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Earthworms are often seen as a welcome presence in gardens, and even on fishing hooks. But in the Northeast, experts say invasive “crazy worms” from Asia are creating havoc in forests — and they say the unusual worms are a danger to animals and plants, and especially to sugar maple trees.

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“The street cred that they have is hiding the invasion,” Josef Görres, a soil scientist at the University of Vermont, says of the worms.

“I call earthworm invasions ‘socially cryptic,’ ” Görres tells NPR, “because folks think of earthworms as the good guys — and maybe they are in certain ecosystems. But in the context of the northern [U.S.] forest, they are relative newcomers that have the potential to have huge effects.”


Invasive Species: We Asked, You Answered

Crazy worms — also known as jumper worms — reproduce rapidly. They also love to tear through the nutritious layer of decomposing leaves and nutrients that blanket the forest floor — a habit that can be very damaging to forests, including maple trees.

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