Jumping ‘snake worms’ will haunt your dreams — and are taking over the US

This worm bucks like a rodeo bull, but it eats like a cow.

Scientists are learning new details about a species of “jumping” earthworms, a k a “crazy” worms, a k a “Alabama jumpers,” so dubbed for their habit of thrashing and bouncing when threatened.

Their gluttonous lifestyles are wreaking havoc on the environment, according to a new study on the annelids published in Soil Biology and Biochemistry.

These crawlers come in three species in the US, all of which originated in Asia and arrived about 100 years ago, likely via imported plants. They became prevalent throughout the South and Mid-Atlantic region, first, but have spread north and west since.

They’re present in 39 states, and it won’t be long before they’ve munched through the contiguous US: They can reproduce asexually, and rapidly at that.

The invasive creatures have already gained a reputation for displacing other land-bound animals, such as centipedes, salamanders and ground birds, by eating through their habitats. In fact, jumping worms are so voracious that they can chew through an area roughly the size of 10 football fields in a single year.

Scientists have recently discovered their bottomless appetites can be a nutrient vacuum, producing an overwrought, malnourished soil. In their soil test areas at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, the invading “jumping” worms had left a surplus of nitrogen in their path, compared with carbon. The two elements exist in a delicate balance to be able to produce healthy plant life, and too much of one or the other can be toxic. In their wake, the worms leave a more granular dirt that’s bad for plant rooting and risks erosion and runoff during rain.

To make matter worse, their outsized involvement in the ground decomposition process also boosts soil’s carbon dioxide output, a greenhouse gas, thus encouraging climate change.

We do our best to make use of this plentiful worm. Anglers prefer them as wriggly worms tend to attract fish. They’re also favored for compost as they munch down food scraps faster than our local worm varieties, Science News reported.

While “jumping” worms re-inherit the Earth, so-called “snake worms” will inhabit your nightmares. Last month, a frightened Virginian called animal control after spotting a menacing-looking reptile. Its legless, black body was mistaken as a snake’s, though its head resembled that of a hammerhead shark. Neither fish nor serpent, this species of asexual, invasive flatworm has also proven difficult to curb, thanks to a “superpower” that helps them regrow their bodies if severed — creating two where there was once one.

So there’s no point in trying to kill it that way.

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