Worms are Crawling Out of My Worm Bin (Part 2 of 4)
If worms are fleeing your bin, it's most likely the result of:
- Temperature (too hot or cold)
- Moisture near or on the bin
- pH issues
Temperature Issues Causing Worms to Crawl Away
Temperature is the most likely issue causing the worms to flee their comfy home. Red wigglers thrive in temperatures of 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit but can survive in a range of 40-95 degrees. If worms are fleeing your bin, make sure the bin is placed in an area where it is not too hot or too cold.
Temperature can be an issue if the bin is outside or in a shed or garage. If the conditions are too warm, try:
- Moving the worms to a cooler setting,
- moving the bin from direct sunlight, or
- adding fans that circulate air.
If the temperature is too cold, try:
- moving the worms to a warmer setting,
- covering the bins in blankets or insulation (e.g., hay/straw works well too), or
- finding a heating source to warm the air around the worms.
Keep in mind that the temperature in the bin is likely different from the air temperature. During colder spells, the wetness of the bin may make the bin cooler than the air temperature. Conversely, in the summer a moist bin may be cooler than the outside air.
Moisture Issues Causing Worms to Crawl Away
If your bins are outside, moisture on or around the bin can cause compost worms to leave. Red wigglers are attracted to water so if they sense water near the bin it is not uncommon for them to look for it.
We recently had an issue where water was beading on walls (due to humidity), and every night worms were escaping (and dying) in an effort to find it. It took several weeks to figure out the problem, but as soon as we increased air ventilation in the surrounding area, the water disappeared and the worms stayed in their bins.
PH Issues Causing Worms to Crawl Away
If worms are leaving your bin and you have eliminated temperature and moisture as the cause, try balancing the pH. Worms prefer a neutral pH (around 7). With worm farming, the most common pH issues involve bins getting too acidic (meaning a pH of less than 7). This is because many inputs to worms bins, including manure, organic waste like fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, and peat moss, are acidic and can lower pH over time.
If you believe pH may be the reason your live worms are leaving their bin, try adding crushed egg shells to the bin. The egg shells will help raise the pH to a more neutral level. Agricultural lime also raises pH, but it can be difficult to determine the correct amount of lime to use and it is very easy to swing the bin's pH from acidic to alkaline (causing more worms to leave the bin). If you use agricultural lime we recommend using very small amounts (a pinch or 2 at a time from home bins).
If you've eliminated temperature, moisture, and pH as reasons why worms are crawling out of your bins, take a look at our other posts on troubleshooting worm bin problems: