Amynthas agrestis: The Crazy Snake Worm

Crazy Snake Worm (Amynthas agrestis) in the wood mulch of a horticultural bed at a tree nursery in Vermont.

Figure A. 1 Crazy Snake Worm (Amynthas agrestis) in the wood mulch of a horticultural bed at a tree nursery in Vermont. Checkout the white ring around the worms body. In Amynthas species it stretches all around the  body and it is well off-set from the rest of the body.

The Crazy Snake Worm (Amynthas agrestis, Figure A1) is an aggressively invasive earthworm that hails from Korea and Japan. Most earthworm species found in Vermont have probably come into North America by early colonial trading with Europe. These  worms are in the family of Lumbricidae. The new invaders are from East Asia and are in the earthworm family Megascolecidae. There are several Amynthas species in the North East. These species are usually called Jumper worms (Alabama Jumpers), Wrigglers (Jersey Wrigglers) or Snake Worms. It is difficult to differentiate among these species by looking at their external appearance. One needs to look at the internal organs of these worms to tell which species they are. The only Amynthas species found in Vermont to this date are Amynthas agrestis.

These worms are very aggressive invaders that change forest structure and the

Forest on left is earthworm free. The one on the right is invaded by Amynthas agrestis. Dear may make the situation worse by browsing on whatever is still there after the earthworms have done their damage.

Figure A2: Forest on left is earthworm free. The one on the right is invaded by Amynthas agrestis. Deer may make the situation worse by browsing on tree seedlings because earthworms have reduced browse in the forest understory.

decomposer community in the affected forests. This may have long range effects on these forests (Figure A2) including a reduction in forest regeneration. Just imagine a world without maple syrup … Because of the devastating effect on the forest floor vegetation, some other organisms such as ground nesting birds are affected as their nests are no longer hidden from nest predators. Our lab is trying to find where these earthworms are in Vermont although we frequently stumble upon them by chance. The range of this earthworm in Vermont as we know is shown in Figure A3. We ask for your help to find as many places that have been invaded as possible: if you have seen them at your house or a forest near you let us know

Known distribution of Amynthas in Vermont

Figure A3: Known distribution of Amynthas in Vermont

by adding a blog comment which should include an address or the coordinates of where you have seen them. At your home look at mulched flower beds, compost piles, and adjacent woods. Other places where you might find them are nurseries and mulched beds in your local park, community garden and parking lot. I found them in the oddest places. For example, they were happily snaking around in mulched beds of a parking lot in Colchester and the ornamental beds of the Williston I89S rest stop. And yes, I have them  at my house too and curse them every time I buy more mulch for my ornamental beds. They love mulch and go through it as though there was not tomorrow. Eventually you get wise and stop feeding them that mulch. Yes, they can decompose woody mulch. They stimulate the production of lignin decomposing enzymes (Figure A4). You even see them in decomposing logs.

perioxidaseimage

Figure A4: Peroxidase ( a lignin decomposing enzyme) activity in Pine (P), Spruce (S) and Cedar (C) mulch with A. agrestis (dark bars) and without A. agrestis (lighter bars).

Here is when to look for them: The best time to find them is from end of June to mid-October (Figure A5). That is when they are most abundant. They hatch in April around these parts when temperatures have risen above 50 F for the first time but you won’t be able to see their tell-tale saddle or clitellum that stretches all the way around the circumference of their body (Figure A1) until they are adults. You can tell them even when they are still juveniles and don’t have that saddle. They tend to squirm a lot, move like snakes and sometimes lose their tails in an attempt to get away from you.

AmynthasPhenology

Figure A5: Amynthas agrestis through the year. They hatch in April and die with the first frosts in Autumn. The first adults are seen in July.

The following link has a video of the Crazy Snake Worm slithering around mulch in a podcast by Vermont Public Radio PR on earthworms in Vermont in general:

http://digital.vpr.net/post/dark-side-earthworms

April 7 and 8, 2014: Last week we collected temperature data at the horticultural Research Center (University of Vermont) in South Burlington. Soil temperatures stayed at or below 0 C from January 25 to April 1, 2014 (blue line, Figure A6) even though there were large swings in ambient temperature (red line). This was probably due to snow cover. Unlike in other years, the soil was frozen. Ice reached to a depth of approximately 4 cm.

temperaturetilll April12014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 8, 2014. We went to an Amynthas-invaded forest site in Huntington where, to our surprise, we found  a lot of potential hatchlings which are now being incubated in the lab at 15 C. We found them in the leaf litter both under snow and patches where the snow had already melted. Soils were still frozen and temperatures in the leaf litter were 4 C and under the snow 1 C. Ambient temperatures at 2:30 pm were 9 C. The suspected hatchlings were in water films on and between leaves. Pictures below shows Korkmaz Belliturk and Josef Gorres at Huntington today (picture credit: Naomi Cunningham).

