Experts inspect worm invasion of local yard

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HUDSON, N.Y. — It was about three years ago when Anne
Macpherson found worms in her yard, but it wasn't until this year that the
numbers increased to such large numbers that she called in experts.

“They probably have been lingering and they just kind of
taken over and eating a lot, and grown a lot,” says Dr. Rebecca Pinder, an
earthworm ecologist.

She and her colleague Marilyn Wyman of Cornell
Cooperative Extension were digging for worms this afternoon in Macpherson's
lawn.

Dr. Pinder says the worms can grow up to 8 inches long,
move erratically, and have a teal like iridescent shine to them.

These invasive worms originated from Asia, showing up in
our country in the past few decades.

“Anytime you move the soil it's bringing the life with it
so when we move the soil from place to place you are moving these earthworms
also,” she says.

Macpherson says the worms are slowly killing her lawn and
plants.

“They are eating so much they are speeding up the
nutrient cycling and potentially eating the roots of the plants also,” she
says.

Dr. Pinder says this can be a problem as the worms waste,
also known as castings, is aerating the soil –changing the way nutrients flow
through the system — including the Carbon in the air.

“They do take the leaf litter, those leaves are mostly
carbon so when they are decomposing them that carbon is being released into the
atmosphere and that's not good because we want to keep as much carbon as we can
from going up into the atmosphere,” Dr. Pinder says.

And not only that, Wyman says the invasive critters are
interrupting the food chain since salamanders eat what's on the leaf litter.

Experts say there is a chemical treatment, but do not
recommend it due to unknown effects. So the best thing they say is to prevent
further spread and be careful of moving soil around.

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