Jumping Worm


The jumping worms (Amynthas spp.) is a term given to species in the family Megascolecidae. In New York three species (Amynthas agrestis, Amynthas tokioensis and Metaphire hilgendorphi) often co-invade a site. Like all earthworms, jumping worms were unintentionally introduced to North America, likely through infested nursery stock. 


While they are now widespread throughout much of the US, they have only recently been documented in northern hardwood forests in WI, MN, and NY States. There are sightings reported to iMapInvasives in St. Lawrence County in Colton, the City of Oswego, and Oneida County near Oneida Lake.


Often, earthworms are considered beneficial to soil health. This is true for European earthworms in some places such as gardens and agricultural fields but is definitely not the case for invasive jumping worms. Jumping worms reproduce twice as fast as European earthworms, and consume soil organic matter so effectively and fast that the soil becomes very palletized, which dries out quickly. For a plant, it is like trying to grow in gravel instead of soil. Plus, jumping worms contain heavy metals that may harm predators like birds, amphibians, and other worm species.

The loss of leaf litter and the erosion of soils that result from a jumping worm infestation leads to greatly reduced forest regeneration and a loss of biodiversity across trophic levels including amphibians, birds, beneficial fungi, and understory plants. Jumping worms create bare soil in the forest, which paves the way for unwanted invasive plants such as garlic mustard and buckthorn. Watch a short video to learn more.


Jumping worms do not need to mate, and a single one can start a whole new population. They are easily spread through the movement of nursery stock, compost, vermiculture, fishing bait, topsoil, as well as gardening and landscaping equipment and shoe treads.


Snake-like behavior
Jumping worms will thrash wildly when handled which you can see in the video below. 


Invasive Jumping Worm Clitellum (band near the head):
Invasive jumping worms have a clitellum that completely encircles the body, is milky white to gray, smooth to the body (not raised), and located more towards the head. 

European Earthworm Worm Clitellum (band near the head):
Common non-native European earthworm species have a raised, reddish clitellum that is more towards the middle of the body.


Jumping worms cause the soil to become granular and look similar to coffee grounds.


Currently, there are no methods known to control earthworms. Therefore, preventing their spread is most important. Below are some precautionary steps that can help slow their spread.

  • Buy bare root stock when possible and be wary of sharing /moving plants.
  • Do Not buy/use jumping worms for bait, vermicomposting or gardening.
  • Only buy compost that is heat-treated. Or heat in the sun for 3 days to a minimum temperature of 104 degree Fahrenheit.
  • Thoroughly clean garden tools, shoes, and vehicles.

Surveying for Jumping worm:

The best time to find jumping worms is late August or September when they have reached adult size. Search underneath leaf litter above the soil in forested and urban areas.

If you find Jumping Worms:

Note the location in which the worm was found.

Take close-up photos of the specimen. Be sure to include a close-up of the band around the body of the worm (clitellum).

Report sighting to iMapinvasives.org or your local Cornell Cooperative Extension.

You can check your property for jumping worms by using a mustard pour. 

This Brief video shows how to conduct a mustard extraction. 

Photo Credits: 

Title  photo by  Susan Day / UW Madison Arboretum

Asian worm clitellum photo by Wisconsin Master Gardener, European worm clitellum photo by Holger Casselmann

Granular soil photo by Bernadette Williams/ Wisconsin DNR

Mustard pour photo by Karen Ceballos, NY Master Naturalist Program Assistant, Cornell Department of Natural Resources


Homeowner’s Guide to Jumping Worms

Jumping Worm Fact Sheet 

Jumping Worm Brochure

Video of jumping wormsClaymation video of Invasive Jumping Worms



Prevent the introduction of invasive species into the SLELO PRISM.

Rapidly detect new and recent invaders and eliminate all individuals within a specific area.

Share resources, including funding personnel, equipment, information, and expertise.

Collect, utilize, and share information regarding surveys, infestations, control methods, monitoring, and research.

Control invasive species infestations by using best management practices, methods and techniques to include: ERADICATION (which is to eliminate all individuals and the seed bank from an area), CONTAINMENT (which is reducing the spread of established infestations from entering an uninfested area) and SUPPRESSION which is to reduce the density but not necessarily the total infested area.

Develop and implement effective restoration methods for areas that have been degraded by invasive species and where suppression or control has taken place.

Increase public awareness and understanding of invasive species.

Develop and implement innovative technologies that help us to better understand, visualize, alleviate or manage invasive species and their impacts or that serve to strengthen ecosystem function and/or processes.

Rob Williams                              rwilliams@tnc.org                     Program Director

Megan Pistolese megan.pistolese@tnc.org
Outreach and Education

Brittney Rogers brittney.rogers@tnc.org 
Aquatic Invasive Species

Robert Smith       robert.l.smith@tnc.org 
Terrestrial Invasive Species

Zachary Simek    zachary.simek@TNC.ORG     Conservation and GIS Analyst

During this time the best way to contact our team is via email.