While raking some leaves by the curb today, I kept seeing these wildly thrashing earthworms and remembered reading about the Asian Jumping Worm (Amynthas agrestis). We have them.

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The wild thrashing is what gets your attention, and they can thrash so hard that the leap completely off the ground, flipping and twisting wildly.

Up close, they are glossy greyish brown with a prominent white band called the clitellum that runs completely around the body. The ones I saw ranged from about 1.5" (3 cm) to almost 8" (20 cm). The larger ones approached the size of a Brown Snake.

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The Asian Jumping Worm is an invasive species originally from Japan and Korea. They are also called crazy worms, snake worms, and Alabama jumpers. They are common across the southern and mid-Atlantic parts of the United States, but they are spreading rapidly into the northeast, the midwest, and the western United Sttes. It’s a destructive feeder of the leaf litter, the layer of dead leaves in a forest. Studies have shown that they can destroy up to 95% of the leaf litter in one season, rendering it unsuitable for native plants and insects. They also outcompete and displace native earthworms.

Even if you do not see one (although they are very numerous!), you can see their destructive effects because they turn the soil to what looks like coffee grounds, small (2 mm) dark pellets of digested plants.

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In most places, there isn’t much that can be done about them. Burning the leaf litter on which they feed is one way to eliminate them, but that is neither feasible or advisable in many places.