5-14-07, Trouble in Wormville

Almost immediately we’ve found out that managing a worm farm is not as carefree at it may first appear. Caring for worms does indeed have a certain responsibility attached to it!

Here’s what happened. It was a bit cold outside still, with lows in the high 30s, so we decided to keep our worms indoors until things warmed up a bit.

So, after we first started the worm farm, I’d simply blend up some kitchen scraps, open the bin up once a week, empty out the blender, see how they were doing, and let it sit. I sprayed it a few times with a spray bottle for added moisture, just in case.

I read that if the bedding feels a little dry, then it you should mist it with water. Unfortunately, because we have a pretty hectic schedule, I wasn’t paying as close attention to the moisture levels as I should have been.

Well, it turns out that our bedding mix soaked up the water like crazy, and the fact that we left the worms in a closet in the bathroom turned out to add to the humidity with two people showering.

I also realized that with grinding up the food scraps in a blender to help with the decomposition process also adds lots of moisture. I would throw in the scraps, add a little water, and blend them up.

This in and of itself would have been plenty of moisture added to the bin. In fact, I spoke with a gardener who feels that the food scraps have all the moisture your worms really need.

So, after noticing that lots of worms were leaving the bin one night, I checked out the conditions. The bedding felt very wet and the worms weren’t all that active like when we started. I figured conditions were too wet so to compensate, I threw in more compost mix and gently stirred things up. Unfortunately, conditions were too moist already and the worms were in trouble. Within 48 hours, a lot of our worms were gone.

I felt like I’d failed my poor little red wigglers and vowed to take better care of the next batch. 

 (A note from two months later: Indeed, this was an important lesson and our worm farming experience has gotten better.)

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

alex January 13, 2009 at 10:06 pm

To foil fruit flies the worm experts in the SF Bay Area recommend freezing food scraps before adding them to the worm bin. Apparently this kills off the fruit flies.

Jase June 19, 2009 at 11:05 am

Howdy. One option to consider to help avoid excess moisture is to use worm bins made of wood. Wood breathes better than plastic, and also absorbs excess moisture. I think it’s pretty much impossible to “drown” a worm colony in a wooden bin.

I recently posted photos/descriptions of the wooden worm bins I use for my compost worms on my blog:

Haven’t read through the rest of your stuff yet — looking forward to seeing how you dealt with the moisture/escape problem.

Jeanne M Kliejunas April 18, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I’ve been finding small black flies in with my worm mixture. This has been happening for the past 6 months. I used to have some fruit flies, but these black flies are miniatures of black flies found outside. What causes this and how can I remedy the infestation?
Thank you!

christy June 9, 2010 at 10:43 pm

I’ve got millions of microscopic reddish moving things in my worm bin. I’m not sure if they are good or bad. If they’re bad how can I get rid of them? If they are good, what are they?

thank you,

Douglas Farah June 19, 2010 at 9:14 am

I lost a lot of worms due to too much moisture. I cleaned the bin, kept the worms that were still alive, added some fresh ones, and began again. The thing is that there are now a large number of baby worms, but very few adults. The bin does not smell, there is some worm tea produced, and they are active. But there are almost no adults. The babies have been there but barely seem to be growing. There is a great deal of compost ready to be emptied, but I can’t get the babies out of the compost to empty it. Any ideas?

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