Alabama Jumpers are actually an earthworm compared to most other worms many are familiar which are composting worms hence making them a better choice for your garden.
Composting worms usually prefer staying towards the top of the garden beds for several reasons, moisture, food availability… Another reason is many cannot take a harsh bedding such as hard packed clay, sand or even heavy dirt. Remember these are composting worms looking to devour breaking down organic matter and not dirt worms.
Now while the Alabama Jumpers also look for decaying organic matter to chow down on the surface areas, they are an earthworm which can burrow down up to 12 feet or so. They can and in fact prefer packed hard clay, packed dirt and even sandy soils to live in.
Since the compost worms basically stay towards the surface, the Alabama Jumpers also perform additional tasks to help your flowers, vegetable gardens and lawn areas grow. As they dig down deep, they leave open burrows which help to aerate the soil, allow for better water penetration through them and help promote better root growth for your plants by allowing roots to access and easily flourish throughout the burrow system.
At the same time many composting worms will not survive colder winter temperatures throughout the continental USA. On the other hand, Alabama Jumpers utilize two techniques to survive cold temperatures. In moderately cold areas they may simply burrow down to warmer soils several feet. In the colder climates the Alabama Jumpers coil up into a slime covered ball which they produce and go into a sleep like state, similar to hibernation.
Introducing your worms to the garden should not be a method of scattering them throughout. Rather using the Alabama Jumpers for instance, releasing in clumps of approximately 500 worms in a pile allowing them to dig down. Once they are down it is important to either have some decaying organic matter for them to eat in the immediate vicinity or place some material on top where you just released them. Another good food source to use if needed is Purina Worm Chow by sprinkling a little on top where you released them as needed.
The reasoning behind this method versus scattering them throughout is the fact that the worms need to be able to find each other to breed. If scattered around they will have difficulty doing so leaving you the option of buying new worms each year. By feeding the worm piles you drop into the garden you are keeping a good number of worms around to breed, lay cocoons and later on hatch.
Down the road as they become more populated the worms will begin to spread out and covering more and more territory in your yard or garden areas.
Alabama Jumpers are a unique worm and are a true earthworm. Rather than mainly stay near the surface they dig out tunnels allowing them to burrow down into the ground.
Most composting worms are not made to be let loose outdoors and will eventually die if not placed in the right environment. For instance European nightcrawlers can survive throughout the United States in garden areas that have a lot of organic material on the surface such as damp layers of leaves for them to go through without having to burrow down deep into hard packed soils.
This is why many people do not see any or only a few worms the following year when released in the yard, vegetable and flower garden areas.
The Alabama Jumper on the other hand can burrow down deep and the harder packed the soil, clay or sandy materials are the better. They can tolerate these harsher conditions due to a tougher outer layer of skin encompassing the worm. This helps them to survive year after year.
The other difference comparing most composting worms to the Alabama Jumper and other earthworms is their ability to burrow down deep to escape the extreme colder surface temperatures and taking advantage of the naturally warmer temperatures a few feet below.
The other method earthworms can use is called estivation, where they coil up into a slime covered ball which they produce and go into a sleep like state, similar to hibernation. Most composting worms such as the red wiggler or nightcrawlers cannot estivate but rather die when it gets too cold.
Of course as with any type of worm the environment needs to be correct, however the Alabama Jumper has proved to be probably one of the most if not the number one worm able to adapt too many conditions. Originating in the tropics of some Asian countries and adapting all the way up to northern New England within the United States that we have found thus far.
The Alabama Jumper aerates plant root systems by generating these burrows which they constantly travel up and down through. As with any other worm, they leave their trail of worm castings further enhancing any type of soil condition.
Previously thought to come up to eat during the evening hours and hunker down below ground during the daytime has been found to be untrue.
In circumstances where one may have mulch or other organic matter in the yard or garden areas which remain damp or heavily shaded areas, the Alabama Jumper worm will eat almost continuously.
