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Jumping worms confirmed in Peoria County

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Jumping Worm ID

PEORIA (WEEK) -- Jumping worms. Yes, jumping worms have made their way to Peoria.

The invasive species was confirmed in Peoria County by the University of Illinois Extension Office, which said they may have gotten to the area as fishing bait.

Also known as crazy worms, Alabama jumpers, or snake worms, the jumping worms can grow from 4 to 8 inches long.

"These worms are known to change the soil structure, deplete available nutrients, damage plant roots, and alter water-holding capacity of the soil. This is especially a concern in our forests, where organic matter is limited," a press release from the UofI Extension Office read.

According to a map provided by the office, the worms have been confirmed in Woodford and McLean counties.

How to spot them

They have a dark, metallic body that is darker on top than the bottom. A characteristic smooth milky, white band called the clitellum completely encircles the worm's body, unlike other earthworms with a pink, raised band. When handled, these worms will "jump" and thrash wildly. They move quickly in a snakelike manner and can shed their tails when threatened.  

What to look for

Jumping worms are found in leaf litter and the top couple of inches of soil. Start looking for them in mid to late summer. Soil that looks like coffee grounds is a sign that jumping worms are present. One way to determine whether jumping worms are present is a mustard pour. 

Mix a gallon of water with 1/3 cup of ground yellow mustard seed. Pour the mixture slowly onto the soil. This will drive the worms to the surface and does not harm plants.  

Hardiness

Adults jumping worms cannot survive the cold winters of Central Illinois. However, the very small, dark egg casings persist through the winter. Jumping worms are parthenogenic, which means that a single jumping worm can reproduce by creating viable egg casings.  

Damage

Jumping worms are voracious eaters, which causes them to grow twice as fast as other earthworms. This feeding changes the soil structure, altering the soil's water holding capacity and depletes the amount of nutrients available to plants. They also damage roots severely, causing weaker plants that are more susceptible to pests, drought, and disease.  

Management

There are currently no viable control measures for jumping worms. Removing adult jumping worms to decrease the number of egg casings produced is the best control available at this time. Adults placed in plastic bags and left in the sun die quickly. Dispose of the bag in the trash.

Drew Veskauf

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