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Why Are My Worms Trying To Escape??

Worm Escape

This is probably just about the MOST common vermicomposting question out there! I’ve had quite a few people inquiring about this just in the past week alone – so it’s definitely time I dedicated a post to the topic!

Let’s first talk about the word “escape”, since it is a crucial factor when it comes to evaluating the situation. If your worms are indeed trying to literally escape from your worm bins – especially when doing so en masse – you definitely have a serious problem that needs to be addressed right away.

If on the other hand you have a handful of worms crawling up the sides and lid of the bin, with perhaps a few dummies ending up dried up on your floor – you are probably ok! Especially if your system is brand new.

I would wager to say that when worms are added to a brand new vermicomposting system – especially after being shipped – they are far more likely to wander a little, than to completely settle in right away! Consider the fact that they are 1) being introduced to a completely new environment, and 2) have been in motion for at least a couple of days prior to being added to the bin/bed.

Worms raised by worm farmers on a large-scale basis will typically be kept in giant, open beds, and will commonly be fed some sort of manure. They are NOT kept in a million Rubbermaid tubs and fed food scraps – I can tell you that much for sure!
:lol:

SO…

When they are introduced to this totally new environment (the enclosed plastic bin), it’s not too surprising that they are a little restless for the first little while! How you set up your system can have a major impact on the situation as well. I recommend setting the bin up at least week before the worms arrive, so they are at least have a microbially active habitat. You can take this a step further by actually adding some compost inoculum (compost from another worm system would work well), or aged manure if you happen to have either of these. Even some leaf litter (decomposing leaves, found at the bottom of an outdoor leaf heap or on a forest floor) could help a lot.

Aside from preparing the best habitat possible, you can also take some steps to help keep your worms down in the bedding once they’ve been introduced to the sytem. If it is possible for you to shine a light over top of the bin for a few days straight that would be great (use a fluorescent or LED light to save power usage). Something that has also worked for me is adding a LOT of dry, absorbent bedding at the top of the system (generally more applicable for enclosed, plastic systems) – this helps to keep the sides and underside of the lid really dry, thus discouraging the worms from roaming up there.

I can remember back to when I received my very first European Nightcrawler shipment. They were very restless for the first little while, and I actually lost some due to them crawling out and falling onto the floor. When I added a bunch of dry bedding to the top of the bin, it worked very well! The worms stayed down where it was moist, and I didn’t lose any more.

Generally, after a few days (probably no longer than a week at the most) the worms should be quite used to their new home. If you are using the light technique I’d recommend turning the light off for short periods of time to see what happens – start with 10, 15, 20 minutes and go from there if they seem to be staying down.

How do I know if there is indeed a serious problem?

Trust me – you WILL KNOW!
:-)

If the worms are all balled up together in various spots in the bin, or in the handles (in the case of Rubbermaid-type bins), or they are escaping via every possible route you’ve made available (even the smallest air holes), then it is likely more than just being unsettled and needing time to get used to their habitat. Almost certainly, something you have added in the bin is causing them harm.

If you are using potting soil (something I definitely don’t recommend) for example – this can sometimes contain inorganic fertilizer salts which can really harm your worms. Even though these mixes typically contain a lot of peat moss (a good worm bedding), I prefer to steer clear of them altogether. Other types of bedding might cause issues as well – for example, some white office paper can contain irritating or harmful compounds (bleach etc). I recall back when I was still pretty new to vermicomposting, I set up a big bin using only white shredded paper as bedding, and the worms were NOT impressed. This paper can be used in moderation (and some paper is totally fine), but it’s better to err on the side of caution in my opinion.

Of course, the ‘food’ material in the system is very often going to be the culprit – if there is a LOT of waste materials, and not enough oxygen this can lead to serious issues, as can having too much N-rich waste (eg. grass clippings).

If your worms seem to be extremely stressed out, I would recommend a major overhaul of your system. Set up another bin using lots of moistened bedding (shredded cardboard) and any good rotting material you can get your hands on (leaves, compost etc), and transfer as many worms over as you can. You may not need to chuck out the contents of the first system (assuming the issue isn’t a nasty chemical of some sort), since these things tend to work themselves out over time.

