Earthworms ingest soil that may contain animal and plant pathogens, and these pathogens are likely to be transported internally within the worms. In addition, some exotic earthworms are considered to be plant pests through their disruption of the soil which may cause undesirable impacts on plant growth and diversity. Consequently, a PPQ 526 permit is required for their importation from all countries except Canada. A PPQ permit is not required for the domestic movement of earthworms within the Continental U.S.; although, it may be required for movement to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. Territories. State and Territory approval is also required for all movements.
Eisenia (=Dendrobaena) veneta and D. hortensis are currently the only earthworm species that are permitted for importation into the U.S. from countries other than Canada for release into the environment. However, import permits for environmental release are only issued for receipt from certain European countries that are free from foot-and-mouth disease. When issued, permits require strict conditions for treatment of earthworms prior to shipment to the U.S. to remove any soil from their bodies. They must be reared on a diet free of soil or other vehicles for pathogens. The diet may contain paper pulp, sawdust or Pasteurized vegetables (vegetables that have been held at a temperature of 161 degrees Fahrenheit (71.7 Celsius) for 30 minutes). At no time during the rearing or packaging process are earthworms to be fed soil, uncooked vegetables or partially cooked vegetables. At all times during the rearing operation, worms must be kept separated from the ground by a heavy layer of plastic, fiberglass, metal or other material that is not biodegradable. Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) officers may inspect shipments at any time to confirm the identification and gut contents of the worms, and to make sure that no soil is present in the shipping containers. Receipt of a PPQ permit does not relieve the applicant from the obligation to comply with regulations of other State and Federal agencies (e.g., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).
Earthworms of Canadian origin do not require a PPQ permit for importation into the Continental U.S., but are subject to inspection at the first port of entry. Canadian earthworms may enter the U.S. with soil as long as they do not originate from the following areas:
Permits are required for the movement of earthworms from Canada to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. Territories.
Importation of powdered, frozen or freeze-dried earthworms, their castings, and related products also require a permit. These products have the same restrictions and requirements as importation of living earthworms.
Once imported, PPQ does not require permits for subsequent distribution of the earthworms throughout the Continental U.S. Permits may be required for the movement of earthworms from the Continental U.S. to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Territories. In addition, States and Territories may also regulate earthworms under their own statutes so you must also contact the State Department of Agriculture in each State or Territory where you plan to distribute them.
A USDA importation permit does not relieve you of your responsibility to comply with other authorities that may regulate sales and release of earthworms.
Frequently Asked Questions
View a list of the commonly asked questions and concerns associated with the application process for importation of earthworms.