Where do worms go to die?

James definitely caught my attention with his email subject (haha) – I thought it might also be a good topic (actually a couple of topics) to explore here.

Here is his msg:

I found one of my Canadian Night Crawlers on top of the bedding and
dead. Does that tell me something?

Hi James,

The one thing that stood out like a sore thumb in your message was “Canadian Night Crawlers” (CNCs) – so we’ll start there. Unfortunately, CNCs are NOT well suited for vermiculture. They are what’s known as “anecic” earthworms – deep burrowing soil dwellers. They need a lot of space (don’t thrive in crowded conditions) and cooler temps than composting worms (which are typically “epigeic” worms). While you can often keep them alive for extended periods of time in some sort of bin or bed, your chances of actually getting them to breed etc are pretty slim. Your best bet for raising more of these worms would probably be to set up some sort of large, undisturbed outdoor soil plot, then lay down layers of grass clippings, leaves etc (keep the area nice and moist as well).

If you are looking for a larger composting species – and one with quite a bit of versatility – the “European Nightcrawler” is definitely the way to go. You will have far greater success raising these worms in smaller systems (assuming you set them up properly) than you will with CNCs, that’s for sure.

Now, getting back to the question of where “worms go to die”!

As you have noticed already, it’s not uncommon to find dead worms up near the surface of a system – although, in all honesty, I probably wouldn’t be TOO worried if it was only one worm. When you do find dead worms it’s probably not a bad idea to dig around a bit to see if A) there are more dead worms down below, and B) there are any clues as to why worms are dying. You may want to leave the lid off for awhile (with light over top) since this allows toxic gases (like ammonia) to escape, and just generally helps to oxygenate the system (always a good thing).

What’s interesting, though, is that dead worms are often never found – unless a bunch of worms die at the same time. This is because they decompose VERY quickly – especially when temperatures are warm. Remember – they are basically just nutrient-rich bags of water, so there are plenty of other critters (in a typical worm bin) ready and willing to get rid of the evidence!

{insert evil laugh}

Anyway – sorry to be the bearer of bad news regarding your desire to raise CNCs, but hopefully this post has helped to clarify things a bit!
Best of luck!

**For Even More Worm Fun, Sign Up for the RWC E-mail List!**
Previous Post

Neil’s VB24 Journal – Day 9-15

Next Post

Vermicomposting in Florida


    • jay
    • October 2, 2011

    I had a devastating experience a year ago. I had put the scraps from broccolli into the worm bin. I am totally organic and thought nothing of putting it into the bin. 2 days later the stench alerted me to a total die off. I had put BT on my broccolli a month before and the residual was still on there, killing my entire bin. Needless to say, nothing at all goes on my garden now except compost.

  1. That’s really odd, Jay! I assume you mean Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)?
    If so, that shouldn’t kill worms – this organism is specialized for various types of insect larvae.

    • jay
    • October 5, 2011

    Well, I could be wrong. That was the only thing I put on my garden and I was reluctant to use it. That was a year ago, now my worms are all very happy and content.

    • Tonya
    • March 26, 2012

    Im thinking about composting. What if the bin overflows w/ worms? Can the extra worms be put into the garden?

    • Cindy
    • February 3, 2014


    Someone on another forum posted that BT made their worms sick. You can read about it here: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/verm/msg091140468011.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Get Your Free Vermicomposting Guide!

* Join the Red Worm Composting E-Mail List Today *