Anyway, hopefully this post will help to put some minds at ease! In my experience, most of the time there is nothing to worry about when worms are crawling up the sides etc. As I like to tell people – it’s like ‘survival of the fittest’. All the ‘dummies’ and ‘weaklings’ manage to kill themselves off early, so your population then consists of the most tolerant, healthy worms. Any worms hatched into the new system will be even MORE tolerant and adapted to live in that environment!
8)

Written by Bentley on March 6th, 2009 with 60 comments.
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60 comments

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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Terry
#1. March 6th, 2009, at 8:50 PM.

Too funny you wrote this. We got some of the little critters from you a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday one of the “dummies” was dried up in the middle of the kitchen. Today our cat was swatting one around the floor. So we have only had two fugitives thus far.
I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Terry in NC

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Red Icculus
#2. March 6th, 2009, at 11:04 PM.

Phew, thank you for defining normal worm behavior for me. I thought mine were freaking out, but they were just being worms.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Richard Blalock
#3. March 10th, 2009, at 10:35 PM.

I ALWAYS read this sort of post! My worms are outside and if they escape, I definitely won’t find them. I’ve been using two lights in my worm bed (I had had a migration problem at the inception of the bed) because incandescent lights have a bad habit of just going out for no apparent reason. However, we’ve had some warmer weather here in east-central Georgia lately and when I opened the bed today the heat was incredible. Looks like I need to switch to fluorescent bulbs quick! Anywho, I will also be trying your method of giving them 10, 15, 20, etc. minutes at night without the lights to see if there is any need at all anymore for the lights. Thanks Bentley, also, I haven’t forgotten my promise to send you some pictures of the bed and worms.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#4. March 13th, 2009, at 4:33 PM.

Sounds good, Richard! Thanks again. I’m sure others would love to see your set up as well, if you don’t mind me posting some pics on the blog!
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com trisha
#5. March 17th, 2009, at 4:34 AM.

ha! if only i had found this post before i emailed you in a panic! thanks again for the great advice.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Wanda
#6. March 20th, 2009, at 10:51 PM.

Finally, an answer for my worms balling up. I have a huge bin (rubbermaid type) and I only have a few worms doing this. I just discovered a few in the handle like you said and another 10-12 worms balled up under the burlap cover. With only a few doing this in a bed of 1000 or so, is it a problem and what should I do?

Thanks for the information.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#7. March 27th, 2009, at 3:18 PM.

No problemo Trisha – glad to help!
8)

Wanda – based on the numbers you mentioned, I would suggest adding more bedding materials and simply leave the bin to sit for a number of days. Keep an eye on it and see if the worms settle down for you.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Sarah
#8. May 30th, 2009, at 3:02 AM.

first off,… Bentley Thanks so much for the amazing website and the great customer service!

I just received the lil buggers yesterday, and was a little less prepared than I like to be. I followed the directions from the excellent you tube videos (all were yours), the only deviation from the Rubbermaid bin setup was that i didn’t have it set up in advance,… I had some food scraps that were sitting out in my compost bucket that I added to the bin on the same day as their arrival. Now, for the second night in a row, they are migrating en masse out of the bin.

I think it may be b/c of a few factors.

1. the food scraps are not well aerated,.. they were a gross stinky sludge that was in a bucket… and now i notice that they also had a few maggots in them,… yes maggots… yikes.
I did add some freshly blended apples coffee grounds and eggshells to the mix as well… I added the “aged” food goo, b/c I thought the worms would be able to eat it sooner than the apples and such. this presumption comes from my understanding that worms are actually eating the bacteria involved in decomposition, and not the food itself. so food with bacteria is good… that was my logic… but maggots… oh no!

ok also, …
2. the food scraps are producing heat… this may be too much for them?? I lift up the top layer of bedding and there is a remarkable amount of heat below…. nothing like an active compost pile… but still pretty intense. (and i wondered, … could this somehow be heat from the worm activity???.. or is this heat from decomposition ) is heat normal?…

3. In our set up we are unable to have a light shining on the bin at night.

so in conclusion. I believe i have made a mess of this project. I truly hope i am over reacting…. but i am thinking maybe i should start over…?…

What should I do?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Monica
#9. June 4th, 2009, at 11:48 AM.

