UNH Extension Hosts Invasive Earthworm Expert in Portsmouth

The quick-moving, voracious “jumping worm” in N.H. gardens and forests and you can learn about it at a seminar on July 26
Dr. Josef Gorres in the forest

Gardeners know that earthworms are good for soil. They improve drainage and soil aeration, increase nutrient availability, enhance soil structure and are an all-around boon for things that grow. But that’s not true of all earthworm species, especially the “jumping worm,” a quick-moving, voracious invasive species recently introduced to North America. Josef Gorres, a University of Vermont professor and expert on the invasive jumping worm will deliver a public seminar at the Urban Forestry Center, 45 Elwyn Road, Portsmouth, on July 26 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Also known as snake worms or crazy worms, jumping worms were recently introduced to North America from eastern Asia. The worms writhe powerfully when picked up and move remarkably fast, in an almost snake-like fashion, across the soil surface. While the extent of their presence in New Hampshire is still unknown, they may be found in gardens, compost piles and adjacent woodlands in some parts of the state.

Why should Granite State gardeners and forest enthusiasts be on alert? Because jumping worms are fast and hungry. They quickly devour organic layers of soil and leave behind abundant coffee ground-like castings. In woodland areas, they can quickly consume all of the leaf litter on the forest floor and can make the upper layers of the soil feel grainy with their castings.

While this may not have a major effect on cultivated bedded plants, it can be extremely detrimental to native plants and animals. When jumping worms consume the upper organic layer of the soil, native plants slowly disappear and invasive species take their place. As the forest floor structure changes, other species suffer, such as ground nesting birds, amphibians, and invertebrates.

Gorres has researched and written about the invasive jumping worm and will share his knowledge and expertise at the seminar. The talk will be scientific, but accessible and relevant to home gardeners, forest enthusiasts and others who may encounter jumping worms.

Greg Jordan, a forestry field specialist with UH Extension, will provide an introductory talk on the Granite State’s forest ecology before Gorres’ presentation.

Registration is $10 and space is limited. Register at extension.unh.edu/events/jumpingwormseminar. For more information, or to request special accommodations for the event, contact Nate Bernitz at 603-351-3831 or nate.bernitz@unh.edu.