Chicago Botanic Garden Warns Of Invasive “Crazy Worm”

CHICAGO (CBS) — It has been a year since the first “crazy worm” was found in Cook County, and there are signs the invasive pest is growing in number.

They came from Southeast Asia, apparently in imported plants or soil, and found a home in Appalachia, where they were first reported in 1993.

Tom Tiddens, supervisor of plant health care at the Chicago Botanic Garden, said the crazy worms also found a home on the East Coast.

“What is concerning is all of a sudden they’ve made a leap into the Great Lakes area,” he said.

They do leap; or flip and squirm and move like snakes.

Unlike regular earthworms, crazy worms deplete the soil. Tiddens said the crazy worms – or jumping worms – drain the nutrients out of the soil and leave it the consistency of coffee grounds.

WBBM 780’s Steve Miller

worms 1 Chicago Botanic Garden Warns Of Invasive Crazy Worm
WBBM 780/105.9FM

Tiddens found them a year ago near at the Chicago Botanic Garden. He recently dug up more near a waterfall at the garden.

“We’d like to have some nightcrawlers. Worms have a positive effect, but this guy is just so much different than our normal worms. He’s to be a little bit feared,” he said.

His advice: If you see one in your garden, report it to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources or Illinois Department of Agriculture.

“You may need to start increasing your mulching to kind of combat it a little bit. Be sure and don’t share plants or anything with soil with neighbors. There right now isn’t anything we can really treat the soil with to, say, kill the worms; but, possibly there are some organic fertilizers that may be deterring the worms,” he added.

Tom Tiddens, supervisor of plant health at the Botanic Garden, holds soil damaged by the "crazy worms" or "jumping worms" found at the garden. He said it's the consistency of coffee grounds. (Credit: Steve Miller/WBBM)

Tom Tiddens, supervisor of plant health at the Botanic Garden, holds soil damaged by the “crazy worms” or “jumping worms” found at the garden. He said it’s the consistency of coffee grounds. (Credit: Steve Miller/WBBM)

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