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Invasive Species: Jumping Worms

Jumping Worms

(Amynthas agrestis, Amynthas tokioensis and Metaphire hilgendorfi)

Other common names: Alabama jumper, Georgia jumper, disco worm, Jersey wiggler, snake worm, crazy worm.

*Detected in Michigan*


  • 1.5” to 8” glossy gray  to brown worm.
  • Distinctive jumping or thrashing behavior and snakelike movements.
  • Body is firm and shiny.
  • Clitellum (smooth, wide collar) is flat and goes all the way around the body. 
  • Worm castings create uniform, granular soil similar to coffee grounds.
  • Overwinters in 1-2 millimeter cocoons; only one worm is needed to produce many cocoons.

A hand holding a jumping worm between the thumb and index finger. The worm's clitellum is indicated with a label.

Flat, often gray or milky white clitellum of a jumping worm. Photo courtesy of Shikha Singh, JLW CISMA.

A jumping worm on a forest floor in leaf litter. A Sharpie marker lies next to it to indicate the worm's size.

Entire jumping worm (Metaphire hilgendorfi), including flat, milky clitellum near head (closer to bottom of photo) – Photo courtesy of Holly Greiner-Hallman, Oakland University.

Bare soil characterized by small clumps about the size of coffee grounds, indicating the presence of jumping worms.

Uniform, granular soil created from worm castings, similar to coffee grounds. Photo courtesy of Holly Greiner-Hallman, Oakland University.

Look-alike species

Jumping worms are similar in appearance to earthworms (also known as nightcrawlers) but can be distinguished by the jumping worm’s thrashing movements. Earthworms have a raised clitellum that does not fully encircle the body, whereas jumping worms have a flat clitellum, often gray or milky white in color, with no gap.


Use the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) online reporting tool.

- Or - download the MISIN smartphone app and report from your phone -


Jumping worms include three similar-looking species: Amynthas tokioensis, Amynthas agrestis, and Metaphire hilgendorfi, all of which are in the family Megascolecidae. Two or three species often occur in the same location.

Habitat: Jumping worms inhabit leaf litter and upper levels of soil and can infest gardens, yards, potted plants, compost, mulch, forests and agricultural fields.

Native Range: Southeast Asia

U.S. Distribution: Though present in the U.S. since the late 1800’s, jumping worm populations have been growing and spreading in recent years. Jumping worms are established in areas of the Northeast, Midwest, and the South.

Michigan Distribution: Jumping worms were first recorded in Michigan in 2008 in Oakland County. Numerous unverified reports suggest jumping worms could be widespread in the Lower Peninsula.

Local Concern: Individual worms can reproduce without a mate (parthenogenesis) and their populations can increase quickly. They consume large amounts of leaf litter, destroying this important organic layer while displacing or out-competing native species including insects, salamanders, ground nesting birds and other earthworms. As the worms consume organic matter, they change the composition of the soil, making it less favorable for natural fungi and bacteria as well as for plant growth. In forests, this could affect native plant regeneration.  In lawns and gardens, this could mean harm to ornamental plantings and turf.

Means of Introduction or Spread: Jumping worms can be spread through infested mulch, compost, potted or balled and burlapped plants, transplanting, or through bait release. Community compost and mulch piles or any resources where soil or plant material comes from multiple locations have the potential to spread jumping worms.

Control: Currently, there are no proven methods of control or pesticide management for jumping worms.

  • Individual worms can be killed by placing in a sealed plastic bag and freezing, heating, or sending to the landfill, but this may not control a population.
  • Mulch and soil/compost can be heated to 130F for at least 3 days to destroy cocoons.

Prevention is the best management:

  • Play, Clean, Go: Clean shoes, vehicles, and gear when moving from site to site.
  • Purchase only new soil, bare-root plants, or mulch that doesn’t contain jumping worms or cocoons.
  • Don’t use these worms as bait or composters.