Jumping Snake Worms Are Hiding in East Texas
If you've seen an earthworm that wiggles and thrashes with the force of a snake, you've seen a jumping snake worm. They're a little creepy, and taking over East Texas as we speak.
Jumping snake worms arrived in the U.S. about 100 years ago on potted plants, and scientists are learning more about them all the time.
They were first noticed in the South and mid-Atlantic, and you might have seen them in East Texas as you've been digging. It's the thrashing tail that slaps your hand as you're trying to set that peaceful little tulip bulb in the ground. The angry worm wants no part of your gardening project, and it is letting you know you're in its space. It can even slime and shed its tail as a defense mechanism.
The worms do more than give us a slimy whip on the hand. Scientists have learned they're also wreaking havoc on the environment, devouring protective forest leaf litter, and leaving behind bare soil. They can chew through an area that's about the size of ten football fields in a single year, and they "displace other earthworms, centipedes, salamanders, and ground-nesting birds, and disrupt forest food chains." They can change soil chemistry and microbial communities as they go, according to scientists. And they don't need a mate to reproduce. We'd never know all of this just by looking at a picture of these slimy little creatures. Just like that guy on the dating app, there's a long and twisted story there.
This isn't the prettiest visual, but it's important to know. If you see a jumping snake worm in your yard and try to kill it by chopping it in half, be aware that it probably won't do any good. These worms can regenerate, and what was one worm will eventually heal itself and slither away as two. Ew. Good grief, add this worm news to a growing list of unsettling things to think about right now.
Is there anything that the slimy critters can be used for? Fishing comes to mind. Since they're so active, anglers are using them to attract fish and having some success. They can also be effective on compost piles because they munch down food in a hurry.