Keep Invasive Asian Jumping Worms Out of Your Yard

Updated: Apr. 30, 2024

Don't let Asian jumping worms take over your garden! Get expert advice on how to deal with these invasive soil-ruining pests.

Asian Jumping Worms vs Earthworms

Invasive Earthworm Amynthas Agrestis [tentative Id]Tom Potterfield
Amynthas agrestis, also known as an Asian jumping worm, can wreak ecological havoc in North American forests by consuming the litter layer.
Many of us have been taught, over years, that earthworms are good—but that’s not the case for all species. Invasive Asian jumping worms (Amynthas spp.) certainly aren’t beneficial to the environment. The opposite, in fact.

As an invasive species, jumping worms are harmful because they consume organic matter and degrade the topmost layer of soil. This can make the soil non-conducive to native plant growth and often leaves it inhospitable to anything except for invasive plants. Soil these worms have infested is often granular, with a consistency similar to that of coffee grounds.

The easiest way to recognize jumping worms vs earthworms is by their movement. They move quickly, slithering and thrashing like snakes. In addition, be on the lookout for key differences in appearance. Jumping worms have a brownish gray color, while earthworms are pink or red; their bodies are firm, rather than floppy.

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How to Get Rid of Jumping Worms

Invasive Earthworm Amynthas Agrestis [tentative Id]Tom Potterfield
Take preventative steps in an effort to keep invasive jumping worms out of your garden.
“My garden beds (and my neighbors’) have been invaded with Asian jumping worms. What can we do to eliminate them?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Linda Robbins of Castleton, New York

Gardening expert Melinda Myers says, “Unfortunately, there is no magic cure for jumping worms. Collect and dispose of them as they are found. Toss them into a clear plastic bag to kill them or into a container of isopropyl alcohol before adding them to the trash.

Many gardeners use the mustard test to determine their presence and drive them to the soil surface: Mix 1/3 cup ground hot yellow mustard seed into a gallon of water, then drench the garden area with this mixture. This drives these worms (and other earthworms) to the soil surface, where you can remove and kill the jumping worms.

Heat is another option. The adults, eggs and cocoons are killed when exposed to temperatures over 104 degrees for three days. This is ineffective for garden beds, as the worms move away from the heat, but you can use the sun’s power to kill jumping worms in mulch, compost and topsoil.

Spread a 6-inch layer of these materials on a sheet of plastic placed in a sunny location. Wrap and secure the plastic around the mulch, compost or soil. Check the temperature to make sure it’s above 104 degrees for at least three consecutive days.

BotaniGard has been found to provide some control. As always, read and follow label directions.”

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Prevent Asian Jumping Worm Infestations

Garden worker gloved hands and black plastic bags with collected leaves while cleaning the yardromkul/Getty Images
The best place for invasive jumping worms is in the trash.

If possible, you want to keep these invasive worms from moving into your yard in the first place.

Melinda says, “You can prevent jumping worm infestations and keep them from spreading by cleaning tools and shoes when moving from one garden to another. Don’t share plants, and ask mulch, compost and topsoil providers how they manage jumping worms before purchasing.”

Next, learn how to control caterpillars that are garden insect pests.

About the Expert

Melinda Myers is the official gardening expert for Birds & Blooms. She is a TV/radio host, author and columnist who has written more than 20 gardening books. Melinda earned a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


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