We use Alabama Jumpers worms as our partners in soil improvement and maintenance, for vermicomposting and their castings as fertilizer. Although there is controversy about them, we did our research and decided they would be best for our goals. We’ll share all about them and you can decide if they’ll work for you.
What Are Alabama Jumper Worms?
Alabama jumpers are originally from Asia. However, it now inhabits large portions of North America where it is used as bait worms, released into garden beds to improve the soil, and in vermicomposting.
Their name comes from their ability to wiggle so energetically that they actually jump out of your hand. Let me tell you, putting my hand into the wriggling, tangled mass of worms in the bag was a challenge! As soon as we released them into the raised beds they went wriggling and jumping and slinking away into their new home.
They’re also known as Asian jumpers, garden worms, Georgia jumpers, clay worms, and super reds. Jumpers grow to be 7″ long and are a reddish-brown color with a pale yellow to milky white band.
Alabama Jumper worms are a traditional earthworm rather than a composting worm which means it prefers to dwell in dirt and dig deep instead of staying shallow like red wigglers, for example. However, they do come up to does consume decomposing materials in shallow places, so many people use them for vermicomposting.
Jumpers are tropical worms, so some say they may not be able to endure temperatures that drop below 60 degrees F like red worms and European nightcrawlers can. But there is now evidence that appears to challenge this assumption.
They’re used here in the Deep South where they are known to survive the mild winters without too much difficulty.
Are Alabama Jumpers Invasive?
The Alabama Jumper is surrounded by some controversy. Some in The National Parks Service claim that jumpers released into the forests pose a significant hazard to certain ecosystems.
Some people who are against jumpers say they consume the natural leaf litter on the ground in woodlands. This, they say, “…eliminates the food supply of animals that feed off of invertebrates.” But worms are invertebrates so I’m not able to follow their logic.
In reality, the question of how a worm species might affect local ecosystems is always contentious. In other words, is it invasive to the point of causing harm?
According to reports, composting worms have little environmental effect. The Alabama Jumper is the most recent and fierce topic of discussion in this field.
After doing our research, we decided they would be beneficial to our heavy clay soil and help the soil in our hugelkultur raised beds stay healthy. We ordered 1000 and have released them into our beds.
As always, we encourage you to investigate and make your own judgments regarding the benefits and controversy of the Alabama Jumper.
Advantages of Alabama Jumper Worms
There are a few characteristics of the Alabama Jumpers that make them ideal for worm farming.
- Jumpers prefer to dwell in soil rather than bedding material, which is why they’re also known as earthworms.
- They will thrive in all types of soil: clay, loose, and even sandy soil.
- Jumpers like to dig deep into the soil. This is not what the most popular composting worms like to do. They want to stay near the surface eating decomposing matter. However, jumpers do come up to the surface to eat decomposing materials so they are a good option for composting.
- Because of their “jumping” nature, they are often raised for fishing worms.
- Because of their large appetites, they’re used in vermicomposting for castings. These castings make excellent fertilizer for any organic garden.
- Jumpers are extremely robust, and even dense clay-packed dirt can’t deter them. This is why gardeners and farmers love them because they loosen, improve, and aerate soil effectively.
Given that jumpers need some special attention, some people interested in strictly vermicomposting with bigger worms stick with more conventional composting worms like European Night Crawlers and African Night Crawlers.
The Alabama Jumper is a big eater, like other large composting worms. Some experts report that Jumpers can consume half of their body weight each day.
It’s this voracity that allows these worms to dig through leaf heaps and decomposing materials. This is also what creates the debate about releasing them into the wild.
Special Needs of The Jumper
The conventional view is that the jumper is a tropical worm that thrives between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and can’t survive below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Experts disagree on whether the jumper can withstand frigid temperatures.
Some worm farmers have said that Jumpers survive winters in areas as cold as New York. They say the jumper has the instinct and strength to burrow deeper than the frost line.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources claims that jumpers perish during the winter. However, according to the Great Lakes Worm Watch group, research shows a different story. The following is an excerpt from their educational leaflet:
” But, several other species are also called Red Wigglers or Red Worms such Lumbricus rubellus (sold for bait as Leaf Worm or Beavertails) and increasingly, the Asian species in the genus Amynthas, also called Jumping Worms. These species survive cold winters…”
It’s as difficult to obtain information about the Alabama Jumper’s reproduction rates as it’s been to find information on some of the breeds in our chicken breed library. We are relying on data from professors M.D Tatar and A.B Moore’s study, “Vermicomposting: A Technological Option For Solid Waste Management,” for information.
According to their study, the professors found that Alabama Jumper worms reach sexual maturity in one to three months.
They also report that Jumpers will produce about 2.5 cocoons a week under ideal conditions, and from each cocoon, two young will emerge. This means that their reproduction rate is about 3 less per week than red worms.
Some Key Considerations
Although they are fine living in colonies, they’re happy with digging deep into individual tunnels.
If you release jumpers into the wild, they may not breed as quickly as they would in a bin.
If you keep them in a bin, be sure they have enough space to grow big and plump. In a bin, you can be sure they will bump into each other which makes breeding a certainty.
You will have to divide the worms if the container becomes overpopulated. You will notice they are becoming smaller and the food supply is disappearing too quickly. It will be obvious when you turn the dirt over that there are too many.
We recommend that you use a deep bin if you want to raise Alabama Jumpers this way. Ideally, it should allow for about a foot and a half of dirt and organic material. We use dirt, coconut coir, cardboard torn into pieces, leaves, and compost materials.
If you’re not sure what can or cannot go into your compost pile, you can find that information in our pallet compost bin article.
There are a few ways to release Jumpers into the garden or raised bed.
- You can put them under the decomposing organic matter and cover it with dirt.
- You can set them on the surface near the material and they will tunnel down.
- Or, the way we do it:
- Place the organic materials and cardboard pieces in the bin on top of the dirt.
- Add at least a 2 – 3″ layer of dirt over that, and water it thoroughly.
- Once the water has soaked in, dig a hole that reaches the materials you added and release the worms.
- Immediately cover them with dirt. They will disburse themselves in just a few hours.
- Remember to keep the soil moist.
- If you’re using them in a raised bed or garden, rain or watering your plants is sufficient moisture for the worms.
The Alabama Jumper is a type of earthworm that is well-suited to vermicomposting and excels at soil improvement and maintenance.
They are able to reproduce although they are not as prolific as red worms.
If you are keeping them in a bin, be sure to provide them with enough space to grow.
You can release them into the garden by placing them under organic matter or setting them on the surface near organic material. They will tunnel down and disburse themselves within a few hours. Remember to keep the soil moist so that the worms can thrive.
We will update this article for you as we gain more experience and make real-life observations of them in our raised bed gardens and composting systems.
As always, we’re here to help.
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