CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) is warning the public about an invasive species of worm found in Chesterfield County.

The jumping worm, also known as Alabama jumpers, Jersey wrigglers, snake worms, and crazy worms, are named after their thrashing active behavior when handled or disturbed. Jumping worms thrash rapidly from side to side in a snake-like motion to escape capture, and can even shed the tail end of their body, according to the VCE.

What do they look like?

Jumping worms are reddish to brownish-purple in color, and can sometimes have a glossy, iridescent sheen. The worms are usually around three to six inches long and .2 to .3 inches wide. The worms also have a signature pale-colored band of tissue that wraps completely around, smooth and flush with the body.

What damage do they cause?

The VCE said jumping worms “voraciously feed on leaf litter and mulch,” removing the organic layer and drastically changing the soil structure underneath. Their feeding leaves the soil bare, with a dry, granular appearance akin to coffee grounds. As the worms consume leaf litter, nutrients can be removed from the topsoil, changing the moisture level and increasing soil erosion. This can cause habitat loss for other animals living/feeding on the topsoil, and can expose tree and plant root systems.

In all, the worms can cause poorer soil conditions and can affect the productivity of wild and cultivated plant life.

If you suspect you have found jumping worms, please report your find to your local Cooperative Extension office. Any up-close, in-focus photos of the worm would be very helpful, especially if the clitellum can be clearly seen on the worm. A short video clip of the worm’s behavior would be helpful as well.