Jumping worms?

mattmelcher(5)June 29, 2007

Really, jumping larvae...

I was watering a flower bed with zinnia's in it this morning. I was checking the progress when I was startled by thousands of little white worms/larvae 'jumping' all over the place. They are small, maybe 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch long and white with no other markings. They fold in half and then fling open, hurling themselves up to a foot or so. There were literally thousands of them in this small bed. I did a search and I think they may be some sort of gnat or 'springtail'. That's something new to me.

I took some pictures and a short video and posted them on my garden blog:


So my questions are:

What are they?

Will they harm any plants?

Am I going to have an outbreak of some nasty or annoying insect?

As of now I'm leaving them be since they don't seem to be causing any problems (other than creeping me out).

Thanks for your help


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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

You know, I have never seen anything like that! Thanks soo much for that little video clip.

Out of curiosity, I googled the phrase 'jumping maggots'
( I knew that they were a maggot of some kind) and, believe it or not, it turns out that several species of Dipterans (flies) have maggots (larvae) that 'jump'.

I have NO idea what kind you might have, however, so I can't help you there.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2007 at 2:54PM
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malorn(7 S.E. Mass)

that is a great video...no idea what it is..but good pics

    Bookmark   June 30, 2007 at 10:13AM
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Update: These things are only in the cocoa bean shell mulch, not in the bare ground just 2 feet from this bed, nor the bed the has wood chip mulch 6 feet away. Also, they come out about 5 minutes after the water hits the mulch. Also, the pointed end is the front I think.

Check my blog for a new video and a couple of new pictures.

It looks to me like they are some sort of jumping maggot (fly). I'll do some more looking. thank for the help...

Here is a link that might be useful: More Jumping Worms...

    Bookmark   July 1, 2007 at 12:24PM
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botanybob(Northern Idaho)

Matt -- That is just bizarre. They clearly are maggots (fly larvae) and you are right about the narrow end being the head. Most fly larvae are not plant pests, although a few can be quite damaging. Unless someone recognizes it, you will probably need an adult to ID it. If you collect a few and keep them in a container with moist (not wet) soil and vegetation (maybe some cocoa hulls), you should be able to rear out some adults. Then you can take them to your nearby extension office for ID.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 4:01PM
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I posted my question at BugGuide.net and here is the response.


'Best not to disclose the location of the body:-) Seriously, the larvae of "cheese skippers" (flies in the family Piophilidae) feed on decomposing fats, so frequently are seen on carcasses in advanced stages of decomp.'

I looked up some things on wikipedia. While they don't sound like the most pleasant creatures they also don't seem to pose any threat so I'll leave them alone


thanks to rhizo 1. Your reply sent me in the right direction.

Here is a link that might be useful: Jumping Worms blog post

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 9:13AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Thank YOU! Your video clips of the 'amazing flying maggots' make me laugh whenever I look at them!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 11:09AM
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Is there a way to kill these maggots? If they didn't jump, I wouldn't have bothered because worms that don't feed on live plants are usually beneficial to plants. But since I have many indoor plants in my apartment that seem to have these maggots in the soil, I worry that they will jump out of their pots and land in furniture and other places and maybe get carried by foot into sanitary places like the kitchen.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 12:45PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

sosreptile, your situation is more likely quite different. Fungus gnat larvae are relatively common in house plants. Don't worry, however: they don't jump around all over the place.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 2:05PM
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Perhaps you misunderstood my previous post. The worms I have DO jump around. And there are hundreds of them. Every time I water top-down, hundreds start jumping around about 3-5 inches high to keep themselves from drowning. The worms are about 5 mm in length (max) and white. They look exatly like the ones in mattmelcher's videos.

In fact, if I pour enough water such that a 1-2 cm layer of water sits on top of the soil, the water surface is almost covered in these worms. When the water surface meets the soil surface as it's draining, they start jumping around.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 4:25PM
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I just watered my cocoa mulched garden and was shocked by the jumping worms! I know this is an old post, but am hoping someone can calm my nerves.... Do i need to do something to them? Will they eat my raspberries? There are 100s maybe 1000s of them!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 8:47PM
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I have the same bugs, also in cocoa bean mulch. TrueGreen took a sample of them back to the shop. So I may have an answer for you soon.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 11:25AM
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Just googled the same issue in my cocoa hull mulch. Looking forward to hearing what TrueGreen, (who we also use), says, Peggy.

I noticed it just after watering, and although it's pretty amusing to see, it's also a bit disturbing because there are so many of them. I have a couple of happy robins out there, though:)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 9:14AM
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are they harmful to bushes?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 8:48PM
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The tiny, white, jumping worms are Folsomia Candida (actually anthropods, not worms) or Springtail. Lots of photos and information available through Google. They feed on decomposing material in soils.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2012 at 5:29PM
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sosreptile, you can layer the top of your soil with sand to inhibit the flies from laying any more eggs in your soil. I would use a drench of a mixture of water and safers soap to kill those little worms. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 1:36PM
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I don't think those are springtails. They're most likely the larvae of a fly in the piophilidae family, carrion flies, best known of which is the cheese fly or cheese skipper. Make sure you wash your hands after handling the soil around them. Cheese skippers primarily feed on bacon, cheese, rancid meat, so I don't know if this is actually the cheese skipper or a close relative that likes coffee (and, apparently, cocoa hulls), but most of their family and can cause serious trouble (myiasis) in the intestines. Search Wikipedia for cheese fly.

I found out about them because they're all through the coffee grounds I'm drying in the sun to make an organic fertilizer. The original video (fortunately still up on Matt's Garden, though the site seems to have been abandoned) is exactly what I'm seeing in my coffee, and would like to get rid of.

This post was edited by duginkc on Wed, Sep 4, 13 at 18:15

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 6:04PM
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