You can recognize the worms because they act just like their name: crazy, jumping and thrashing when handled. If you pick one up it may shed its tail and act like a threatened snake. These worms can be from 1.5 to 8 inches long with a narrow band around their body (clitellum) that is smooth and milky white, unlike other species that have a raised clitellum. Crazy worms are asexual and reproduce easily, maturing in just 60 days. In one year they can have two hatches. It is easiest to see them in late June and early July. Populations double from September until the first hard frost, enabling them to double their population and do significant damage.
What's the Problem with Crazy Worms?
These pests change the soil and disrupt natural decomposition of leaf litter on the forest floor. The worms "turn good soil into grainy, dry worm casings (poop) that cannot support the understory plants of our forests" (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources ). Crazy worms cause the death and destruction of other plants, animals, and fungi because the understory community can no longer support them. In residential and urban areas, ornamental plantings and turf are damaged by the worms. The voracious appetite and speedy life cycle of these worms give them a competitive edge, causing long term effects and damage to Wisconsin forests.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources believes that crazy worms are not yet wide-spread in Wisconsin, but since they reproduce and spread so quickly it is vital for the DNR to learn where they are and reduce their spread.
We Need Your Help! If you see crazy worms at your house, in your compost, at a boat landing, or in a forest near you, contact: Bernie Williams, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources firstname.lastname@example.org (608) 266-0624
For additional information visit www.dnr.wi.gov and search for "Invasive earthworms".