DSCN1774DSCN1787

February 12, 2014. We counted the hatchlings from Huntington. We found 111 potential hatchlings on leaves collected from 6 quadrats that were 20 by 20 cm in size. That translates into approximately 400 hatchlings per square meter or 40 per square foot. Since collection of these hatchlings they have been growing in the cool temperature incubator. On February 10 we surveyed the invasion site at the Horticultural Research Center at UVM. We only found 1 potential hatchling in 5 plots of 30 cm X 30 cm area. This site was dryer than Huntington.

May 19, 2018. Here are some readings on the ecology of pheretimoid earthworms which includes Amynthas: Selected Amynthas Resources MISN   

We are now back in the field season, collecting cocoons and hatchlings from the woodlands. As usual there is another bumper year of Amynthas earthworms expected in the woodlands we are surveying.

Here is a map of confirmed Amynthas sightings in the Northeast. Your Amynthas populations is likely not on it since only scientist confirmed sites are shown.

Dark gray shading shows the potential range of Amynthas as defined by climate. there may be other restrictions such as soil acidity, vegetation that may restrict the expansion. Circles indicate where Amynthas has been spotted by researchers. From Moore, J.D., Görres, J.H. and Reynolds, J.W., 2017. Exotic Asian pheretimoid earthworms (Amynthas spp., Metaphire spp.): Potential for colonisation of south-eastern Canada and effects on forest ecosystems. Environmental Reviews, (999), pp.1-8.

As you can see pheretimoids are quite widely spread in the region. Confirmed pheretimoid locations are shown as a circle on the map. You notice clusters of confirmed locations on the map. This indicates that there is a research group working on these earthworms in that area. Active groups are at the University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota, Cornell University, Colgate University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Massachusetts, and of course here at the University of Vermont.

 

Cocoon studies

When looking at populations of earthworms we are frequently just looking at the worms that we can see. There also is a more cryptic side of the population: cocoons. Cocoons are small, between 2 and 4 mm in size and difficult to see in the soil. You have to extract them laboriously (hmph!). But after you extract the scientific loot is great, you learn that there may be a couple of thousand cocoons per square meter, and that at any time of the year part of that cryptic cocoon population is ready to hatch. In an experiment started in June 2016 we buried in our woodland soils cocoons (contained laundry type bags) produced in 2015 and inspected them every month. We removed any hatchlings so there would be no additional cocoon production. Well, the outcome of it was that in July 2017 about 20% of the buried cocoons were still viable.  — Bad — The cocoons may last through several winters which would make controlling these earthworms even harder. We have to repeat this experiment to make sure that our conclusions from that first experiment are valid. If they are then we are dealing with a cocoon bank that acts like a seed bank.

On cocoons, check out this paper: 2017 Biological Invasions (in press).  

It says that these worms hatch in the winter when temperatures are high (e.g. January thaw).

Here is a picture of a cocoon. the picture was taken by Maryam Nouri-Aiin, my current graduate student.

 

 

 

 

131 thoughts on “Amynthas agrestis: The Crazy Snake Worm

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  4. What might be helpful is to get citizen participants to try out hypothetical protocols for limiting them and report back results. For example, scraping the top inch off any potted plants purchased and bagging/solarizing that soil, pouring hot mustard “tea” over them before planting and bagging any worms that surface, removing castings found when prepping beds for mulching or planting, making a point of using seeds and plugs whenever possible, shredding rather than transporting fallen leaves, solarizing compost or soil before applying it to a garden bed are a few examples of practices people might be willing to test.

  5. I first saw them a couple months ago, and now they have made it across the road into my yard. Can anything be done to control their spread?

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  7. Hello, I spotted crazy snake worms across the street from my house. They are on the north side of Corduroy Road in Essex Junction between Briar and Countryside. They have taken over a leaf dump area, apparently dumped there with some waste vegetation. I first saw them a couple months ago, and now they have made it across the road into my yard. Can anything be done to control their spread?
    Thanks,
    Adam Cole

  8. I have found Amynthas agresta on my land in Chester, VT. Is there an updated map somewhere, for where they have been found? Also looking for control methods.
    Thank you for the information here so far.

