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CHICAGO – If you see one of the invasive jumping worms that are spreading across Illinois right now, don’t panic.

Instead, get to your computer as quickly as you can. Scientists need your help to track the slimy pests that are making their way into gardens.

Chris Evans, Forestry Extension & Research Specialist at the University of Ilinois told WGN News Now the recent rains will likely make the jumping worms come out even more.

He added that unlike earthworms, jumping worms are larger – 8 to 12 inches – and have a white band.

The invasive species suck the nutrients out of soil leaving it unable to sustain plants or trees, plus they can flip one foot into the air and thrash around like a snake!

“We think they were an accidental introduction that …they were just brought over as a contaminant with soil or other plants. It wasn’t necessarily an intentional introduction. Though they are used now for fish bait and for vermiculture. ” said Evans.

If you should see a jumping worm or think you have them in your yard or garden, Evans asked that you snap a photo and report it to the University of Illinois Extension to help them track the worms.

Currently, jumping worms have been detected in more than 40 Illinois counties including Cook, DuPage, Kane, McHenry, and Will counties.

There are some preventative measures you can take to protect your garden. “The big risk is sharing plants with other land owners and so the dirt that’s in the plant, even if you can’t see a worm, it can have the cocoons which are little egg sacs that they shed.” said Evans. “They’re microscopic. And so just be careful when you’re doing that. Wash the roots of plants or don’t share mulch or compost around. That’s really the best way to avoid getting them.”

But if you do see them in your garden or on your property, Evans said “Don’t panic! It’s not the end of the world.” He said you can still grow things in your garden, but you may have to make a few changes such as adding more fertilizer or more water.

You can see more in the video above.