I got my worms (1 lb) yesterday and I was much more squeamish than I thought I would be. Thankfully my son and nephew were not. Anyway, I did not get a chance to start my bin early and let it settle. We put paper towel and tissue cardboard, newspaper, 4 cups expired spinach, strawberry tops (the green part), 6 crunched egg shells and about 3 used tea bags in the bin. We did notice worms crawling to the top yesterday so I added a layer of newspaper strips. I turned the lights off and when I woke up about 6:30 am, I found about 10 escapees in different areas. The majority were dried up. To my sons delight, I woke him up. lol When he lifted the top bin, there were 20-30 in the bottom of the bottom bin. He put them back in the top bin. I added more newspaper strips and put a lamp over them. I understand that working for the worms crawling to the top. But, what do I do with the worms that get out of the 8 holes at the bottom. Should I leave them there? Should I put tape over the holes? How soon should I add more food? TIA

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Natalie
#10. January 10th, 2010, at 6:18 PM.

yeah I just found this post and I got a pound of worms a few days ago. So far, one was on the floor (not dried up, so I put him back) and around ten are found balled up in the rubbermaid handles every day! What do I do? I tried putting dry newspaper to restrict them, but that didn’t seem to work… :/ Do you have any advice for me?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#11. January 19th, 2010, at 5:33 PM.

Hi Natalie – sorry for the delay!
Make sure first of all that there is enough of the moist bedding down below (ie that they have enough “habitat”) as well.
Also, keeping the lid off and shining a light directly over top can be a good way to get them settled in – sometimes it’s just a matter of having them spend a bit more time down below before it seems a bit more like “home” for them.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Natalie
#12. January 21st, 2010, at 1:15 AM.

Ok thanks! It has been getting better and now I only have like 2 worms in the handles every day… it’ll get better :) Thank you! :D

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Sonia
#13. March 6th, 2010, at 12:35 AM.

I just got mine two days ago and have been checking on them several times a day. Found about 10-20 stretched around the top. Thought I was going to kill the lot of them until I read this. Will add more shredded newspaper at the top and see what happens. Fingers crossed!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com B
#14. March 26th, 2010, at 3:43 PM.

Has anyone tried something like double sided tape around the inside of the bin near the lid? I don’t know if this would deter the woms from going further or if they’d stick to it!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Warren
#15. May 11th, 2010, at 1:17 AM.

I’ve heard a lot of people suggest shredded cardboard. What is the easiest way to shred it? Are you using a paper shredder?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#16. May 11th, 2010, at 2:21 PM.

Good question, Warren! I mostly do it by hand. Pretty easy with egg carton cardboard, but it will help if you corrugated cardboard is moistened first.
I’ve heard of people having success with heavy duty paper shredders, and would imagine various chippers and grinders would work as well.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Irina
#17. September 25th, 2010, at 3:10 AM.

This was so exquisitely helpful, I can’t even tell you. I woke up this morning, my second day of trying this urban composting experiment, to find a worm cemetery all over my kitchen floor and a lid FILLED with clumps of worms. My skin crawled so violently, I literally just left the house and fretted about the situation all day at work. I read this while worrying and immediately felt so much better. Two hours into the implementation of above advice, all is quiet in the worm bin. Thank you!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bef
#18. November 19th, 2010, at 10:00 AM.

My worms arrived yesterday and this morning they were everywhere. Will take some of your good advice tomorrow and try and make them a bit happier – great post by the way, very much appreciated!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kevin
#19. December 24th, 2010, at 1:55 AM.

Hi and thank you for your wonderfully informative section on escaping worms!

I started my bin about a month and a half ago with a 1/2 lb. of worms and they used to clump along the exterior corners of my bin, but that’s mostly stopped now after I added dry shredded paper.

However, after this amount of time and just adding a second tray (it’s a 4-tray, vertically-stacked system), there are a handful of worms that seem to be leaving every day. On average, I’d say around 8 per day seems to be the norm. But that doesn’t seem normal to me. I’ve left the kitchen light on all night, the temp is fine, the moisture is fine, the food scraps I’m feeding them do not contain citrus nor am I feeding them anything bad (onions, dairy, meat, etc.). My only theory is that it was getting too crowded in there for the population, which is why I added the second tray, but since adding that new tray yesterday, there have been between 5-8 worms leaving the bin.