  9. Yep leaf mulch is one way that you get them. However, you could have gotten them through a plant purchase and the mulch is just feeding them. Gardens are great for them. They are exposed to the sun a lot more than a forest, so soils warm up faster in the spring. They also get plenty of water and if you are keen to mulch or increase your soil organic matter, there will be an endless supply of food provided by the great human master. I have noticed that in my compost pile they are now (in mid-May), three times the size as the ones that I am finding at my woodland research sites. I inherited my community of Amynthas worms from the previous owners of the property. They were avid gardeners involved in exchanging plants with neighbors who were master gardeners and belonged to garden clubs.

  10. I’ve quite recently discovered these worms under some leaf heaps in my veggie garden — grown-ups and babies. I live in the New North End of Burlington.

  11. We have had a large number of these things in our Brattleboro, VT yard this late spring and fall, first time ever. We saw them by the hundreds in our inground pool. I have needed to vac twice day by day just to control them. We found that weakening Clorox with some water executes them quickly, and have been pouring it around the deck of the pool. It makes a difference. I just returned from outdoors at Ascutney State Park here in Vermont, and discovered some there as well.

  12. I am in the upper valley of New Hampshire working as a gardener, and I am suddenly seeing these worms in many of my clients gardens. I also have just found them in my own. I recently read an article on them from the Valley News in which the nursery manager at EC Browns admitted they have them. I have purchased plants from EC Browns, and passed this nursery stock along to clients. Don’t get me wrong: I love EC Browns and would hate to see them close their doors, but they are spreading this worm! Nurseries have no obligation to divulge such infestations?! Given this situation they are going to spread more and more rapidly; is it really a surprise then that they are popping up all over New England? I am also aware of one garden in particular that is teeming with these worms that is creating loon nest platforms with soil from this thoroughly infested yard and moving these all over the state–the spread continues…
    Does diatomaceous earth help? Also if you kill them are their eggs still in them and viable? Are there eggs in the tail that drops off? How should one dispose of them?

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  17. For the crazy worm to hatch, does it just need to get above 50 sometime during the day, or is there a certain number of hours for which 50 degrees needs to be exceeded?

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  26. Found two in my garden yesterday. A nearby neighbor has also seen them. What is the best way to get rid of them?

  27. Thank you so much for share

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  29. We have had thousands of these things in our Brattleboro, VT yard this summer and fall, first time ever. We noticed them by the hundreds in our inground pool. I have had to vac twice daily just to control them. We found that diluting Clorox with some water kills them immediately, and have been pouring it around the deck of the pool. It helps. I just got back from camping at Ascutney State Park here in Vermont, and found some there too.

  30. Thank you for share bro

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  32. Location alert: This year for the first time I am finding lots and lots (and lots) of snake worms under the leaf litter in my back yard as I begin raking and bagging leaves. Also plenty of evidence of typical “coffee grounds” textured soil. Barre Street, Montpelier.

  33. Do you remember where in your yard you saw them. Which part of Burlington do you live in? Burlington is riddled by these earthworms. I find them in many places… Thanks for your comment.

