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ontario invasive species

Invasive jumping worms could return to Toronto this spring and they're super creepy

The first day of spring brings the chance to get out and start gardening, but green thumbs might want to watch the ground for unusually large jumping worms.

The Asian jumping worm, also known as the Jersey wriggler and snake worm, were reported in Canada once before back in 2014, but a new wave of reports popped up across Southern Ontario, including right here in Toronto last summer.

Now that spring is coming, there are renewed concerns the worms will slither their way back into Ontario soil.

The unfortunate description of the worm is like something out of a horror film.

"When threatened, jumping worms thrash wildly from side to side," the Ontario Invasive Species Centre says. "If their frenzied thrashing isn't enough to deter a predator, they can resort to breaking off segments of their tail to escape."

Yikes.

The invasive species typically arrive in bags of soil or potted plants, or sometimes in fishing bait imported from the United States, John Reynolds, a PhD expert in earthworms, told CBC.

"They've only been recognized in Canada recently," he said.

Jumping worms can be distinguished from other invasive earthworms by a collar-like band around their bodies. They can reach a length of 10 to 13 centimetres.

The new reports have gardeners concerned.

Cathy Kavassalis, an expert gardener in Oakville, told CBC strange soil conditions were reported and there was trouble growing certain plants from seed after the worm arrived.

Ontario Invasive Species Centre says the invasive worms "outcompete other earthworms and their castings degrade soil quality, leaving it inhospitable to many native plant species and susceptible to increased erosion."

As "voracious eaters" the worms consume the top layer of organic material, which can allow nutrients to be washed away by rain.

To prevent further invasion, Ontario Parks suggests avoiding transporting soils, leaves, mulch, and compost to different areas, and washing the treads of your vehicles and shoes when moving from one area to another.

Lead photo by

John Abrams


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