Purdue University is warning Indiana residents to be on the lookout for an invasive species of worm in their gardens this spring.

Worms are (Generally) Wonderful

Generally, worms are wonderful friends to have in your garden, but that just isn't the case with the invasive species of jumping worm recently discovered in Southern Indiana.

Good Worms, Bad Worms

You "average" worm - there are actually several different kinds including those that hang out in leaf litter, and those that burrow vertically into the ground - are really good for our ecosystem. In fact, according to the USDA, they add a number of vitamins and nutrients to the soil like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. The USDA says worms,

  • Improve soil stability, air porosity and moisture holding capacity by burrowing and aggregating soil;
  • Turn soil over and may reduce the incidence of disease by bringing deeper soil to the surface and burying organic matter;
  • Improve water infiltration by forming channels and promoting soil aggregation;
  • Improve root growth by creating channels lined with nutrients for plant roots to follow.
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The Indiana Department of Environmental Management recommends composting with worms and says you should let them eat your garbage.

They will turn the garbage into some of the best fertilizer on earth known as worm castings or vermi-compost. This is a fascinating, fun, and easy way to recycle your organic kitchen waste. Worm composting requires very little work, produces no offensive odors, and helps plants to thrive.

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Invasive Jumping Worms in Indiana

While your average, run-of-the-mill worm is your friend in the garden, there is an invasive species that is not a friend but a foe. The invasive jumping worm has been found in parts of southern Indiana and according to experts at Purdue University, these garden pests will eat up all of the organic material at the surface of the soil. The waste left behind looks like coffee grounds and offers no nutritional value to plants. They also do not aid in air and water flow for the soil like regular worms do.

How Did Jumping Worms Get to Indiana?

These worms are not native to Indiana and they also do not migrate. That means that humans are primarily responsible for the jumping worms calling southern Indiana home. Experts say that the worms have likely found their way here through the transfer of soil, compost, or plants from other places.

How to Stop the Spread of Jumping Worms

Robert Bruner, Purdue Extension’s exotic forest pest specialist has been working with others at Purdue University to raise awareness, and encourage gardeners to refrain from sharing soil and compost. He also advises that the public avoid potted plants from unknown sources. There is also a process called solarizing that can be used to rid your soil of unwanted guests. Learn more about the solarizing process here.

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What to Do If You Spot an Invasive Species in Indiana

If you spot an invasive species where you live in Indiana, you should report your sighting to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources by emailing depp@dnr.in.gov or you can call 1-866-663-9684.

More Weird and Unusual WIldlife in Indiana

Indiana is no stranger to weird and unusual critters and creatures like the cannibalistic Dragonhunter and the moth that is under federal quarantine. And let's not forget the invasive fish that dates back to prehistoric times. You will definitely want to check out photos captured from this Indiana trail cam too.

[Source: Purdue University]

7 Invasive Insects in Indiana You Should Kill Immediately If You See Them

In an effort to inform the public on the types of invasive species that are known to be found in their state, the USDA offers a "Pest Tracker" on their website, where you simply click the name of your state from the drop-down menu provided to see pictures of the different insects and weeds, along with descriptions of the type of plant life they target and the damage they can do if they're not dealt with.

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