Jumping worms. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

WAUSAU — A new invasive species that can destroy the health of plants and contribute to erosion has been detected in Wausau.

Jumping worms were first detected in Wisconsin in 2013 at the UW-Madison Arboretum and, since then, they’ve become well-established throughout much of southern and eastern Wisconsin, according to Monk Botancial Gardens. The recent discovery of these worms at several places in Wausau, including Monk Botanical Gardens, marks their first detection in Marathon County.

Brad Herrick, UW-Madison Arboretum ecologist, will help educate the public on these problem worms and hold a free presentation on them from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 7 at 212 River Drive, Room 5, in Wausau. Pre-registration is required.

More information about the presentation can be found here. To register online, visit forms.gle/DGZJLx6AMGACAeYz7. To register by mail, mail your information to Marathon County UW-Extension, 212 River Drive, Suite 3, Wausau, WI 54403.

About jumping worms

Jumping worms, a native of Asia, most likely arrived in the United States in the late 1800s in soil that was imported with plants or agricultural goods, according to Monk Botanical Gardens.

Jumping worms look somewhat like night crawlers, but they behave very differently. Night crawlers tend to burrow deep into the soil and often wriggle gently when handled. In contrast, jumping worms tend to stay close to the soil’s surface and wriggle vigorously when handled, in an almost snake-like fashion.

Although no earthworms are native to Wisconsin and all earthworms feed on dead plant material and other organic material found in soil, jumping worms reproduce more rapidly and consume organic material much faster than our existing earthworms. As a result, jumping worms have the potential to significantly reduce the quality of soil for the healthy growth of plants in both natural and cultivated areas, and to make the soil more prone to erosion.

Photo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.