In fact, in test bins I set up in controlled environments which were covered so as not to allow any light to penetrate over the past month, I found the Alabama Jumpers constantly eating at all hours of the day. With just 300 worms in each worm bin, I ended up feeding them half a cup of food per day or equivalent to approximately a one gallon container of food per 300 worms over one month’s time.
I ran this experiment only after examining the Alabama Jumpers outside under some pine trees. The Alabama Jumpers would be active all day long in the shade as long as the pine needles on the ground were damp to wet. Once the pine needles were permitted to dry out, the worms would burrow below the surface and come back up only at night once the sun set.
So if you are looking for the perfect worm to release outside in the yard and garden areas to assist in aeration and soil enhancement, the Alabama Jumper is what you want.
All across the Internet one will find that Alabama Jumpers live only as far north as Chattanooga Tennessee. I even originally believed this to be true since Alabama Jumpers originated from the tropical regions of some Asian countries.
As some of you already know, most web sites also state that one cannot raise Alabama Jumpers in a controlled environment and have them reproduce. Well it has been over a year now that I have been raising Alabama Jumpers prolifically as well as studying them. These are probably the most fascinating earthworm I have come across to date. Their ability to adapt to different conditions is astonishing!
First to better understand the Alabama Jumpers, one must realize the originated in the tropics where they survive through long periods of drought followed by torrential rainy seasons.
What most are already aware of is that they survived moderate winters in the southern half within the continental USA.
However, only recently I have found they survive much harsher winters and been able to verify this. In fact what makes this even more amazing is the fact that most of the country had record low temperatures this past winter and yet we have located the Alabama Jumper worms as far north as New England this summer!
The areas thus far are in upstate New York as well as in Massachusetts.
What makes the ability to adapt from one extreme to another is not yet known or over how many generations however I have not seen nor heard of any other worm being able to adapt to such muggy, humid, high temperatures to the frigid cold weather.
I do know from a past experiment last winter that the Alabama Jumpers will begin to slow down as their metabolism begins to slow at temperatures in the low to mid fifties.
I am working on another experiment, one which I hope to be able to see how far down under ground the Alabama Jumpers will burrow, perhaps shedding some light on the ability to survive the extreme cold weather in the continental U.S.
The exciting part to all of this now proves that just about anywhere in the continental U.S., avid gardeners with clay or hard packed non producing soils can take advantage of the Alabama Jumpers and the work they perform, revitalizing these types of soils with worm castings and aeration holes due to their burrowing underground.
Below are some newer pictures I have taken recently of the Alabama Jumpers on the Organic Worm Farm, a highly reputable worm business to order worms from.
Today I went to pick up some manure for a test to see if Alabama Jumpers make good manure worms since I get asked this about once a week or so. When I got to an acquaintances home, he had my bag, approximately 30 pounds, ready for me to pick up.
He asked me to look at his pile of donkey manure and inform him of what type of worms he had in the pile.
As he began to scratch off the top layers, worms began appearing. At first there was a good mix of red worms, including European nightcrawlers. Then he scratched off a little more and I jumped to grab some worms. To my complete amazement, here were Alabama Jumpers living naturally in his manure pile.
I was not sure how the Alabama Jumpers would do as a manure worm, especially since they seem to prefer hard packed material.
After examining the pile I noticed the Alabama Jumpers were residing below the top quarter of the manure where over time it had begun to become more compacted.
Well I ran home with my little bag of manure and realized my test was shot out the window. I decided just to setup a little manure pile outside and throw a quarter pound of Alabama Jumpers into it. I then grabbed a number of the small juvenile Alabama Jumpers and headed over to the manure pile.
Once I released the Alabama Jumpers they had all disappeared down into the manure in less than four minutes. They took right to the pile, even the young juvenile worms.
I plan to allow the pile to sit for a week or so before proceeding to scour through the manure to see where we are at. I will take pictures and post them at that time.
I do believe as the manure compacts a bit the Alabama Jumpers will do great as there is plenty of decomposing organic matter for them to eat and the temperature should remain a constant for now as the manure has already gone through its heating up process.
