Environment Spotlight

Crazy worms!

|Lauren Jordan|

There’s a new pest to be on the lookout for – crazy worms. They may sound wacky, but these worms can cause serious damage to horticulture crops and long-term damage to our Maine forests.

Crazy worm vs nightcrawler. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

These pests are not like other worms that support and benefit agricultural soil. According to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF), over time crazy worms, also known as jumping worms or snake worms, will change the soil by accelerating the decomposition of leaf litter on the forest floor.  This lets rain wash away nutrients faster than plants can absorb them, and so good soil turns into a grainy type of worm droppings that can’t support our native forests and crops. Crazy worms mature twice as fast as invasive European worms, reproduce more quickly, are more aggressive, and can exist in higher densities.

When handled, crazy worms act crazy, jumping and thrashing about, behaving more like a threatened snake than a regular nightcrawler. Check out this video to see these worms going crazy. The clitellum (the band around their body) is milky white, smooth, and flat to their body. Check your property for worms, and if you find them let the State know by going to their website to report invasive plants and bugs for the iMap invasive program.  The best time to find them is late June to mid-October.

Even though there is not an effective control method currently in place, we can limit and slow their spread. When purchasing, moving, or giving plants, always check for worms. Do not buy or use crazy worms for composting, gardening, or bait. Do not discard live worms in the wild, but rather dispose of them (preferably dead) in the trash.

DACF’s website provides the crazy worm’s history in Maine, and check out the University of Maine’s Maine Invasive Species Network to learn more about efforts to understand and manage invasive species in Maine.