  34. I’m in Bellows Falls, southern Vermont, in a part shade, moist garden. It’s my 4th year gardening and this late summer/early autumn I noticed the hard surfaces (paved driveway and pavered walk) completely carpeted by these worms nightly, especially when it rains. Water the soil, dig in a plant, disturb the soil in any way and huge worms come scurrying out at the slightest provocation. I don’t recall ever seeing them before and I am a keen observer of my garden. Often I just hang out with a flashlight and watch what’s going on (lived my whole life in the city and now I am a gardening fanatic with the fervor of a new convert). I’ve also spent many nights culling the slug population by hand for the last 3 summers. The slugs are down but now here comes Amynthas. I’ve read every single extension fact sheet on them and am now studying the research papers. It is early October and I am spending nights and days capturing the worms and into the bucket with vinegar to be disposed of. My observations: at this late seasonal time there are multiple life stages: huge adults, medium sized adults, really tiny juveniles. I may have more than 1 species. Some have very white clitella (plural?) and some have more muted ones. Sometimes in my frenzy I happen upon a red wriggler or a European earthworm – very rarely, however. They are extremely plentiful in a west-facing part shade and full shade garden. I am in a hollow between 2 hills, always moist and surrounded by a forest-like canopy of trees on either side, lots of birds – none are eating these guys. Last year, robins, catbirds, etc, foraging in the garden daily. This year, only at the beginning of the season. Perhaps they are gone now, today I saw 2 blue jays foraging up the hill in the forested area. I think i may have thrown a few worms up there, I shudder to think, before I was aware of what they were. Mulch is gone but my garden gets an inexhaustible supply of leaves from above. Garden is a pollinator garden with a native focus, I do not clean up leaves. Amynthas are in (formerly) mulched and cover-cropped (by weeds) areaa, it doesn’t matter, if there’s a shady cover they’re there. I have a north side of the house where I put down cardboard to make soil. Underneath: amynthas farm. Lots of castings and amynthas to catch into the bucket. Some slugs. Very few black beetles, which used to be more plentiful. Again, could be the late season. My garden has not had a frost yet. Perhaps tomorrow morning though I think I may slide by. There are thousands seemingly in the shadey weedy parts. I must have gotten more than a hundred already. One very interesting observation is I did not find any just around the corner in my hugul culture beds. Eastern facing, overgrown weeds all around, formerly very sluggy, many shrubs close together, beds full of herbs, annuals and perennials. I was just pulling the tulsi out ahead of the frost and the soil is normal, no crazy castings and no scurrying worms. This is within 5-10 meters of the cardboard worm farm. On the other side, however, can’t walk at night without a flashlight to side step the pow wowing amynthas. I dread going out there now. Walking and Gardening has turned into an interminable hunting/slaughter escapade. It seems insurmountable but hunting the slugs taught me that eventually, with dogged diligence, the population is reduced. I like to think that every worm in the bucket is a cocoon fewer but I am not so sure now. I’d like to know more about how often an adult sheds a cocoon in a season. Can you tell by looking at where the clitellum is in relation to the head? Some clitella are way down their bodies and some are right by the head. I’d like to find some explanation that tracks the cocoon dropping process since Prof JG states that the castings are full of their cocoons. I have heard an interview with the Wisconsin Arboretum scientist at the forefront of research into amynthas from a month or so again on the most recent findings. Still not much by way of feasible eradication methods or permaculture type of solutions. The lead bioaccumulation is a bummer. The lack of education campaigns here in Vermont is also a huge bummer. Everyone seems to think that a chicken or fish bait is the best solution. Alabama wrigglers are still sold online with the weakest of caveats. We should be screaming from the rooftops: act now or say goodbye to your maple syrup industry! I’m doing my part to educate people but it is daunting. In my small, shady, hilly garden solarization/heating with plastic bags is not feasible. The tea oil saponin fertilizer Early Bird is no longer made by Ocean (whatever, forget the second word, they make seaweed fertilizer). An online search yielded no discernible way for an individual to buy it. It may only be available as pallets to golf courses, still. Saponins are soaps, would diluted Dr Bronners act the same way? A molluscocide is ok by me but I am loathe to use anything that would harm the other critters in the garden. The potential predators, other than me, observed in my garden are teeny tiny compared to their prey. These are frogs and red backed salamanders. I’m happy they live in my garden. I don’t want them to starve because of this greedy, gluttonous invader who is too fat, too poisonous, too badly tasting to feed them and yet has taken up all the room so the smaller wormy creatures are pushed out. Reading about what the amynthas is wreaking in our forests, on top of the harm already caused by the Euro worm, is thoroughly disheartening. The last entry in the comments is from 2018. I cannot find a more recent blog entry. I look forward to a summary of findings from this summer 2019, with bated breath. I also sent you an email describing my location. Thank you for your work. I am more than happy to pay taxes to support more research into invasives and native ecology stewardship. Redirect the war coffers to our quickly hanging ecosystems. Olga

  35. Hello I congratulate you for the time and effort you have spent in this article. I’ve read a lot of articles, but I haven’t come across such comprehensive articles. I also liked the design of your site. Highly functional

  36. I’ve just found these worms under some leaf piles in my veggie garden — adults and babies. I live in the New North End of Burlington.

  37. That is a great article. One should know that the casting layer of earthworms is full of their cocoons (egg casings). For annual worms these are their survival structures that protect their eggs (and thus their populations) from freezing temperatures and drought. I have a worm bin (Eisenia Fetida, aka Red Wigglers) I left outside this winter to see whether the cold temperatures of the Vermont winter would kill the cocoons. Or, do they survive and hatch when it gets warm enough like for pheretimoids (snake worms/jumper worms). I am still waiting for them to come back. For Amynthas agrestis and A tokioensis (two phertimoid species), we found that the cocoons survived to really cold (at least -24 C or 12 F). For some other species people have shown cold resistance to -40 C (same as -40 F).

