Crazy worms are taking over our forest floors, and we’ve got to do something about them.
Amynthas agrestis, or crazy worms, are an invasive species of earthworm that was found in Wisconsin in 2013. These worms are also known as Alabama Jumpers, snake worms, or jumping worms. But no matter what you call them, these worms have a negative effect on our forests.
Crazy worms alter the soil, causing the delicately balanced ecosystems of the precious forests of Wisconsin to collapse. Jumping worms also eat the leaf litter on the forest floor which upsets the decomposition of said leaf litter. They turn the soil grainy and arid with their excrement which robs the soil of its fertility, injuring the ability of the soil to support the forests’ understory plant life. This, in turn, prevents the understory foliage from being able to sustain other plants, animals, and fungi.
Alabama Jumpers measure from 1.5 to 8 inches in length and have a milky white, sleek clitellum (the band around its neck). When handled, the invasive earthworms jump and thrash and can shed their tails when caught, which is why they are called crazy worms.
Jumping worms are parthenogenetic, which means that they can reproduce without fertilization. They reproduce easily and fully mature in 60 days because of their rapid life cycle. As a result, the Amynthas agrestis spread quickly, and it only takes one worm before you find yourself with a full-blown infestation in less than a year. Alabama Jumpers are especially busy from late June to early July.
Crazy worms are widely known, but most people are unaware of the worms’ origin. These invasive earthworms are native to East Asia. They arrived through fishing and garden industries through which they were sold as bait and stored in the soil of potted plants that were bought by oblivious westerners.
Because of the many negative outcomes caused by this invasive species, it is now illegal on a state level to transport, possess, and/or import jumping worms in Wisconsin.