So should I just ignore these dummies that brave the light and dry conditions that await them outside the bin? Obviously it’s better to have a handful or two rather than the entire population attempt to flee, but it’s still disconcerting when, after this amount of time and what I think are pretty good conditions, the worms haven’t settled down into their new habitat.

I’d appreciate to know what your thoughts are on this. Thanks!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Selina
#20. May 9th, 2011, at 2:37 AM.

I live in a small apt in the middle of the city, and am trying to go green. I work alot and since I have no backyard, I decided to vermicompost in my basement/garage which is always 60′F. It’s a small kitchen trashcan, tons of holes and screening over that. Main point, that wasn’t mentioned that I saw. Is temperature!!!! My worms were always trying to escape until I got them off the floor. NOT one problem since then. It literally stopped within the hour. Hopefully, this info will help someone else.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Brandon
#21. October 18th, 2011, at 4:07 AM.

I kindah have a problem I guess. I have my worms in a bin outside. In POTTING SOIL. They are still alive. But will they die? I didn’t see any worms trying to get out. YET. I use soda bottles that work like a drip system to keep the soil moist.
I read on. Wikipedia that the worms may try to escape after a rainstorm when the outside humidity is high. Well, it just rained. The bin has nothing to cover it. Will they try to escape??? When I read that, I started to become worried.
I don’t use any lights either. The lights won’t heat up the bin? I live in Curacao. It’s like always hot here.
I also got a few worms in half soda bottles. I found 2 worms outside once. And I used normal soil and didn’t give any food. But tomorrow I will put cardboard or something on top.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lola Ray
#22. December 2nd, 2011, at 6:55 PM.

I just got 2 lbs. of eisenia foetida & this is my first attempt at vermiculture. I had a bunch of dry scented geranium (peppermint) leaves which I crushed and moisturized and added as part of the bedding, along with shredded cardboard & a little garden dirt & a couple of eggshells. Your article was referred to me ’cause I was worried about my worms congregating at the top of the bin. My question is: Do you think maybe they don’t like peppermint scented leaves? Any other comment?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Neli
#23. May 3rd, 2012, at 9:13 PM.

I got worms some time ago. Since I didn’t have a plastic been I settled them in a covered pail (clean kitty litter pail) with a mixture of shredded newspaper and a shovel of some dirty from my backyard, fed them for several weeks and they were okay, never tried to escape. Before yesterday I put them in a large new been with some shredded cardbord and a moisted mixture made of newspaper, organic soil and peat moss, and now for two nights I see some, a handfull crawling up and falling on the floor. I found them this morning laying down under the plastic bin. A couple dried up, and my cat was a very interested onlooker. I scooped them out devolving these to the bin, but noticed a few minutes ago they are trying to escape again. What did I do wrong?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Liz
#24. May 17th, 2012, at 2:03 AM.

OMG! Thank you so much for this posting. I thought I was doing something wrong and I was just freaking out :) I’m starting small with only about 50 worms right now… I’m probably going to buy a larger amount online after I get the hang of this.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com John E.
#25. November 5th, 2012, at 9:11 AM.

Thanks for all the info. je

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Barbara
#26. November 12th, 2012, at 12:07 AM.

Thank you so much for this post. I just started my worm farm yesterday and I think I panicked when I saw so many worm on the lid. I want to do this well and take care of my worms.
Thank you again, I will now read the rest of your website !

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Katii
#27. December 31st, 2012, at 6:56 AM.

Ok so I HAVE a disaster. For a couple of weeks at least, my worms definately are escaping in mass numbers. There are clumps and balls of worms matted together and lots of single strays up the side. For a few weeks I have just been washing them with water back into my mix. To add to the problem, I just brought some herbs and intended to use the castings to pot them so I added a new tray and started feeding them in the new tray to get them to move up and out of the castings. I used white office paper (shredded) as the base and then added potting mix (I hear you all gasp. Thought I was doing the right thing. Also added so dolomite. We are in a heatwave here in Perth so the temp (although the farm is in the garage) is still warm. I am starting to find lots of teeny bugs in the farm as well and I have always had little white worms although their numbers vary from time to time. So how do I fix it? I dont have a second farm to transfer the worms into. I never put lawn clippings in and mostly feed kitchen scraps.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#28. January 3rd, 2013, at 10:00 AM.

