Invasive “jumping” earthworms found in Western New York


Amynthas agrestis, a “jumping” earthworm species that is potentially destructive, has appeared in Western New York.

Nick Henshue, an earthworm expert with the University of Buffalo, said the invasive species were likely translated through contaminated mulch and that New York State should never have earthworms of any kind.

“The jumping worms reduce leaf litter, which is really a protective layer that we rely on to protect and hide seeds and keep the sun off newly germinating plants,” Henshue told WKBW. “The ability of earthworms, writ large, to reduce that leaf litter, to mix up different soil horizons, to add a whole lot of bacteria to the soil — it’s very disruptive to plants, to animals and to organisms that live in the soil.”

Amynthas are known as “jumping” earthworms because they thrash aggressively when handled. The Cornell University Cooperative Extension likens their movements to those of a threatened snake.

Additionally, they can grow to be up to 8 inches and are considered highly invasive because they do not need a mate to reproduce.

“There’s not a very good solution because we don’t have anything that specifically targets these earthworms,” Henshue said. “The quick and dirty way would be to just kill everything, and that’s not okay. You’d wipe out beneficial insects and microbes as well. So the best thing we can do is prevention. Be vigilant about mulch piles, root cuttings and plant swaps. Don’t use these things as bait.”

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