Ravenous Worm Species Disrupting Conn.'s Forest Ecosystem

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A ravenous species of earthworm has arrived in Connecticut with the potential to cause all sorts of damage to forests and wildlife.

The so-called “jumping worms” can destabilize the soil and make it harder for some plants to grow, state scientist Gale Ridge told Hearst Connecticut Media Group. They also can accumulate toxic metals like mercury and lead, which are then eaten by birds and other animals.

They don't actually jump, but have strong, rigid bodies that can whip violently if they are disturbed. They also can climb, and have been found in the upper stories of buildings.

“These are earthworms on steroids,” Ridge, who works for the entomology department at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, told the news group.

The worms, originally brought from Japan in the 1940s to feed platypuses at the Bronx Zoo, are spread mostly through the transport of mulch, compost and potted plants, and have been found throughout the state but mostly along the shore and in Fairfield County.

Ridge advised not buying compost or mulch unless the seller can prove it has been heat-treated from 105 degrees to 131 degrees for at least three days, and not buying worms on the Internet.