Sounds like you have a lot of different issues going on there, Katii.
If you can even just find a simple tub of some sort it might be worth moistening some shredded corrugated cardboard, putting it in the tub and then transferring over the worms (make sure to keep a light shining over top though).
Perhaps you could rotate frozen water bottles between your freezer and the bin to help keep temps moderated a bit, and if you left the lid off (with a thick layer of dry bedding up top) this should help to provide an evaporative cooling effect (while also avoiding build up of harmful gases).

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lisa
#29. February 26th, 2013, at 7:39 AM.

I have greatly enjoyed the information on this website. I have just started a bin-have had the worms in it for about 9 days now according to my worm journal (the “wormal”), and am concerned about the worms clumping together in 2 big clumps in the bottom. They are in a 13-gallon rubbermaid tub with air holes drilled throughout. Bedding consists of shredded newspaper, corrugated cardboard, and a bit of compost from garden. I layered this with some food scraps (celery greens and stalks, collards, some coffee grounds and egg shells, etc.). I don’t think there is too much food, but now I’m not sure. I did let the bin sit for about 4 days before adding the worms. Is the balling-up behavior normal, or are they unhappy with their bin? A small handful were found exploring this morning (i.e. climbing up sides, and bunched in the handle) and others were scattered throughout the bin, but the 2 clumps of worms bother me. I’m getting attached to the little guys and taking this personally….

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com rhonda
#30. March 22nd, 2013, at 12:12 AM.

Hi -i don’t know if anyone can help me. My worm bin is a stacking 360. I have a LOT of white grainy specks in most of my trays…. not sure what this is.
Also, about 50% of my kitchen waste is coffee grounds with the other 50 being random but acceptable foods. Is this to much of one type of food? Will it make my worms unhappy?
Btw I started out with 7000 worms- lost a BUNCH to what I refer to as the great (possible drowning) issue of February. Broke my heart.
Thank you

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tina
#31. April 12th, 2013, at 2:21 PM.

Bentley,

I just r/c my worms yesterday. I purchased a bag of 1000 and looking online found that I should use a 5 gallon tub, is this right? This seems like a small tub for the 1000 words I poured into it. I did find 8 worms dried up on the kitchen floor this morning but after reading your blog I didn’t freak out. I removed the lid to put some natural light on the top layer of soil.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Robin
#32. April 19th, 2013, at 7:21 PM.

Wow! It seems many have problems with their worms. I thought I was sorta alone out here. I lost the first batch of worms. Have no idea why. I’ve almost lost the whole second batch. I think, maybe, from really cold weather. I have a second layer (tiered bins w/lid) so I took a bunch of composted material from bottom, put it in top, with food in the corners. It doesn’t seem too wet, and I moved it off the table in my screened in porch, to underneath, where it may be warmer and more protected from wind, etc. We’ll see. I also have worms that ‘escape’.
I don’t see many responses to these posts. I hope I can get some help. I emailed the worm farm near here with no reply. I’m almost embarrassed to tell him I’ve just about killed this batch, but not sure what the heck is going on. Yikes!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Rachel
#33. May 6th, 2013, at 6:36 PM.

It was great to find this article – I started my worm bin last Thursday with moistened shredded cardboard and newspaper, 1 lb worms and 1/2 lb food. Went down to add another bunch of food today and found worms clumped in the corners of the lid–probably about 8-10 in each corner. But there appear to be plenty still nosing around the food, so…gosh, I really hope that 10 worms per corner doesn’t signify abnormal behavior. Bedding feels “moist” to my touch, but could be too dry?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Rachel
#34. May 6th, 2013, at 6:38 PM.

OH ALSO I filled the bin 3/4 with bedding before adding food and worms, and either the worms have been REALLY busy or the stuff has settled, because the bin was only about 1/3 full when I checked today (4 days after starting bin). Is this a sign to add more bedding (or more food)?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Robin
#35. May 17th, 2013, at 11:48 AM.

I’m about to give up having worms. I’m going to empty out my bottom layer and see how it looks; look for any survivors in the top bin and go from there. I just don’t understand how something that seems like it should be so easy, ends up in my sadness over so many lost worms.

