Invasive worm discovered in UW Arboretum

Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 --- 9:23 p.m.

An invasive worm has been discovered at the UW Arboretum, making for the first confirmed report in the state.

The mysterious Asian crazy worm, called Amynthas agrestis, eat leaves off the forest floor and threaten forest health.

It's also concerning for ecologists because it has a high reproductive rate and can invade quickly.

"It can produce cocoons by itself, so that's one of the reasons we're concerned about it because it can reproduce very readily," said ecologist Brad Herrick.

The worm has a white ring below its head and is known to jump around on the ground.

The worm was originally discovered in the fall of 2013, but ecologists thought it might die during the winter season. But, that wasn't the case. Now, staff at the Arboretum are taking special precautions to make sure the species doesn't spread.

"We're trying to avoid areas where we found it, and if that isn't possible, scraping our boots off with a brush, washing our shoes, washing our vehicle tires, doing what we can to make sure it doesn't spread from here," Herrick said.

Officials are encouraging homeowners to be on the lookout for the worms in their gardens, and report any sightings to the DNR or to the Arboretum.

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