Scientists concerned about new invasive crazy worm

CREATED Jul 16, 2014

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  • Image by UW-Madison Arboretum

  • Image by UW-Madison Arboretum

MADISON - There's a new invasive species in Wisconsin: the Asian crazy worm.  It's called the crazy worm because it's very active.

"If you pick it up, it'll just bounce around on your hand and jump off," explained Brad Herrick, ecologist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum. 
The worm was first spotted there in the fall and it has survived the rough winter.  Despite the funny name, it can cause real damage.
"Once they get into natural areas, especially hardwood forests, they really decimate the understory.  They'll literally consume the forest floor and eat all the leaves," said Herrick. 
Native plant species rely on that organic matter to germinate, so the worm can wipe out native populations.  It can also reproduce without a partner.
"Once they're sexually mature, they can produce cocoons, which form the eggs, all by themselves."
For now, scientists are not trying to eradicate the worms.  They're trying to learn more about them and prevent them from spreading.