RACHEL: not sure what bedding you started with, but moisture would cause settling of it, I would think. Best to you!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Nicole
#36. July 17th, 2013, at 6:06 PM.

I have had my set up a couple of months now and they are definitly still trying to get out. *just stepped on a dead dry worm barefoot *eww.

I usually have a few 5-6 consistantly that are trying to get out, I use crushed eggshells with the food I put in, and keep lots of dry bedding on the top but still find moisture to get to the lid of the container. I slightly underfeed them though which might be the culprit. I have a whole yam I put in, about 2 weeks ago. I find my worms arnt very hungry. My other foods I put in the freezer as well as process to break down and still find they dont eat much. *shrugs* not sure whats going on.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Rhonda
#37. July 17th, 2013, at 10:47 PM.

Ok.. so I have had some “dummys” here and there..It happens. I started my bins in January… Did well until the great tragedy of February when I was way over feeding to much moisture killed a ton of worms… I knew because my bin was a slimey smelly ooze….
I started with about 10,000 worms in an 8 bin stacking system…. SO I pretty much Just kept adding bins with food after saving as many worms as possible which was pretty easy because they were all together in a big ball…
SO now my bin is full (they must be making babys because I see a lot of them) my bins are all full…. So the question is… HOw do I get all the good stuff and the worms to separate? I tried the leaving the top bin open with a bright light above it but there are just to many worms in there for them to be picked out by hand! It’s impossible.
Any ideas would be amazing!! The castings look dark and rich and not much food left behind so It’s good to go… But there are worms in every bin! Lots in the bottom even though I haven’t fed that bin for like 5 months!!!
Help! Lol I am afraid I am going to have a stacking system taller than my house if I can’t get to move out of a bin!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Robin
#38. July 18th, 2013, at 9:16 PM.

Wow Rhonda! I’m seriously impressed. I’ve managed to kill 2 lbs. of worms, on separate occasions! I looked today, 2 worms and a bunch of other bugs. It looks moldy on top. I turned over a cantaloupe rind and there were thousands of tiny, what looked like red, little specks of some “bug” crawling all over it. You, however, are amazingly successful. I’ve always read that you just add another bin on top of the one with worms, put food in it and it encourages them to go up. Not sure how to help beyond that. Anyone have any ideas about the specks of red? Spiders? I have no idea what baby worms look like or how big they are to start, so…??? Help! I’m about to chuck it all and sell my bins on Craigslist.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Katii
#39. July 18th, 2013, at 11:12 PM.

Robin, I get those little red specks in droves at times as well. I have no idea what they are but they don’t cause a problem (that I’ve noticed). They somehow go and I never know why. I think they come when the food I put in might have started to go off. occasionally I have left the food scrap bin out overnight before feeding and I think its always got to do with watermelon. guess it starts rotting quite quickly. i wont let my kids touch the worm bin when I see those crawling specks. they remind me of mini ticks! i think they disappear when that particular batch of food goes as I let the worms eat completely everything before adding the next food. perhaps the specks starve (or get eaten by my then hungry worms).I have also discovered my worms escape when there isn’t enough food. I used to think I was doing something wrong but now I know I’m definitely not. I have built up my numbers so much that sometimes I run out of scraps. If I forget about them for a few days they start trying to escape! A decent feed sorts them out.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Rhonda
#40. July 20th, 2013, at 12:55 AM.

Lol Robin, Idk if I am doing that well but I have had a few different types of unknown bugs too… Figured they were all part of the little “Eco-system” and haven’t had much issue with anything doing harm.
They do seem to come and go, so I figure it all works itself out. I found that the more I fussed and worried over my wiggles the harder it became to manage my bins moisture and so forth. Now I pretty much leave them alone, and everything has been fine.
I did have quite a Nat problem what was making me crazy for about a month or more, but I added an extra bin on top with just dry bedding and this seemed to clear it up. Pretty sure I read that on here somewhere.
Don’t give up hope. It will work itself out in time!!
*still hoping for advice to get them to move out though lol

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Toni
#41. August 6th, 2013, at 2:18 AM.

Rhonda – I’ve never tried it myself but at a composting course I attended a couple of weeks ago they suggested putting large bits of pumpkin in the worm bin and leaving it for a couple of days, apparently it acts as “bait” and attracts the worms, then just just pick up the whole piece which should be covered in worms and move it to the new bin.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Rhonda
#42. August 7th, 2013, at 1:17 PM.

