These worms, which can reach 20 cm in length, have an insatiable appetite that “changes the physical, chemical and biotic properties of the topsoil” leaving various insects and small animals starved and homeless.
An invasive species of jumping worm has been detected in recent months in the state of California, which has sparked concern among the scientific community. It is a type of invertebrate that clones itself, shakes violently like a rattlesnake when he takes them with his hand, being able to jump 30 centimeters through the air .
This earthworm, which would have arrived in the United States from East Asia, mainly from Japan and the Korean peninsula, in ornamental plants imported from the region, is known for its great appetite, which is why it represents a threat to country’s forest ecosystems, warns a report from the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
Jumping worms (Amynthas agrestis), also known as snake worms or crazy worms, because they tend to jump and wriggle violently when held in hand, and even when threatened, they can leave part of their body behind to flee and are hermaphrodites, so they don’t have to mate to reproduce and form cocoons on the surface of the ground.
The Amynthas agrestis is a large earthworm (it reaches about 20 centimeters in length) that lives on the surface of the soil and builds shallow temporary burrows in the upper layers of the soil.
After being detected in Wisconsin and throughout the New England in 2013, these worms have spread west to dozens of states, first being seen in Napa County, California in July 2021.
These earthworms “are extremely active, aggressive and have an insatiable appetite”, being able to devour the thick layers of leaf debris that serve as a habitat for many small animals, leaving only dry husks that do not contain nutrients, the document warns. Because of this, even birds that nest on the forest floor may abandon their home.
“They voraciously consume leaf litter and associated microorganisms and produce large amounts of material that changes the physical, chemical, and biotic properties of topsoil,” the CDFA report states.
The document warns that jumping worms are likely to have a “widespread distribution in forest environments and ornamental areas of California, especially in residential and commercial settings”.