Where Did My Worms Go?

A question from Karen

I just checked my worm bin – been going for about a month – and the food scraps are molding and I see some flies and only a couple of worms. What is wrong? Where did my worms go? I started with a full order. Do I have to start over?


Hi Karen,

If the worms have mostly disappeared on you it likely means you have not provided them with ideal living conditions. Very often with new vermicomposters there is a tendency to add too much food and/or not enough bedding, which can lead to the deterioration of the worm habitat before too long – especially if you continue to add more food.

If food scraps are ending up covered with a lot mold when there are plenty of worms in the system (not sure if this was the case with you, but worth mentioning anyway) it typically means too much has been added at once and/or it has not been optimized for being processed by the worms. Finely chopping everything up, freezing it, letting it age for a period of time (mixed with bedding) in a separate container, and mixing with “living materials” (earthy-smelling mostly-decomposed stuff like leaf mold, compost etc) can all help.

Air flow is another important consideration – especially if there isn’t enough bedding in a vermicomposting system (since bedding tends to encourage more air movement) and you are using some sort of enclosed plastic bin. Apart from the fact that the worms need oxygen, the flow of air into and out from the system can help to prevent any toxic gases (such as ammonia) from building up.

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Now, regarding what to do with your current system. My recommendation would definitely be to add more bedding materials and simply let it sit without any further addition of food waste. You might be surprised by how quickly the worm population can bounce back when left to its own devices. If you are really keen to hit the ground running with more worms, I’d suggest starting up a separate system, making sure to put a bit more time and effort into creating an optimal habitat for the composting worms.

If you are not already on the email list, I suggest signing up so you can download the free RWC Vermicomposting Guide and receive my “Worm Briefs”. These should help you to stay on track moving forward.

Hope this helps!
8)

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Comments

    • Lisa H
    • March 13, 2012

    I had a really sad event occur over the last week. My entire worm bin is dead. Things had been going amazing the last 5 months with them and they multiplied like mad. It was time to harvest as there was a lot of worm castings and it started to hold too much moisture. I harvested them but there were too many small worms to full harvest. So i put all of the castings in a new bin which has a lot of small worms and a few worms in it. There are a few scrapes of food yet to break down amongst this mixture. Then in another bin i added fresh bedding and put the large worms in it. This is the bin which i was feeding. I left the worms for only about 1.5 weeks with out checking them…when i checked they were all dissolved. Not sure why. I am thinking maybe some melon i had added went rancid or there was too much but not sure.
    So not sure what to do now….speaking in regards to the bin with the castings and the small worms. Should I separate half of it and start feeding and add bedding or just leave them? I really am sad about my lose.
    Hope you can send me some advice! Thank you!
    Lisa

    • sam
    • October 14, 2013

    I have been using a bokashi waste bin as a worm composter. its great. recently my worms have vanished, i should have got suspisious when they started gathering on the card board lid below the actual lid. I added too much bread in one go. i dont think im going to try and feed my worms bread anymore, i will decomp it in a bokashi composter and bury it into the soil. my composter had been going bad for a while slowly the cardboard bedding was getting really slimy and smelt awful. when i got my first bag of castings i should have removed the slimy card and replaced it with fresh bedding, it should feel like a damp tea bag full of tissue and not like bunch of wet leaves. I did not know this and over time and addition of too much food waste created a bacterial nightmare of pretty much everything under the sun and probably probably other unhospitable factors.

    I found one left, i have replaced the old bedding and left a small handful off the slimy bedding incase there are anymore cocoons remaining. I hope that they make a comeback.

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