  38. I live in a suburb south of Pittsburgh. I was cleaning the leaves out of the botton of my pond (does have mulch around it) when I found 3 of these. They are large, the largest is around 9″. Their ring looks exactly like your photo’s, bug their bodies are so white the’re almost clear/opaque. I guess from the water? I wasn’t sure what I had found and started searching images

  39. Hi, I just hard about these snake worms and suddenly I see them every where in my yard. I was raking away pijne needles and tree leaves and under a layer of maybe 3″ but very damp it was just scary to see all of these crawling worms. Non had heads like in the video but they all looked like the worm in Fig.1 with the light colored band.
    just picked my last potatoes and they were also in the potato bin. No potatoes out of that one I guess.
    What do I do with them.
    I am close to Philmont, NY 12534 8 miles eats of Hudson, NY.

  40. When I removed newspapers I had used to mulch around my tomato plants just now I found many snake worms. These are deep, wood-framed raised beds to which I had added only compost from a reputable company. How did they even find their way in there? I also found them when I cleaned up a perennial shade bed this afternoon. I’m in town, in Montpelier.

  41. I live in Saugerties NY which is in Ulster county.The Master gardeners of Columbia-Greene counties (neighboring counties) recently canceled their plant swap on Oct. 7 because of these earth worms (Amynthas agretis). I started noticing a lot of “earth worms” first in my compost bins and then in my vegetable beds. I have also noticed that most of my soil now looks like worm castings. I use a lot of local leaves in my compost and I assuming that is how I acquired them.

  42. I garden in the Catskill Mts of NY near Kingston. This is the second year of a noted large population. I use them in large compost piles to make dirt. They are efficient. Very cold winter temperatures seemed to kill them off about 4 winters ago and they are just rebounding. I do not really see them in wild forest here, mostly in garden beds and mulch piles. I believe they did contribute to a bad seed germination in my veg beds. I rather love how fast they make castings- I am not aware of oxygen depletion issues. Will read up thanks.

  43. We have lots of these in our garden, and notice that the nearby woodlot (mostly sugar maples) has a bare forest floor. There are lots of deer around, but the snake worm could possibly be the reason for no floor vegetation in the woods. North Bennington, Vermont.

  44. I am seeing these worms just under the surface of leaf mulch or or wood chip mulch. Never had them before summer 2016 when I saw a few. Now many more. I think they came with bagged compost or perhaps mulch. They seem very hardy! Wondering what “damage” they will do in a pine woodland. West Lebanon, NH

  45. Have identified them at Dogwood Drive, Leicester, which is on Lake Dunmore. I believe they arrived in a nursery plant growing in compost-laden soil. Although I do shop at Rocky Dale in Bristol (see earlier comment re: Rocky Dale), I suspect the culprit in this case may have come from another nursery, but no way of knowing at this point. Perhaps an emergency BOLO publication is in order for the local nurseries!
    Also, can you provide info about identifying their cocoons?

  46. We have these worms all over our yard, mulched beds and paths in Montpelier on Harrison Ave. we are guessing they like our mulch. There are casts everywhere and We can’t rake or dig without unearthing many worms.
    Vegetable seeds planted never germinated or sprouted slightly only to disappear completely in a day or two. We wonder if the worms are the cause.
    We plan to replace the mulch on paths with stone, but would love ideas about how to begin to control the worms and options for keeping flower beds looking attractive without attracting more of these worms.

  47. I was finding these worms in Morris county new jersey as early as the mid 70’s. They were in an unattended mulch pile of leaves and pine needles.
    This year, they are everywhere in my yard in pike county pa. Even pushing up dirt (coffee grounds) in the driveway. Scrape the dirt, there’s a jumping worm.
    This now seems to be an infestation, which I believe was introduced by a mulch delivery.

  48. I live near Lake George, NY in the Adirondack Park. I saw a few of the Amynthas agrestis worms (Asian jumping worms) two years ago in my small vegetable garden and also a few in my two 3′ x 3′ wood-sided compost bins. This year (summer 2017) I have still only seen a few in the veg garden, but am now seeing at least a couple of dozen in each of the two compost bins! They are on average about 10″ long and jump around a lot. Just chiming in to let people know where they are and that they are multiplying very quickly.

  49. Am raking leaves today (9/16/17) in our yard in Montpelier, 3 Sunnyside Terrace, adjoining the woods by Hubbard Park, so we have lots of dead leave coverage at the side of the yard. When I get into this, there are “nests” of these big worms, 8 or 10 or more uncovered at once, some almost a foot long, move very fast in a snake-like wiggle, banded, etc. Have lived here a dozen years, never seen worms like this, and there are probably hundreds of them around our yard and in the adjoining woods! Kinda freaking me out, man!