Being I was running behind, I went to feed the Alabama Jumpers and my other worms the other night, which really should be done during the course of the day. The reason is that Alabama Jumpers as with other worms, earthworms feed during the evening hours. Alabama Jumpers especially are known to come to the surface during the night to feed on organic matter and return to the soil when the sun comes up.
In short this actually worked to my advantage for once since I have been trying to get pictures of the juvenile Alabama Jumpers since other sites claim raising Alabama Jumpers in captivity cannot be done while having a good reproduction rate.
Now the two pictures below of the juvenile Alabama Jumpers do not show a true 3D reality of what I can see since they are in 2D, they definitely prove one can raise Alabama Jumpers in a worm bin!
Below are to pictures which show thousands of newly hatched to one month old Alabama Jumpers raised in a worm bin which is three feet long by two foot wide. I have approximately a depth of one foot of bedding material.
The juvenile Alabama Jumpers are from a quarter inch long to approximately two inches long and literally covered the top of the worm bin.
I have been honing in on my shooting skills with my digital camera on the Alabama Jumpers as they burrow down rather quickly once I remove the lid. Today was a better day hence I figured I would post an update.
Now for those in disbelief that anyone can raise Alabama Jumpers which reproduce at a good rate in a controlled environment, here are some pictures for you. After all a picture is worth a thousand words or in this case worms!
These are just some of the juvenile Alabama Jumpers in the worm bin I have been raising them. When I dig down it literally will expose thousands more of the little guys from a quarter inch to about two inches in length.
The first picture below displays little stick like items in the photo which in reality are little Alabama Jumpers. This morning there were thousands on the surface area feeding on the remnants of some Purina Worm Chow I have been feeding them.
The following picture is a close up image of a few of the small Alabama Jumpers. As you can see from the picture, they start off as translucent before growing into the grayish color known to the Alabama Jumper.
That’s all on the latest Alabama Jumpers update however will post some more in the near future.
I found out something interesting concerning Alabama Jumpers a while back from a fellow long time worm farmer located in Alabama. While one would assume that these worms would be called Alabama Jumpers in Alabama, they are not. Rather they refer to them as Wigglers.
This is not to be confused with the red wigglers most folks use for composting as the Alabama Jumpers are grey in color, hence also called Grey Wigglers.
Getting a little confusing? Well it gets better!
Since Alabama Jumpers are also called Georgia Jumpers, I decided to call on another friend and long time worm farmer from Georgia. Again, one would assume in Georgia they would call them Georgia Jumpers but wrong again. They call them Alabama Jumpers!
I just thought you might find this humorous and wonder whoever came up with the name Alabama Jumpers since apparently it was not the folks in Alabama!
Anyone can raise Alabama Jumpers for fishing or composting either outside in a compost pile or contrary to what most other web sites state, inside in worm bin.
Alabama Jumpers have a tougher skin allowing them to stay on the hook better than many other types of worms. The name itself, Alabama Jumpers should give it away to the type of action they perform when dipped into your local fishing hole.
Alabama Jumpers originate in the tropical and subtropical regions however are known to live in the soil as far north as Chattanooga, TN. They do well but become a little sluggish once the temperatures reach into the mid fifties inside a compost pile or worm bin.
Raising Alabama Jumpers outside for yard and garden composting as well as for fishing, you will need a compost pile basically consisting of shredded newspaper and cardboard or hay. As this decomposes it will generate some protection for your worms and their food source.
Alabama Jumpers survive well when fed vegetable scraps, heeding caution to heating up the entire pile at once. To avoid this, place your food scraps into one corner of the pile, under the shredded material or hay and move clockwise or counter clockwise as you continue to add more material over time, permitting areas to heat up and others to cool down enough for the Alabama Jumpers to begin eating.
To raise Alabama Jumpers for fishing inside in a worm bin is a bit different. I have personally been successful raising them in two types of bedding materials. Either way demands a good airflow on both the top and bottom of the worm bin.
