‘It freaks me out every single time’: Invasive jumping worms spotted in Chesterfield

The Virginia Cooperative Extension said these worms feed on leaf litter and mulch, removing the organic layer of soil
Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 10:38 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2022 at 6:35 PM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD Co., Va. (WWBT) - Behind Gail Lester-Salyer and her boyfriend’s Chesterfield home, their passion for plants blossom in their backyard garden.

“First and foremost, it is my most important therapy,” said Lester-Salyer. “I always have to have plants around me.”

Gail Lester-Salyer has spotted invasive jumping worms in her backyard.
Gail Lester-Salyer has spotted invasive jumping worms in her backyard.(Source;NBC12 | NBC12)

As Lester-Salyer takes care of her garden, a specific type of worm catches her attention.

“It freaks me out every single time,” Lester-Salyer said.

Lester-Salyer said she is starting to see a lot of invasive jumping worms around her garden, which the Virginia Cooperative Extension recently posted have been spotted in Chesterfield County.

“It was at least that long and wiggled like a snake very, very fast,” Lester-Salyer said.

NBC12 captured a video of what appears to be an invasive jumping worm while interviewing Lester-Salyer on Tuesday. After the interview, NBC12 sent a video and photos of the worm to Sierra Seekford, an agricultural and natural resources agent with a cooperative extension office in Chesterfield and confirmed this appears to be a jumping worm.

The cooperative extension office in Chesterfield believes this is a jumping worm.
The cooperative extension office in Chesterfield believes this is a jumping worm.(Source;NBC12 | NBC12)

“The band around the jumping worm is called a clitellum, but that band, it is not raised on jumping worms,” Seekford said.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension said jumping words are reddish to brownish-purple in color and sometimes have a glossy, iridescent sheen.

The worms feed on leaf litter and mulch, which Seekford said could cause damage as the worm removes an organic layer of soil.

“They eat the organic matter, leaf litter and soils, but the way they convert it to something that is more easily washed away or eroded,” Seekford told NBC12. “We’re losing more nutrients with these jumping worms.”

Seekford said their focus is to prevent their spread, starting with monitoring what you bring to your property.

“Checking any compost, any plants, any other organic material,” said Seekford.

Seekford also urges you to be careful sharing your plants, soil, and equipment if you have jumping worms.

The invasive worms have been found in Chesterfield County.
The invasive worms have been found in Chesterfield County.(Virginia Cooperative Extension - Chesterfield)

“The cocoons are so small,” she said. “They’re about the size of a mustard seed, so you can transfer them on your boots, equipment, plants and other things.”

“You have a gallon of water, you mix one-third cup of mustard seed into it, and then you can drench that into your soil,” Seekford said. “That’s going to cause worms to rise up, and you can kind of see what worms you have.”

Anyone who suspects they may have jumping worms should contact their local cooperative extension office. Any close-up photos and videos would be helpful to include. If a worm can be collected, completely submerge it in rubbing alcohol in a container to preserve it so an expert can look at it.

For more information on jumping worms, click here.

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