  50. I’m afraid we may have quite a few of these in our yard in Montpelier on Marvin Street/Bingham St. I’ve only recently learned about them but I know we have tons of big worms. I confirmed one the other day that had the distinctive light band around it. Wondering if chickens would eat them?

  51. Hello,
    I very much appreciate the time and effort you put into writing this very informative article. I am currently trying to compile information about the Amynthas issue for the New York Master Naturalist program and I was wondering if you knew any good sources for maps showing the current distribution of Amynthas spp, preferably for New York but any good maps of the Northeast would work as well.
    Thank you for your help!

  52. Dear All,

    I have been a bit absent from this site. I apologize. Lots of interesting comments .
    So here are some of my comments to the posts.
    1. Some earthworms are parthenogenetic. For snake worms in North America,s ee this article:
    Chang, Chih-Han, Bruce A. Snyder, and Katalin Szlavecz. “Asian pheretimoid earthworms in North America north of Mexico: An illustrated key to the genera Amynthas, Metaphire, Pithemera, and Polypheretima (Clitellata: Megascolecidae).” Zootaxa 4179.3 (2016): 495-529.

    2. I am not surprized at all the sightings in and around Vermont that you have reported on. We are getting more and more reports through either the UVM plant clinic or by e-mail. They are ubiquitous in gardens now it seems. Plant material, leaf mulch, compost and maybe wood mulch may be vectors.

    3. There are no approved vermicides, but check out these articles
    Potter, Daniel A., et al. “Managing earthworm casts (Oligochaeta: Lumbricidae) in turfgrass using a natural byproduct of tea oil (Camellia sp.) manufacture.” Pest management science 66.4 (2010): 439-446.
    Potter, D.A., Redmond, C.T. and Williams, D.W., 2011. The worm turns: earthworm cast reduction on golf courses. GCM. September, pp.86-96.
    You should know that there are no approved pesticides for earthworms… and that the tea oil product is a molluskicide. It irritates these and other earthworms as well as snails and slugs and it kills them if they get enough of a dose. Even if you applied this, it does not take care of the problem entirely because the egg casings (aka cocoons) are very resilient and the embryos developing inside them may not be. We are working on biocontrol agents right now but there is no funding at any government level for this and thus that research is uncertain going forward. Any funding anywhere!!!??? However, we have isolated a bacterium and a fungus that seems to be effective against the worm form. Interestingly my graduate student isolated one of the agents from cocoons in which the embryo had died.

    Don’t use Sevin… You may have other effects with that. Again it may not act on the cocoons and it si not an approved vermicide.

    4. I love the comment on how far back these worms were observed at Sunset Lake. 30 years ago. I believe it.

    5. Amynthas is a bioaccumulator of heavy metals. That is good for the soil becaue the worms pick up a contaminant, but bad for things that eat it and alas these worms die at the end of the year and release the metals back into the soil… See this article:
    Richardson, J.B., Görres, J.H. and Friedland, A.J., 2016. Forest floor decomposition, metal exchangeability, and metal bioaccumulation by exotic earthworms: Amynthas agrestis and Lumbricus rubellus. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 23(18), pp.18253-18266.
    Hasn’t killed those Turkeys yet.
    Yes moles and birds will feed on these but generally there are too many too eat… Maybe they are not very tasty. IN order to wiggle so frantically these worms have to accumulate lots of salts in their body creating high hydrostatic pressure. May be that leaves a nasty after taste (LOL).

    6. We actually have three confirmed species of Amynthas:
    A tokioensis
    A. agrestis
    Metaphire hilgendorfi

    The latter is technically not in the Amynthas genus, but it looks the same, wriggles the same etc. M. hilgendorfi are really large worms, >5 inches long.

    7. Amynthas agrestis and A. tokioensis hae some interesting parasites that don’t seem to harm the worm at all. They are called monocystis species…

    8. We counted cocoons the last two years. There are over 2000 per m^2 in some places. That is crazy a lot. And some of them are surviving at least a second winter. Could this be a cocoon bank, analogous to a seed bank. Not sure whether they survive more than two years. Haven’t done that experiment yet.

    Will try to get some of the other comments… soon

  53. Corner of Lost Nation Rd and Whitney Rd, East Fairfield VT. Black Creek is located parallel to the property, which I live on. Finding them heavily in areas of tall weed and grass growth, living in the tangled mess of last year’s vegetation on the ground. Especially at the edge of our lawn. Your Eco biology Dept. Did a study hear a couple years ago.

