Worms Leaving Bin – Help!

This one comes from Stuart. He is wondering why all his worms are attempting to jump ship.

I bought some red worms and put them in a rubbermaid contain
filled with peat moss, newspaper clippings, banana peels.. All of my
worms seem to be crawling out and leaving. What might I be doing
wrong ???

Help Needed Desperately….

Hi Stuart,
Hopefully your peat moss has been a) moistened, and b) rinsed with water. The second one isn’t quite as important, but it can help. Peat moss is pretty acidic stuff, so it’s not a bad idea rinse it a bit under water before use (a cloth bag of some sort should work fairly well).

Was your mixture of peat, newspaper, and banana peels left to sit for a number of days – or was it mixed up the same day you got the worms? If the latter, there probably just isn’t really anything there for the worms to feed on. It will be a pretty sterile environment.

The best bet is to set up your system AT LEAST a few days before adding the worms, thus allowing a microbial population to develop. Adding a variety of food materials would also help. Worms DO like banana peels, but it’s not a bad idea to provide them with a few options.

See if you can find some sort of semi-rotting food in the back of your fridge somewhere and add that. If you live near a decidous (with leaves that drop in the fall) forest go gather a bunch of dark leaf litter (humus material down below the leaves) and add that – it will offer not only a quality habitat, but also a temporary food source.

Good luck!


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  1. When I first started a bin, mine all jumped ship at first too. I fixed that problem with a screened top and a nightlight. They didn’t like the light, so they stayed put in the bin!

    • Stuart Baunoch
    • June 9, 2008

    Never though of the light might use that idea… As for the rest
    I am going to start another box with nothing but cardboard, paperclipping, and leaves and such No peat moss. Didnt know is was acidic.

    Thanks. Any other advice is appreciated…

    • Jill
    • June 10, 2008

    I mix shredded newspaper up with my peat moss to combat the acidity. So far that has worked OK….

    • Adrian
    • June 17, 2008

    I used the light to keep mine in, but when I put them in the dark the next day they and they came out again. It doesn’t seem like they like the environment. The worms also seem to be turning a darker red.

    • Terry
    • June 21, 2008

    Are you sure that the red worms are ther right type for composting? Red Worm is a common name for different types, the type called Eisenia Fetida is the best suited for vermicomposting and will survive better. Other types may have to leave the bin because it is not suited for their survival.
    I tried putting some common earthworms that I found in my outdoor garden compost into an indoor bin. They all took off, even dried up on the floor trying to escape.
    Try reading the book Worrms Eat My Garbage, it is a very helpful guide. This forum is really nice to get other opinions and is helpful too.

    • Adrian
    • June 21, 2008

    I bought red wigglers at a composting class. Some are eating the food I’ve put in, but I think most are at the bottom. They are not trying to escape anymore.

    • Adrian
    • June 21, 2008

    I bought red wigglers at a composting class. Some are eating the food I’ve put in, but I think most are at the bottom. They are not trying to escape anymore. I am still concerned about their health since they were sluggish. But the ones I see eathing seem to be healthier.

    • Selina
    • May 9, 2011

    There is not really a mention of location, but my lil bitty time messing with vermiculture, I have come to notice that they don’t like to be on the floor. Speaking strictly indoor, of course. Garage floor, kitchen floor, dining floor. But all are quite a bit colder to the touch. Try (if you can) to raise your container off the floor a few feet. I have unpacked boxes in the garage and my worms instantly stopped trying to flee.

    • Rich Carleton
    • December 19, 2012

    My bin has been set up for over a month, everybody happy. Now, all the tiny babies, and a few adults are crawling up the walls; I pureed my vegies in the blender, covered it with shredded newspaper, now they are trying to escape; too much food? Up til now I have left the vegies whole…

    • Bentley
    • December 19, 2012

    Hi Rich,
    Are you sure those “tiny babies” are in fact composting worms? It’s not uncommon to end up with outbreaks of white worms from time to time (especially if there is a bit too much food in the system). Only having a few adults on the sides is very normal – that’s why I’m asking.

    The one thing about pureed materials is that it becomes much easier to add a LOT of food all at once without really realizing it – plus, because they are so well broken down (physically) the entire process is accelerated so there may be noxious gases etc forming more quickly (and in higher concentrations) than normally.

    Also – perhaps it just has something to do with the particular mix of materials you added. Maybe there was something in there that didn’t sit right with them (containing salt? etc)

    • Adrian
    • December 20, 2012

    Try removing some of the pureed veggies or mix in some dry newspaper strips to balance it out. The newspaper will absorb some of the liquid and gas. The lime in finely crushed egshells also help with pH balance. Good luck! BTW, baby red wigglers are pink and slightly transparent but still long for their skinniness while pot worms are smaller and white and also transparent.I find when the bin is really wet but also acidic, with too much food and not enough oxygen or paper, pot worms will crawl on the wall since the environment and atmosphere is right for them.

    • Rich Carleton
    • December 20, 2012

    Thanks Bentley and Adrian! By your description, I may have white or pot worms crawling out; they are white, not pink at all. Suggestions for dealing with this outbreak? I noticed the food was covered with tiny white dots, not the sac-like shape I was looking for as described in the literature that red wigglers come from, and now all these super skinny white worms covering the walls… Do I try to remove them?

    • Adrian
    • December 21, 2012

    I don’t remove pot worms since they are fragile and more easily live and die by the conditions in the bin. You can never get rid of them entirely. (I also kind of like them. :)) Because reds and whites enjoy different conditions, when you make it more suitable for the reds then the whites shouldn’t be around so much. Pot worms tend to like it when the environment is more acidic and anerobic. Newspaper and some finely crushed eggshells can help make it better. The newspaper will soak up excess moisture and allow room for air while the lime in the eggshell will decrease acidity. Also, I don’t puree the food and instead let nature and my wormies break it down at a more manageable pace.

    • Rich Carleton
    • December 31, 2012

    Will the worms process pet hair?? I have 3 dogs and 3 cats, which results in lots of “dust buffalo” piles of fur.. Can that go into the worm bin??

    • Adrian
    • January 5, 2013

    Hair will decompose, but I never tried putting a lot of it so I don’t know how long it will take. I would mostly worry about introducing pet critters into the bin.

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