Thanks toni! I will give it a try :)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Beth Lacey
#43. August 8th, 2013, at 12:20 PM.

Thanks for the post, Bentley! I’m new at this and love that this is a 2009 piece, but is still so helpful that it continues to get comments. Long live my worms!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Robin
#44. August 19th, 2013, at 4:37 PM.

I’m so happy for all of you who have had success. I was so excited when I got my worm farm 360. Now, I give up. It ended up being so difficult to keep a moisture balance and I don’t know why. I even moved the bin indoors when it got so hot here. I added great food for the worms, but after 2 big batches have died…I give up. My best to all of you who are having success. My experience just ended up too complicated for something that should have been easy.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com L B
#45. April 1st, 2014, at 12:50 AM.

I just started my bin 2 days ago. I am getting some worms trying to escape, so I’ve added shredded dry newspaper (some still try to leave), and now I’m using a red 13w CFL to help them settle in. Has anyone tried this before?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Josh
#46. April 10th, 2014, at 12:40 PM.

This is one of the better posts I have found on the subject of -what I call -the “wormpocalypse.” The day after I got my worms, I came home and found 10-20 on the floor and even more when I opened the lid – I did the light technique for 2-days and it was successful.

However, I added some scraps lately (rotting veggies from the fridge – don’t ask) and they all started evacuating again. I have since removed the veggies and only have egg shells and some potato skins in there. The worms have stopped trying to escape but can still be found on the sides and lid of the container – the worms in the soil are very active and still underground so I’m assuming this is normal?

Do you think I’m still ok?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Wolf
#47. June 19th, 2014, at 3:09 PM.

I started up in Feb…so I´m still a newbe with the worms.
Even so I´m very eager to look in the bin every day etc. I have no issues till now and evrything goes really well…. so I must be doing something right.
My first rule….don´t over feed.
Second…. allways leave a neutral area (no food) in the bin so the worms can escape in case the don´t like the menu.
Third….Temperature…food starts to ferment wich causes rise in temperature and PH spikes. For this reason I also keep a Coca Cola bottle filled with water in the neutral area. Water is a very good thermal storage. Gives of heat at night and cold during the day.

Allways keep a stable and secure space for Your worms to escape specially in small bins because they are more sensitive.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Robin
#48. June 30th, 2014, at 10:50 PM.

How do you keep a Coke bottle filled with water in your bin?

I might try to have worms again. I killed two rounds of worms, 1 lb each! It seems much more complicated than I first believed. Balance. Tough.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com wayne simpson
#49. August 22nd, 2014, at 8:39 PM.

you forgotten 1 main reason that worms try to escape in large bundles
the reason is if it raining at night, they will try to move out very quickly
to stop so many escaping, under your worm bin put corrugated cardboard plus newspaper under your worm farm plus allow it to come out approx 12 inches from the sides of your worm farm, each morning after it rains makes sure you go out and pick up the cardboard and tip them back into your farm

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com James
#50. August 28th, 2014, at 3:03 PM.

I have had an issue with worms trying to escape my worm bin. I have been leaving the top off of the bin with a light on to keep the worms in. As soon as i put the lid back on after 2-3 days I will usually come back to 50 or so worms up the sides and lid trying to get out. I have around 2000 worms in there. I guess what I am asking is can i just leave the lid off? I keep plenty of bedding and food scraps consisting of garden plant scraps and newspaper shredded I also at coffee grounds and egg shells here and there.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Rachel
#51. September 20th, 2014, at 10:21 PM.

Hi. I started my worm farm about a year ago, the bottom layer filled up nicely, so i added the second tray and that’s when it all started to go wrong! All of my worms eventually vacated the top layer and headed down to the very bottom where the worm tea is collected. The worm tea ended up very thick and gluggy like mud. Just checked today and we have no worms in our bin, they are all down the bottom. What should we do?? We didn’t add anything different to what had previoulsy worked for us. Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com kirk
#52. October 7th, 2014, at 2:02 PM.

I am in the countryside of North Texas near red river. I am maintaining 2 compost piles outside adding greenery ie. Leaves limbs . Will red worms facilitate this or will I be wasting my time and $$. Any suggestions?? Thanks Kirk

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Nancy
#53. October 15th, 2014, at 10:13 AM.

