Gardeners Meet on the Seacoast to Learn More About Invasive Jumping Worm

Jul 26, 2018

Credit Via Youtube (Link to video in the story)

About 30 people gathered at the Urban Forestry Center in Portsmouth on Thursday to learn more an invasive species known as jumping, or snake, worms. 

Many of the gardeners wanted to know: how do we get rid of them?

That includes Toshi Richardson, who's from Portsmouth. She's been gardening for 30 years, and for the first time, she won't have a harvest. The worms have infested her eight garden beds. 

"I'm still going to the farmer's market buying produce because I haven't been able to grow any," Richardson said. 

These jumping worms eat through mulch and other organic matter, leaving the soil with a coffee ground texture. They've been found in gardens and on forest floors, and the way these worms change the soil makes it hard for native plants and vegetables to take root, and makes it easier for other invasive plants to thrive. 

Josef Gorres is a professor at the University of Vermont. He said there's not an legal vermicide to get rid of these worms. Instead, gardeners and foresters have to get a bit creative. He had a few suggestions to do away with the worms: pour alfalfa tea in the soil, add some sand or adding mollusciside. 

But there are still challenges. 

"Whatever pixie dust you use to kill the worms may not work on the cocoons," Gorres said. 

So there's a possiblity that the eggs the jumping worms lay, might hatch, and the worms would be back. 

That prospect left Richardson, the gardener, frustrated. 

"I'm not even sure what to do now," she laughed. She's considering digging up her mulch and her topsoil and burning it, so that both the worms and cocoons are gone. 

She and others said they wanted to see more research on these worms and ways to get rid of them and their cocoons.