HELP! My Worms are Escaping.

Worms in a wormery sometimes try to escape. If it’s just one or two adventurous worms, it’s best not to be concerned – all just part of life in a worm bin really. However, if you see worms clumping near the top of the bin, or escaping, there may be a problem brewing…

When you first get your kit the worms need to establish in the bedding so when you are introducing worms to the bin the best way is place them on top of the bedding. Let them dig their own way in. They build little tunnels that provide oxygen. Dumping lots of bedding or waste directly on worms can suffocate them.

IMPORTANT: Worms are sensitive to the weather. If a low pressure system or thunderstorm is moving in, the worms might start clumping and climbing. Watch for a while and see if this is the pattern. If so, do not worry.

Worms need OXYGEN!

Worms breathe through their skins. If they don’t have enough air, they will try and escape. Lack of oxygen could be caused by: *** Too wet

  • Overfeeding
  • Insufficient ventilation**

To check for overfeeding, dig around. Is there a lot of undigested food in the bin? You can take some out. Wait until they have worked through most of the food in the bin before adding more. If you have excess scraps, you can freeze them until later.

Your worm bin should have a lid. Keeping the lid on discourages escapees. Any compost bin can get its air holes clogged with debris or objects surrounding it. Check for this and open up the air passages.

Excess Moisture If the bin is too wet, your worms will start to drown. They may try to crawl away from the danger. This is also bad for composting and it usually has a knock on effect of making everything smell putrid. The worm bedding should have the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. Squeeze some bedding in your hand to check. If water comes out, your bin is too wet.

The cure for a wet bin is to add dry bedding. Shredded newspaper is perfect; so is peat moss, coconut coir and shredded cardboard. Add and stir gently. Lime mix and worm treat also absorb excess moisture. To help prevent moisture problems, keep the lid on, especially when it rains. Don’t add too much wet, sloppy foods like melon or left-over fruit smoothies.

Recent Changes If you like detective work, look at any recent change you’ve made that might be causing the problem. New environment? New bedding? New foods? If possible, reverse the recent change and see if the worms go back to normal.

If the worms are in escape mode, reduce nitrogen-rich foods, which includes grass clippings and acidic foods (tomatoes, onions, pineapples, excessive coffee grounds, tea bags citrus). Once you have the balance of the worm composting back to normal you can increase these types of waste again.

Sometimes people forget to feed their worms. Starvation will drive the worms to greener pastures. If you go on holiday for several weeks it’s worth saving up some scraps in the fridge or freezer. Ask a friend to feed the worms twice a week or so. Maybe you’re eating out a lot and aren’t generating any kitchen scraps. You can always ask a neighbour save their kitchen scraps for you, and save left-over salads (wash off the dressing).

Your worm composter pH Most worm composter owners don’t need to go to the trouble of actually measuring the pH of their worm bin. If you have a pH probe handy, measure it and aim for neutral pH of 7. Adding some lime mix or crushed eggshells helps lower the pH and adds grit that helps the worm digest the food.

Baby Worms When the worms reproduce, hundreds or even thousands of baby worms hatch. The adults might feel crowded and try to leave. You can just ignore the problem and the population will balance itself. Or, scoop up the “volunteers” who are hanging around the sides and top of the bin, and start a new bin.

Quick Fix: TURN THE LIGHT ON! Maybe your worms charge at the lid every time you try to feed them. If you’re trying some of the ideas above, you can keep the worms under your thumb by simply turning on a light. Worms move away from the light and this ensures that as they burrow they oxygenate the waste and so things rebalance.

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