Really helpful exchanges here, but I don’t see my problem shared by anyone. I have a “worm farm” vermiculture bin–one of those multi-layered tray things. Everything has been going great for the past two years until today, clumps of worms escaping–but the last time I added food and a little extra shredded paper was Sunday, and things were fine Mon and Tues (today is Wed), so I don’t think those have caused the problem. (there is still food there on the top layer; spinach, veggie and fruit leftovers mostly). I’ve got the lights on for now which is keeping them inside, but I think there are just too many worms in the farm, it’s a victim of its own success. Is that possibly right? I’m planning to harvest the bottom tray start and a new tray to put on top even tho the current top tray isn’t fully decomposed. My question is: what to do with the compost in October?? The rule is that you shouldn’t fertilize in the fall in the northeast, but rather do so in the spring. But if I harvest the vermicompost now, will it just lose all its nutrients over the winter?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Brett
#54. October 26th, 2014, at 6:23 PM.

Hi, bought some night crawlers about a week ago, all seemed to be going well, none were trying to escape, then 2 days ago I decided to bring them inside our laundry as it was getting too hot outside, I also game them some carrots, weet bix, which I just spread over the top, after a while I opened the lid and a few were on the bed surface, I just thought they were eating, but now all of a sudden they are trying to escape, any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Nancy
#55. November 1st, 2014, at 5:44 PM.

For Kirk
Adding earthworms will help, but not red wigglers, they are specifically for indoor composting and feed only on food scraps. Earthworms may help break down brown and green outdoor matter. But you have to make sure your “green to brown” ratio–nitrogen to carbon–is balanced, it should be about 70% brown/carbon (mostly leaves, finely shredded wood, though that takes longer to decompose). Sometimes I buy “compost starter” which has the organisms needed to break down outdoor matter, but generally a few shovefuls of already composted material will be sufficient.

Brett, no idea what night crawlers are; if they are the same as red wiggler worms, the most common worm for indoor composting, making sure that the material is damp but not wet, and that you have enough food but not too much, is key. But changes of environment disorient them regardless, so push them back into the bin, leave a light on, and make sure that the dampness is right and the nitrogen is not too high (too much food).

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com nathan
#56. February 24th, 2015, at 1:05 AM.

I got back from a week long vacation to find 25 red wiggler worms on my floor shriveled up, my bin is new and its all newspaper. Should I put in some leaves and peat moss to balance the paper out. I also haven’t feed them. Should I feed them.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com tc
#57. March 7th, 2015, at 1:16 PM.

Is it okay to put used coffee grounds in my worm bin?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kevin J. Timothy
#58. April 24th, 2015, at 11:15 AM.

I did not do what you suggested by establishing the ecosystem prior to adding worms. My family and I went fishing, so instead of discarding the surplus of Euro Night Crawlers I unveiled a vermi-compost bin I made years prior….yes, a durable Rubbermaid bin.

Here’s what I observed over the days after our fishing trip.

I monitored them during the day (with Rubbermaid lid off) and none were trying to escape. It’s in the mornings that I have the issue.

It seems that they’re not trying to escape in broad daylight (with lid left off). Overnight, however, I think they are making their way to the top of the bin. In the morning their would be about 5-7 of them on our tiled floor (almost dried out).

It did help a bit when I layered the top with moist corrugated cardboard. They just rise to the top and hang out just under the cardboard.

And TC….yes, it’s okay to put your used coffee grounds in there. In fact, it’s recommend considering that the gritty texture helps the worms digest the scraps.

I’ll be checking back…my kinda community here. Take care, ladies and gents.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Ellen Reeves
#59. May 30th, 2015, at 3:21 PM.

I am having trouble with finding worms and soil on my collection tray. When I set up my first tray, I only put about 2 sheets of newspaper on the bottom. Could the worms be escaping through that? Should I set up another tray with more sheets on the bottom and transfer them over?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Nicknick
#60. November 3rd, 2015, at 11:01 PM.

My worms are trying to get out of a new bin… Peat moss and paper where as other 2 I have are more rabbit manure and straw… Anyone have issues with peatmoss?? Seems to be dry?!?!

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