A New Invasive Pest Coming Soon to the Soil Near You

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Many homeowners know about the Emerald Ash Borer and the vast amount of destruction to our ash tree population and likely the millions of dollars being spent to treat, remove dead trees and the replacement trees.

Now we have another invasive pest, the "Jumping Worm". Jumping worms are native to Japan and the Korean Peninsula. While we consider earthworms in general a good thing for our soils, the jumping worm is changing the soil, especially in our forests where the worm establishes itself. High populations, up to 10 times that of our regular earthworm, can deplete the shallow layer of organic matter in the forests and change the change the structure of the soil, including nutrient and water availability to our forest trees. No one is sure the impact of these worms will be in the home landscape yet. Soils in the home landscape have a lot more organic matter than those of our forests. The Jumping worm most likely found its way to the United States in shipments of horticultural plants or at least in imported soil in some way. What we know for sure is that the Jumping worms were found and identified in Wisconsin in 2013 and discovered in DuPage and Cook counties in Illinois in 2015. Since then these worms have been discovered in a total 10 counties in Illinois.

The Jumping worm adults are not able to survive our winters, so if there is a silver lining here, the worms once dead break down and return their contents back into the soil. Jumping worms are parthenogenetic, meaning that they do not need to mate in order to produce more offspring. The jumping worms repopulate the soil each year through overwintering "cocoons" that contain eggs which hatch in the spring. If you think you have found Jumping worms in your yard, the Illinois Department of Agriculture would like to know so they can track the movement of these worms in Illinois. They will also be able to confirm through proper identification that your yard actually has the worm. The Kane County Extension office (630 584-6166) can provide the proper contact information.

Extension Forester Chris Evans will be offering a more in depth webinar this week, October 4, 2016 at 2:00 pm. You can find the registration information here at https://web.extension.illinois.edu/registration/?RegistrationID=15245

About the author: Richard Hentschel’s expertise extends across several subject areas with specialties in lawn care, fruit tree production, woody ornamentals, and home and community gardening. During his 45-year career in horticulture and agriculture, Hentschel became a well-known and respected expert for commercial and homeowner audiences, industry organizations, and media. He retired from University of Illinois Extension in April 2022 with nearly 30 years of service as a Horticulture Specialist and Educator in northern Illinois.