Invasive worm found in Jefferson County...and that’s not good

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 6:05 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - An invasive species of worm known to ravage soil and plants has been found in Jefferson County.

It’s called the Asian jumping worm and it first made an appearance in the north country when it was found in St. Lawrence County in 2018.

Now, another confirmed case has officials worried there could be more to come.

“They’ve been in this country for a while, but they have become invasive and they are starting to pop up in more and more places,” said Sue Gwise, horticulture educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.

A homeowner in Jefferson County spotted the worm on their property and brought it to CCE.

“We sent it down to Colgate University and had it positively IDed by a biologist and it indeed was the Asian jumping worm,” said Gwise.

She says the jumping worms, so named because they thrash about, devour matter in the soil that supply essential nutrients to things like plants, ultimately damaging the roots and causing plant growth to falter.

Gwise says what’s also worrisome is the way the worms spread.

“If people trade plants, if they move soil that can be on tools or on equipment, anything where you are moving soil can transfer these worms from one location to another,” she said.

How can you tell if your worms are Asian jumping worms? It depends on the color of the worm’s band.

“With the Asian jumping worm, this band is white in color and it’s not raised. It’s almost flat,” said Gwise.

She says they also reproduce quickly, infesting the soil at a rapid rate. But, there are ways to flush them out to see how bad your outbreak may be.

“What they can do is they can take a third of a cup of ground mustard and mix it in a gallon of water and slowly pour that over the soil’s surface and what that does is irritates the worms and drives them to the surface,” said Gwise.

There is no way to treat the soil once remnants of the worm have been found. But, Gwise urges anyone who thinks they may have Asian jumping worms to bring a sample to their local cooperative extension to be examined.

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