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Crazy worm

A photo of a crazy worm from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County's June newsletter.

Crazy worms are wiggling their way into Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties, and they’re bad for the environment.

Seriously. They’re called crazy worms, and they’re crazy for more reasons than one.

Originally from East Asia, the worms are invasive to the Northeast. Technically called Amynthas agretis, its nicknames range from Asian jumping worm to Alabama or Georgia jumper to snake worm. That’s because of their wild wiggles, which anglers may like for fish to bite, but they’re a nuisance for farmers and gardeners.

They consume topsoil and leave behind loose dirt that lacks nutrients, making them less than ideal for growing things.

It only takes one worm, too, to start a whole population. That’s because the species reproduces through parthenogenesis — that is they don’t need sex to produce babies. Female worms can produce cocoons full of baby worms, according to an article by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County.

Warren, Washington and Saratoga counties are already populated with these worms. Besides churning out poor soil, the worms kill out other species of worm. They release a toxin into the soil detrimental to European worms, a toxin that also keeps predators from eating them.

They look very much like your typical earthworm, but they are very long, up to about 8 inches.

The Cooperative Extension said they can be distinguished by a band near their middle, which tends to be flush with its body, and a milky-gray white color. Other worms have this band, too, but they tend to be thicker than the rest of the body.

Jessica Holmes, master gardener program coordinator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County, said to cut down on the worms’ population growth, people should not move soils from place to place and should clean off boots and shoes after gardening.

If crazy worms are found, Holmes said to dispose of them in a trash bag.

It’s illegal to possess them in New York, though the Cooperative Extension in St. Lawrence County said occasionally they’ll appear in bait shops because they are so active and good at attracting fish.

To learn more or report sightings of the invasive, visit nyis.info/index.php.

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Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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