Great question from Leanne:
I have learned a lot from the reader’s questions but how do you fix a
compromised environment? I think I killed 2/3 of my worms by not
having enough bedding and it some how overheated even though it’s in
the shade. I pulled out the worms I could save and have added fresh
bedding. Should I let it sit a certain amount of time? Should I keep
the worms out while it repairs or will they survive with my
corrections? Lot’s of worms died and decomposed in the bin, so does
that make the environment toxic?
What you have done in response to your issues is absolutely on-target. When there is clearly a population meltdown taking place, the key is always to get those survivors out as quickly as you can. Ideally you can get them into another bin containing lots of moistened bedding (recommend either strips of newsprint or shredded corrugated cardboard), and in a location that’s not experiencing any extremes (heat, cold etc).
Any additional stress can end up killing off more of the survivors. Speaking of which, you should closely monitor the worms in your new bin to make sure there aren’t any more of them dying off (any that do should be removed immediately). Provide this bin with excellent air flow. Maybe instead of a lid you can just lay some sheets of newsprint across top of worm zone. If possible, I also recommend shining light over top. The worms may be restless in their new (relatively sterile) environment. As for feeding – you might try adding a very small amount of food to the new bin, but err on the side of moderation for sure!
Getting back to the original bin…
I always recommend keeping the material from a ‘meltdown’ bin. It’s kinda like a “box of chocolates” – as Forrest Gump would say – you never know what you’re gonna get! LoL
Seriously though, there may be plenty of cocoons in there that will be unharmed by the population die off, and perhaps even some smaller worms that managed to survive. Adding new bedding (as you’ve done) and giving the system lots of air flow – while maintaining moist conditions – will go a long way towards getting the bin back on track. Then you simply leave it be, and focus on your new system.
Before you know it, you may end up with a new thriving population of worms in the original bin! Worst case scenario, you should at least end up with some nice “living material” that can be used to mix with food for the new bin etc. Definitely make sure you give the old bin a good month or two before using any material though. Also make sure it smells nice and earthy. Taking things even on additional step further – try adding a small pile of it on top of the worm zone in your new bin and see if any worms move into it. If they completely avoid it (even with some tempting food material added) you should let the old bin sit even longer.
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