  54. Since posting my observation on Charlotte’s Front Porch Forum other Charlotte gardeners have confirmed that they seem to have taken up residence here. One gardener noted they were easily found in his garlic beds and it made me realize that’s where I’ve found them, too. I used to mulch my garlic until I realized slugs were attracted to that environment and would emerge to chew around both hardneck and softneck garlic, easily and quickly destroying the crop. So this season no mulch but the beds are already rich in composted material from years of trying to lighten our Vergennes clay (cement) soil. I’ve already harvested 2017 garlic but after the next good rain I’ll be happy to go out and collect several Amynthas to donate to science at UVM.

    I don’t know if there’s any connection (to Amynthas invasion), but I don’t think I’m seeing anywhere near the number of night crawlers in lawn and garden. It used to be that night crawlers were all over the garden soil nights when the temp and humidity were conducive, now they’re scarce.

  55. Found 1 in Monkton Vermont. Definitely a snake worm. Could have been the one in the video link on your page.

  56. I found these worms in my plot in our community garden at North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier, VT, last fall. This year there are copious amounts of them. I gathered at least a hundred in a bed the size of 1 by 3 meters. I am going to stop using leaf and newspaper mulch for the winter and rather try covercrops. I would love advice on how to minimize their presence and help stop their spread into the forest.
    Maike

  57. Hello,

    I’ve also seen these crazy snake worms at my home in Framingham MA. I have a patio that I was trying to clean up because of growth in between the bricks and when I started scrapping between the bricks these worms started coming out of the bark mulch that surrounds the patio. They were aggressively coming at me. I jumped up took a rake and flung them into the grass and moved to the middle of the patio to get further away from the edge. It happened again and I stopped because as soon as I made sound they came at me and I had to jump back, grab the rake to scoop them up to remove them from the area. Because they weren’t behaving like ordinary earth worms I did a search that got me to this site. If there is a way to get rid of them please let me know. This has also taken a toll on my grass. Does it help to remove the bark mulch and not use bark mulch at all?

  58. Hi, I am finding these crazy worms in my community garden here in Boston. This was the first year I’ve seen them! I would love some recommendations on how to get rid of them. Nichole

  59. Hi Josef
    We have them in Rochester Vt, they were freakin’ me out when I was pulling up flax. Big sumo thrashing-around worms, ick. Probably came in on cow or horse mulch. If you find a way to kill them off let us know!
    Les

  60. I have had these worms for years and knew they were not the large nightcrawlers that we used to use for fishing.They have turned my soil into crumbles of dried dirt that has no water retaining ability. My raised vegetable garden is decimated of any organic matter and is almost like trying to garden in concrete. I would love a solution to rid my soil of these worms. For years, no one knew what I was talking about until the guy that runs the Maine Botanical Garden (can’t remember his name) wrote an article about these worms and said that they were more worrisome than the extinction of the honey bee. They are a curse to gardening!

  61. I believe that my Chicago (north suburban) garden is infested with these worms. I find them under the mulch on certain garden beds and under the large bark pieces I used on woodland paths and around the base of two maple trees. They do not appear in my vegetable garden. I can’t find any information about their occurrence in Illinois, nor methods to combat them in my organic yard and garden that contains areas of woodland and prairie wildflowers, five on-ground compost piles, lawn, ferns, vegetable and herb gardens, etc. Please let me know of any advice you may have, and thank you for this article.

  62. In late July this year my lawn suddenly started wilting, and it looked like the grass clippings I’ve been leaving on the lawn when I mow were killing the grass. I’ve been following my organic lawn care co’s instructions (mowing high, leave clippings on, throw on new grass seed, water) so I was not happy with all these dead spots in my lawn. The lawn care company suspects “snakeworms,” and they may be right.
    As I pulled out a plug of crabgrass very large worms were on the surface. I guess that could explain the sudden die off. What to do?

  63. Our Nature Center here in CT gave a lecture on these crazy snake worms, and when someone asked how to rid the garden of them, he said sevin dust could be put down end of March or early April when the young ones emerge. Do you have another suggestion?

    Thanks very much!

  64. HI John,

    Most of the worms at this point in the year are about to mature. I guess another week and you have the first that are able to reproduce.

    It is difficult to determine the species. You need to cut them open and check where the organs are, how many of certain organs there are and what shape they are. Not easy without a microscope and a dissecting kit.

  65. There are somethings you can try. For example heat the soil with black plastic sheeting. There is also a fertilizer that seems to be anirritant to them that may lead to their demise (its called Early Bird). The liquid version seems to work even when diluted 1 part to 20 parts water.