The first way is to use partially decomposed hardwood shavings and sawdust. Keep away from softer woods, pines which can contain turpentine, oak which can be acidic or woods that put off an odor such as cedar. Mix about 5% sphagnum peat moss with the material. The bedding material should have a depth should be about 1.5 feet. Add about one half cup of sand per five gallons of bedding material. Again you may add vegetable scraps the same way you would raise red wigglers, by placing in one corner at a time and covering it up with some damp shredded newspaper or cardboard to avoid odors coming from the worm bin.
The second method requires another type of peat moss, Michigan Black Peat Moss. Do not attempt this with sphagnum peat moss as it does not work due to the decomposition stage and the way each retains moisture…
Here you will want to fill your worm bin with about one foot of Michigan black peat. Do not add food scraps to this system as I will explain in a bit. Usually the black peat comes at the right moisture level and is presoaked so there is no need to work it any further. You will find the bedding material becomes compacted within a week or two, something that you would be concerned about with most worms but nothing to be concerned about when raising Alabama Jumpers. Remember these worms do well in hard packed clay and seem to appreciate the hard packed bedding material.
As for feed, vegetable scraps will sour this mix too easily. The best food to use is Purina Worm Chow fed daily to your worms. The Worm Chow also makes an excellent supplement to feeding your worms whether in an outside compost pile or raising them in a worm bin.
Alabama Jumpers can lay cocoons that hatch rather quickly in either compost piles or worm bins as long as you maintain an eco friendly environment for them.
To learn more on this subject, be sure to drop by the Worm Composting Blog and sign up for the free newsletter if you have not already. Bruce Galle, the author of this article has been raising worms for over thirty years and continues educating the public on raising both composting and fishing worms from his Blog as well as his other web site, The Worm Expert.
After thirty days, my experiment with raising Alabama Jumpers in Michigan peat moss has proven fruitful. The Alabama Jumpers are doing well and keep producing little jumpers.
I checked on the worms this afternoon and noticed I had newly hatched Alabama Jumpers and some up to two inches long in the breeder bin already. It appears they lay cocoons that hatch and grow rapidly to this point thus far.
The bedding material is packed tight again as I already loosened it up with a garden claw two weeks ago. My concern is the amount of oxygen able to penetrate towards the bottom since the deeper I go the more packed the bedding material is. I did not loosen the bedding this time as I plan to screen the worm bin one evening this week.
The Alabama Jumpers are thoroughly enjoying the Purina Worm Chow I have been feeding them daily.
Not only are there little ones in the breeder worm bin, however the adolescent Alabama Jumpers are in great shape, thick and healthy.
Going back to the original experiment with bedding consisting of hardwood sawdust and shavings, the material is over 50% composted now into worm castings. This bedding material does not pack hard as the Michigan black peat moss does hence the oxygen levels appear to be doing well since the Alabama Jumpers congregate throughout the bedding material. In this bin I still continue to feed them the Purina Worm Chow as well as some food scraps every few weeks. I noticed the other evening that this bin was covered with literally a hundred or more new juvenile Alabama Jumpers as I was adding some more feed.
This brings me to another point. I am still noticing that the areas with food scraps contain the larger mature worms and newly hatched juveniles. I am not seeing any of the two inch or so juveniles in the food scrap area as I am only finding them in the surrounding areas.
Contrary to what most web sites state, that one cannot breed Alabama Jumpers in captivity, when it comes to raising them in an environment favorable for reproduction to occur, these two experiments prove otherwise. In fact both experiments have proven to be an effective means by which anyone can raise prolific Alabama Jumpers in a worm bin. The only concern is the Michigan black peat compacting so hard over a two week period which can be eliminated by stirring up the worm bin bedding thoroughly every two weeks.
This is good sign since not only can Alabama Jumpers be raised for composting but they make an awesome live fishing worm. I have fished with them as bait myself in the past and was quite impressed. They remain on the hook apparently due to the tougher skin they have which enables them to borrow through hard packed clay and survive in course sandy soils. The Alabama Jumper lives up to its name as super live bait worm by wiggling more in the water than its relatives.