Invasive Worm Species Causes Chaos On Oklahoma Soil, Crops

Friday, July 1st 2022, 9:20 pm

TULSA, Oklahoma -

An invasive species of worms is wreaking havoc on Oklahoma's soil and crops.

This isn't just a regular earthworm; it's called the Asian Jumping Worm.

Researchers said these worms not only damage crops, they also can harm wildlife.

They’re called jumping worms, because their behavior is a bit wilder than other worms.

“If you find them on the ground and pick them up, they’ll sort of thrash around violently in your hands," said Scott Loss.

Oklahoma State University Associate Professor Scott Loss has researched jumping worms for years.

He said the worms got here through commerce across the ocean.

Now, there’s a real concern about the worms disrupting the ecosystem.

“When these non-native earthworms get into the soil of places like forests and prairies, they can change the soil in really dramatic ways," said Loss.

Researchers said the worms can change how well plants grow and can also affect wildlife.

“You bring in this new group of species that are decomposers. It’s like stepping on the gas pedal of the decomposition system in these ecosystems. It leads to things speeding up," said Loss.

Loss said the worms are being sold with native sounding names like 'Texas Jumpers' or 'Alabama Jumpers,' which may cause confusion for buyers.

“I’ve looked at some of the samples from the vendors that market for composting with those names, and they’re actually the Asian jumping worms usually," said Loss.

Loss said jumping worms are largely used for fishing bait.

He said the best thing you can do to stop the worms from invading new areas is to not buy them for bait, composting or gardening.

“Properly dispose of fishing bait and use the composting worms like the red wiggler that don’t really pose a danger to our environment,“ said Loss.

Loss said if you discover jumping worms, place them in a sealed bag, freeze them, then throw away the container.