Common Problems in Worm Composting and Tips for Troubleshooting Bins (Part 1 of 4)

In this 4 part series, we'll take a look at common problems impacting worm composting, how to troubleshoot each issue, and the tips and steps to take to address each issue.

Red wigglers can be incredibly easy to take care of when they are happy and healthy. When things are going well in your worm bins, live worms need to be fed 1-2 times per week, watered occasionally, and harvested every few months. There's really not much to having a thriving population once compost worms get settled in a new environment.

There are times, however, when worms are crawling out of bins, not eating, or worse, dying. The latter is particularly difficult because worm-icide can happen before you even realize there's a problem.  The good news is that most problems are avoidable and when issues do arise, they can be resolved with a little extra effort.

Most issues in a home worm bin are caused by human error and mistakes. In fact most common worm bin problems are the result of:

  • Feeding issues: Over-feeding your live worms, feeding them too frequently or before their last meal is fully processed, and burying food are common mistakes that can lead to "sour" bins.
  • Temperature: Exposing live worms to very cold (less than 40 degrees) or very hot (greater than 95 degrees) temperatures can cause the worms to die or flee (which means a quick death as they will dry out and die quickly once they've left their moist environment).
  • Watering issues: Adding too much water to a bin or having standing water in the bin can contribute to "sour" conditions that harm the worms over time. Conversely, letting the bin get too dry can kill worms very quickly (worms are made up of 75% water and need damp, but not wet, conditions to thrive).
  • pH: pH issues get a lot of "air time" in the worm farming industry, but for home bins that use cardboard/paper as bedding and organic waste (e.g., fruits and vegetables) as feedstock, pH issues should not occur very often.  We've included them here as a final item to check in case your bin has issues that aren't addressed by the below.

In the following parts 2-4 of this series, we deep dive into the 3 most common problems in worm composting, and highlight tips you can use to troubleshoot most issues in your worm bins:


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