Jumping worms present one of the most serious threats to Minnesota ecosystems that researchers have seen. Gardens face particular threats as the invasive species is often transferred through sale of plants.
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Minnesota yards and gardens face a serious threat from jumping worms, an invasive species that’s on the rise in Minnesota.

They first were detected in Minnesota in 2006; they come by their name honestly as they really do jump and wiggle. More seriously, the worms kill plants and cause erosion by stripping soil of its key nutrients, leaving it with a coffee ground-like consistency. Their disruption of ecosystems pose a threat to healthy forests and woods.

“Invasive pests are never a welcome arrival, but jumping worms are especially worrisome because there are no management methods proven by research,” said Angela Gupta, University of Minnesota Extension natural resources educator. “We don’t know how long it takes soil to recover from them.

Gupta and colleagues have created a citizen science project through which Minnesotans who have jumping worms in their yards and gardens can help contribute to broader knowledge about the invasive pest. Their efforts are kicking into gear as the key time of year for the spread of jumping worms is nearly here.

Prevention at plant sales

Everything from neighborhood free plant giveaways to large-scale plant sales are a sign of spring in Minnesota. Plant sales also provide ample opportunity to spread the worms into lawns and gardens. Extension Master Gardener volunteers have prioritized modeling best prevention practices at upcoming sales, often a staple spring event for gardeners across the state.

“Master Gardeners are using preventive tools to make sure any plant sales we sponsor do not inadvertently contribute to the spread of jumping worms,” said Christy Marsden, Extension Master Gardener education manager.  

In springtime, jumping worms are still in egg form and often resemble poppy seeds. This makes it easy to miss them, but there are steps to reduce their spread. Learn more about jumping worms and how Minnesotans can help prevent their spread by going to z.umn.edu/JumpingWorms

This article originally ran on walkermn.com.

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