  66. HI Adam,

    Interesting. Most likely it is a different worm. There are some that are aquatic. I am not familiar with those species. Sorry.

    Josef

  67. HI Flo,

    Hm, good question. I don’t know the answer to that. Amynthas lives close to the surface and moles mainly below the surface. Moles will eat earthworms. Not sure about Amynthas.

  68. HI Scott,

    These earthworms will die at 100 F or so but it is unlikely they stay in place in a hot pile. The move quickly and likely they will find a spot near the surface of a compost pile that is closer to ambient temperature.

  69. I live in Broken Arrow Oklahoma. Yesterday, (March 13th), I found over 150 of these worms. It was raining all day and the ground was flooding so the worms were being forced out of their burrows. Their behavior when you tried to pick them up freaked me out at first, but it also made me curious, so I started doing some research online. That led me to this site. I always thought seeing earthworms in your garden and yard meant you had healthy soil. Now I am concerned after reading this article. Is there a way to get rid of these pests? I am worried that finding over 150 worms in about two hours could mean my entire yard is infested. Do you have any advice?

  70. I sighted of which I believe to be a (Amynthas Agretis) Snake Worm. I had never seen such an aggreseve animal resembling a night crawler! It was wrigling down a hot sidewalk at probably in access of 110 degree F if not more. I attempted to pick it up, to help it back into the grass. To my surprise! It quickly sprang from beneath my finger at a high pace or wrigle! It took off down the hot sidewalk! WOW! I had to check this wild little creature out. For sure! Not a night crawler, or what I know as a common earth worm.
    I cautiously fallowed, and observed. It had no apparent head, so I assumed it was not going to bite me, so I attempted to pick it up again. It jumped! It wriggled frantically! It fled away couple more times. Finally got hold of it! It was so strong I could hardly keep it between my thumb and index finger. I quickly pitched it into the grass lawn along the sidwalk! It just as quickly vertically vanished into the lawn.
    This observation, was in Escondido, California at the corner of Ash st. & Valley Parkway. That little critter really got my curiousity up! WOW ÷).???

  71. Dear John,

    Those are really good questions. I am incubating some juvenile earthworms found at a site with Amynthas agrestis that are very small (2 cm) to see what they really are. If these are A. agrestis then you can forget the 50 F figure because we found them in meltwater between leaves. The temperature there was 38 – 40 C.

    Good question too about whether these earthworms die when it gets colder. May be the juveniles have other defenses against the cold, maybe some salts in their bodies that depress the freezing points. Just a speculation, no fact about it at all.

    I will know more when the incubations are successful and I can identify these earthworms. Lets see maybe in three weeks we will know more.

    Josef

  72. For the crazy worm to hatch, does it just need to get above 50 sometime during the day, or is there a certain number of hours for which 50 degrees needs to be exceeded?

    Also, what happens if, it say, gets to 60, but two days later, it gets down to, say 26? Do the hatched worms die? We have 5 days in a row above 60 and then 3 days in a row where the highs/lows were 42/26, 37/18 and 52/27.

    Thanks much,

    John

  73. HI Sandy,
    I am going to conduct some experiments with a fertilizer that contains some saponins that have been detrimental to other earthworms. I wonder whether this product is going to be effective on the crazy snake worm.

    I let you know if it works. I have to wait a couple of months before I try that control strategy cause they are just hatching now. Temperatures are spiking about 10 C (50 F) which appears to be the trigger temperature for them. It could be that soils need a few days longer to reach that temperature after the atmospheric temperature goes beyond 10 C. When they first hatch they are very small thread like creatures. Difficult to find. So we wait for the experiment till they are 3 to 6 cm long ( 1- 2 inches).

    I keep you in the loop.

  74. I live in the Redstone Quarry section of Burlington. Last year I put a lot of mulch in my raspberry patch and that is where I have most noticed them. After reading your article, I will remove the mulch and try to remove the eggs as soon as I can this spring.

  75. Hi Sandy,

    Do you remember where in your yard you saw them. Which part of Burlington do you live in? Burlington is riddled by these earthworms. I find them in many places… Thanks for your comment.

  76. I first noticed these worms in my garden two summers ago. I am very afraid of snakes and noticed that these “night crawler” sized worms were acting like snakes. My friends at first thought I was just being paranoid but then they saw them. They tend to hang out in taller grass or as your article mentions, mulched areas. I would like to try to get rid of them but will probably need to enlist friends who don’t have my fear. If there is something else that I can do, please let me know. I live in Burlington, VT.

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