ALABAMA JUMPER WORMS

Alabama jumpers have now been reclassified to a restricted species in the state of Wisconsin. It is illegal to sell, introduce, transport, possess or propagate them in Wisconsin. 

Common Names:
  • Alabama Jumper 
  • Jumping Worms
  • New Jersey Jumper
  • Garden Worm
  • Clay Worms


Scientific Name:
  • Amynthus Gracilus

The Alabama jumper is native to Asia. However, it now populates large sections of North America where the jumper is used as bait worms, in vermicomposting, and released into garden beds to improve garden soil.  Jumpers are a reddish brown color and grow to about seven inches 

The Alabama Jumper likes to live in soil and digs deep, so it is more of a traditional earthworm than a composting worm. However, since it feeds on the surface decomposing matter it can be used in vermicomposting. Alabama Jumpers get their name from their ability to wiggle so energetically that they actually jump out of your hand. 

Since Jumpers hail from tropical Asia they may not be able to tolerate the temperature swings that red worms and European night crawlers can. However, there is some evidence, which we will discuss later, that turns this belief on its head.  
Alabama Jumpers may well be a great addition to your worm bins. However, this is one breed that has a few special considerations you need to know about. Learn a bit more about the Alabama jumper before you try raising them.                                                                         
Environmental Concerns of Alabama Jumpers  

It should be noted that the Alabama Jumper is surrounded by some controversy. The National Park Service feels that jumpers released into the wild pose a serious threat to the ecosystem. Researchers allege jumpers consume natural leaf litter carpet in woodlands that other invertebrates feed on to survive; in turn, this eliminates the food supply of animals feeding off the invertebrates. The allegation continues to imply that the Alabama Jumper seriously interrupts the natural food chain at its most critical level.  

In reality, there is always debate about how the introduction of a worm breed to new areas may impact local ecosystems. In other words is a species invasive to the point of causing damage.  

Research reports that many favorite composting worms seem to have no impact on the environment. It is the Alabama Jumper that seems to be the focus of the most recent and intense debate.  

We are not taking sides in this debate; however, it's worth looking into. We recommend having a look at some of the research and discussion taking place. Then once informed decide for yourself how you feel about the issue.  

Advantages of the Alabama Jumper 
Alabama Jumpers have several breed traits that make them not suitable for worm farming.  

Unlike most composting worms Jumpers like to live in soil, not bedding material. Alabama Jumpers will thrive in soil, clay, and even sandy soil. Jumpers like to dig deep into the soil; definitely not the chosen home of composting worms. But they do come up to the surface to feast on decomposing matter. It's that behavior that makes them a viable composting worm. That naturally leads into roles as being raised for fishing worms and vermicomposting for castings. 

Jumpers are extremely strong and can power through the even dense clay packed soil. This is what makes them so attractive to gardeners and farmers looking to loosen, improve, and aerate the soil. Given the fact that jumpers have some special care considerations those interested strictly in vermicomposting with larger worms may want to stick to more traditional composting worms such as European Night Crawlers and African Night Crawlers.
 
Like other large composting worms the Alabama Jumper has a big appetite. Some estimates say jumpers can eat half its body weight each day. It is this appetite, which lets these worms power through leaf piles that have caused the controversy over releasing jumpers into the wild. 

Conventional wisdom says the jumper is a tropical worm and does best between 70 F and 80 F and cannot withstand cold temperatures. So one would think that below 60 F the jumper will die off. However, worm farmers report having jumpers survive winters as far north as New York. This may be possible since the jumper has the instincts and strength to burrow deeper than the frost line. 

Even expert wildlife officials differ on the jumper’s ability to withstand freezing temperatures. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural, Resources jumpers die off during the winter. Yet research cited by the Great Lakes Worm Watch organization differs. The following is a quote from their informational brochure:  

" But, several other species are also called Red Wigglers or Red Worms such Lumbricus rubellus (sold for bait as Leaf Worm or Beaver tails) and increasingly, the Asian species in the genus Amynthas, also called Jumping Worms. These species survive cold winters and can be very detrimental to native forests."  

So like most worm farmers, we plan on seeing what real world experience tells us about the heartiness of the Alabama Jumper. 

Information about Alabama jumper reproduction rates can be hard to come by. We are relying on information gained from professors M.D Tatar and A.B. Moore's study entitled "Vermicomposting-A technological option For Solid Waste Management" for information.

In their study, the professors observed that once hatched Alabama jumpers reach sexual maturity in one to three months. They also report Jumpers will produce about 2.5 cocoons a week under ideal conditions and two young will emerge from each cocoon. So that puts their reproduction rate about 3 less per week than red worms, and on par with African night crawlers.  

Special Considerations for the Alabama Jumper 
Alabama jumpers are fine living in colonies, however, it seems as if they are equally content to dig deep into solitary tunnels periodically coming up to feed on decaying matter on the surface. If you release jumpers to the wild they may not breed as quickly as in the bin. Alabama jumpers are popular fishing worms, so like any good fishing worm, they need to be given uncrowded bins to grow nice and plump. 

When raising Alabama jumpers in bins we recommend using a deep bin. Ideally, the bin should allow for about 2 foot of bedding material consisting of black peat moss and shredded paper topped, off with several inches of decaying matter such as leaves and vegetable bits, and then top with rotting wood chips.  They thrive in decaying wood chips.  (not fresh but that have sat a season)  

If you plan on releasing your jumpers into your garden beds to improve soil make sure and release them in bunches. In other words, disburse them in clumps of 100 or so in close proximity to each other so they can find each other to breed. You can either bury jumpers underneath decomposing organic matter or by simply setting them on the surface just below the material. Of course raising jumpers in bins will ensure they bump into each other.