Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Public reporting and perception of invasive pheretimoid "Jumping Worms" in the northeastern United States.

Abstract

Pheretimoid earthworms ("Jumping Worms") are Asian annelids with characteristics that make them effective invaders in the northeastern United States. Because many species of Jumping Worms thrive in wood mulches, gardening practices may play a significant role in distributing them. Despite mounting evidence that Jumping Worms can cause damage to gardens and natural ecosystems, the current range of Jumping Worms in North America is poorly known. We compiled reports of Jumping Worms from many different data sources to better understand the potential for amateur community scientists to contribute information regarding undescribed populations of these invasive species. Additionally, we conducted a survey of Cooperative Extension Master Gardener volunteers to better understand the perception of these species within the gardening community and attempts at control. Amateur reporting from community-science programs and gardeners resulted in a large number of potential, undescribed Jumping Worm populations, especially in areas unstudied by the small number of earthworm researchers in our study region. Within the gardening community, the perception of Jumping Worms is less favorable compared to other earthworms, largely owing to their perceived negative ecological effects in gardens and natural ecosystems. As a result, homeowners frequently attempt to control their abundance. Gardeners and community scientists can importantly contribute to our understanding of the range and negative effects of invasive Jumping Worms in the Northeast.