The invasion of North American forests by exotic earthworms is producing profound ecosystem changes, such as alterations in soil nutrient cycling, and redistribution and loss of soil organic matter. However, the present and future extent of these invasions is difficult to evaluate without a better understanding of the factors that control the distribution and abundance of earthworms in previously non-invaded habitats. In this study, the species composition and short-term dynamics of three exotic earthworm invasion fronts were studied at a northern hardwood forest in south-central New York State (USA). Belt transects were established at each of the three locations to sample from earthworm-invaded areas through transition zones and into invasion front areas. Lumbricus rubellus, L. terrestrisandOctolasion tyrtaeum were the most common species, but their distribution was not homogeneous along the transects. Whereas, L. rubellus was the only species with relatively high adult densities at transition zones and invasion fronts, L. terrestris and O. tyrtaeum occurred mostly in the heavily earthworm-invaded areas and were rare at the invasion fronts. The density of earthworms along the transects decreased by 60-87 from June 2001 to October 2002 and then recovered in 2003 to values similar to those of 2001. This decrease was apparently caused by reduced recruitment of immature earthworms, probably related to the severe drought periods that the study area experienced in 2001 and 2002. Our data suggest that climate and topography, through their effects on soil moisture patterns, can be critical factors controlling the distribution and spread of exotic earthworms in previously non-invaded habitats.