Invasive jumping worms in Ontario

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Ontario is now home to dozens of invasive jumping worms.

“We are just starting to see them in Canada now,” Michael McTavish, a postdoctoral research fellow at University of Toronto’s S.M. Smith Forest Health Lab, told CTV News Toronto.

Previously, the worms, native to east and southeast Asia, were rare in Canada, with the first sighting traced back to last summer.

But now, McTavish says his research team has recorded 35 sightings in the province. The invasive worms were found mostly in Toronto and Hamilton, along with a few in Kitchener and Windsor.

Typically, McTavish said they find the invasive worm in gardens and ravines.

At the surface, the worms damage gardens and natural landscapes, but more fundamentally, they have a detrimental environmental impact.

An invasive jumping worm is photographed in Ontario (Michael McTavish). “Earthworms are decomposers. They break down organic matter in the soil, which is a good thing except they do it very, very quickly in a way that our species are not really accustomed to,” McTavish said.

Invasive jumping worms have a tendency to aggressively thrash and twitch their bodies – hence why “jump” is included in their name.

That change in the soil can disrupt the way it supports vegetation and natural habitats. The sequential impact is a loss of biodiversity.

For those who find the species in their backyard or in a park, McTavish said to leave the worm where it is found to slow the spread of its disruption. There are also community reporting platforms where these sightings can be logged. 

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