees and grapes vines, and its eggs overwinter as well. It reminds me of the antibiotics issue we humans are dealing with. They prescribed antibiotics to us for so long that now they don’t work. Well, we’ve been spraying everything with chemicals for so long that now we’re left with these invasive that we have to effective way to get rid of. Yes, I think we may have really irritated Mother Nature, and she’s showing us some really ugly results.

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  19. Very interesting information. Thank you.

    Like

  20. This must be the week for worms. Just over the weekend we saw a fish at our fish store called “Amberjack,” which neither of us had ever heard before. A Google search later told us that one needs to be careful when buying it because it can have worms in it sometimes. In fish??! That was enough for us never to consider it. These particular ones you’re finding in the garden sound pretty hideous. I hope the Oregon webinar will be useful. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I like worms but not these! How awful. Hopefully they don’t like Arizona. While I’m working outside here I’ll keep my eyes open for these devils.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Wow – I am so proud of my worm – filled compost pile. I never knew these monsters existed. I will be sure to keep an eye out.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. pbmgarden says:

    What a strange occurrence. Hope you can stay ahead of these pesky things.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. germac4 says:

    Very depressing to read about these Asian Jumping worms… anything that can invade the earth so successfully will have a terrible impact, not only on gardens, but on all food production. I will check to see if they are in Australian soils.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Eilene Lyon says:

    Horrors! I thought I had it bad with removing deer fly larvae from the manure I put in my garden. I am happy to have my composting earthworms and hope I never see these dastardly things in Colorado.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Oh dear, this sounds ghastly. How did you dispose of the infected soil? I hope we don’t end up seeing them here. Hopefully not, as our quarantine laws are very strict.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope you don’t either. Disposing of the soil was of great concern, and I didn’t have many options. I back up to a wooded area but certainly didn’t want to dump it there or anywhere someone else could potentially inherit the problem. My only choice was to haul it to our local dump and deposit it in their tank labeled lawn waste. A neighboring town has an option to put it in a pile that is burned, and I would have preferred that option, but I couldn’t access another town’s disposal options. Prior to disposing of it, I left it for several days in large black plastic bags out in full sun hoping that it cooked before I took it.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. KerryCan says:

    Oh, my. I had no idea! This is really scary stuff and, if you have them, we will soon, I suppose. It gets harder and harder to find bright spots in the news about our environment . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m afraid you are right. I think all the years of spraying everything has resulted in us having ‘super’ invasive bugs and plants of all types. I had planted several butterfly weed plants this year at a cost of about $16 each. They were eaten to the main stalk twice. I couldn’t figure out why this one plant was being devoured until the second time, and I saw it covered in an insect I had never seen before. I also saw a large collection of orange Asian ladybugs that I’d never seen before. I’m not sure where gardening and farming are going, but I am sure we’ve messed with the environment to a point that it is pretty scary.

      Like

  28. I haven’t seen them, but we don’t have much in the way of gardens.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. There was an article about these worms in the Chicago Tribune just a few days ago. Very distressing. Haven’t seen any in our garden – yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. tonytomeo says:

    Gads! I can’t help but be angry about such things. I think that a long time ago, people did not now how delicate the ecosystem is. They should know know, but so many do not seem to care.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Dawn says:

    What a frightening discovery, Judy! I truly hope your efforts pay off and that your raspberries will flourish in their new soil. Thank you so much, my friend, for alerting us all to this invasive species. I just did some research online and it appears that the Asian Jumping Worm has also been found here in Illinois. From now on, I will watch very closely whenever I dig in the garden… and will spread the word about these unwanted invaders. Wishing you better days in the garden this week, Judy! ♡

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are a truly nasty issue, and the more I read, the more it seems like the researchers have not come up with much to help us combat them. Add to that the issue of them being sold online as fishing bait under the name, Alabama Jumpers, and they can be spread by bait cups being overturned or pitched, and we have a ‘real’ issue.

      Like

  32. Dawn says:

    Oh my! What a risky idea! Let’s continue to monitor our garden soil and spread the word among the gardening community. Thank you again, Judy, for alerting us all!! 💗

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Brenda says:

    Ugh, ugh, ugh. How awful that these invaders are in your garden. Are there any natural predators? Or unnatural–like chickens? What is it in the fertilizer you mentioned that works against them? Is there any hope of keeping these things at bay or are they going to take over, despite vigilance? And, finally, where exactly did they come from and how is the soil there?

    Liked by 1 person

    • They came from Asia, and the various universities have been looking into them for about six years. If you look at the photo, they drop that white band 4-6 times a season and in that band are at least 3 eggs that will overwinter just fine and come out in the spring to start the cycle over again. The fertilizer, Early Bird, that they market to golf courses is 3-0-1, and its base is made from tea seeds. Apparently, when you put the fertilizer down, the mature worms come out of the soil, die, and you pick them up. They don’t even market to individuals, and I have spent hours trying to find something similar that might work. Raking and hand picking those nasty things isn’t something I want to do long term, but they devour the soil to get the minerals. They’re here, they’re a real predator, but no solutions.

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  34. joey says:

    Oh I shudder to think of your struggle. I had no idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. slfinnell says:

    Well oddly enough, I guess I’ll be embracing the skunks, raccoons and opposums as they clearly eat worms as we’ve watched them on our ring cameras. Just leave the tomatoes alone lol Shared this post with the extended fam.

    Liked by 1 person

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