We gardeners are among those who are on the front lines of the interface between human activity and nature. When good things happen, we're among the first non-scientists to notice, and the same goes for adverse occurrences. So when the Master Gardeners of Ontario are warning that jumping worms are a real threat, we need to pay attention. Below, I am reproducing a compelling examination of the jumping worms issue by Claudette Sims, on the premise that step one is to know the enemy.
Claudette notes that the many species of mostly European worms that we welcome into our gardens are in fact destructive invaders. They refashion the layer of organic matter that naturally accumulates atop the soil, to the detriment of native organisms, plants and creatures, including songbirds. Of all the species of worms found in Ontario, only two are native, and they are rare. Yet, we see worms as an indicator of soil health and fertility.
Unfortunately Asian jumping worms are exponentially more of a problem than the worms we know. I corresponded with Michael McTavish of the Smith Forest Health Lab at the University of Toronto, who is quoted by Claudette, to see what gardeners can do. At this stage, not much; our role is to observe and report. Protocols are being set up for a new community science monitoring program to collect more data. I've added his comments and more info on the program to the end of this post.
There have been 20 to 25 jumping worm sightings, the first in 2014 in the Windsor area and in various locations in southern Ontario, including Toronto and Hamilton, in 2021. By themselves, they might move a metre a year. With our help, they can leapfrog across long distances - which is why gardeners everywhere need to be vigilant and exercise caution in transporting plants and soil, for instance, from the GTA to cottage country.Read more