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Jumping worms are thrashing through Midwest soil

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Jumping worms grow twice as fast and reproduce more quickly than other earthworms
Courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation
Jumping worms grow twice as fast and reproduce more quickly than other earthworms.

A species of wiggling worms can jump a foot in the air, and they’ve spread to more than a dozen states in the Midwest, including Kansas and Missouri.

Farmers and gardeners were always taught that earthworms are good for the soil, turning it over and fertilizing it. But now, an unwelcome species is making its way through the Midwest.

Jumping worms, also called Alabama jumpers, snake worms, or other names, are invasive earthworms native to east Asia. They are now spreading in North America, including Missouri. The common names arose from the way they violently thrash around when disturbed.

Robbie Doeoff, a forest entomologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, says established populations of jumping worms prevent the soil from retaining moisture, deplete it of nutrients and make it difficult for plants to grow.

To make matters worse, jumping worms grow twice as fast and reproduce more quickly than other earthworms, a Cornell University study says. The worm’s tiny eggs can even survive a Midwest winter.

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