What’s with These Invasive “Crazy” Worms and Why Can’t We Get Rid of Them?

Hand holding several jumping worms (Amynthas species)

UW–Madison Arboretum ecologist Brad Herrick displays several jumping worms. Photo: Eric Hamilton

Tiny, wriggling horrors are hatching right now, under our feet, across the country.

No, not the billions of Brood X cicadas emerging throughout the eastern US. I’m talking instead about baby invasive “crazy worms” that thrash through garden, farm, city, and forest soil, growing to 3 to 6 inches in length, sucking up nutrients, and transforming rich leaf litter into coarse droppings. All while laying nearly 20 hardy worm cocoons a month, without needing a mate.

Variously known as jumping worms, snake worms, Alabama jumpers, and Jersey wrigglers, common Amynthas species are a super-powered version of the more familiar, squishy languidness of the garden-variety European earthworms (whose genus name, Lumbricus, itself sounds plodding). And their rapid spread into new areas has led to a surge of concern about these worms.

Read the full Vox news story by Katherine Harmon Courage, May 5, 2021