Saturday, January 2, 2010

Some Common Worm Bin Problems

Most problems that arise can be solved pretty easily. There are eight main areas of concern that are pretty common if proper bin maintenance isn't followed. These are:
  • Bin is too wet
  • Bin is too dry
  • Temperature is too hot
  • Temperature is too cold
  • Rotting food in your bin
  • Bin smells
  • Worms escaping
  • Unwanted pests

Too wet-

Check drainage holes for blockage and ensure they are at lowest point in bin. It is also possible that recent addition in excess amount of wet foods have produced a wetter environment that can be easily corrected by adding some shredded newspaper that will absorb the excess moisture.

Too dry-

Use a mister or spray nozzle to evenly distribute water over top of bedding and check temperature conditions that may be causing bedding to dry out faster than normal. Make sure when new bedding is added, additional water is added to prevent your new material from absorbing existing moisture from bed.

Too hot-

Ensure plenty of ventilation and shade in the summer. You can attempt a short term solution by placing ice in a tray and setting it in the top of your bin. If bin temperature cannot be maintained at a safe level, move to an environment that is climate controlled such as basement, garage, spare room or closet.

Too cold-

Worms don't have the capability of generating their own body heat, so you'll need to from harsh elements. You can help keep your bin warm by placing it on a rug instead of bare ground or concrete and by covering it up with blankets or other insulating materials and by the use of a light or heating pads placed under your bin as long as the space is adequate so as not to pose a fire hazard. If bin temperature cannot be maintained at a safe level, move to an environment that is climate controlled such as basement, garage, spare room or closet.

Rotting food-

If you see rotting food in your bin, you may be either adding too much food for your worms to consume, or the food is too large for them to eat and they are just waiting for it to break down some where they can manage it. While this is normally not a big deal as long as it is covered with bedding, it can become a problem if it is in excess. It can lead to unwanted pests, bad smells, and an unbalanced environment. Excess rotten food should be removed or chopped smaller and given more time before adding more food. You can use a blender or food processor to chop up your kitchen scraps which will help speed up the breakdown process.


Typically when your bin is properly maintained, you should have no smell other than a slight earthy smell. Some reasons for a bad smelling bin can be from not properly burying the food, by adding the wrong foods that the worms avoid, too much food or excess moisture. this could be a start of more problems such as pests or an unsafe environment for your worms. Ensure all food is properly buried and moisture levels is maintained. If you can't correct by adding more bedding, try leaving your lid open and allow bin to air out and dry a little.

Worms escaping-

The red wiggler is not typically an adventurist and are content to stay put when their environment ids to their liking. The only time they should try to escape is when they are not happy about something in their bin. you may have a couple of wanderers when you first add your worms to a new bin, but they will normally only crawl around the inside walls and lid of their bin. They don't like light, so if you see them getting out of the bin, or a large quantity of them clinging to the walls or lid trying to get away from the bedding, you can bet something is not quite right. There can be a few different things that can cause this. Bin temperature, moisture level, pests, etc. The most common is if the bedding has taken on a high acidic or alkaline content from excess levels of certain foods. This can normally be corrected by adding some dried crushed eggshells and cutting back on excess foods with a high acid content. Some sources mention adding powdered lime dust, but this is like driving a thumbtack with a sledge hammer and definitely overkill for a small bin.

Unwanted pests-

I say unwanted, because some actually help the process of breaking down the waste and are only a concern when they become a nuisance to you. This is one of the most sought after subjects around worm composting. While most pose no immediate threat to the worms, if left alone they can rob your bin of the food intended the worms and eventually become a bug habitat. The easiest way to avoid them is to properly bury the food, and keep your bin secure from any openings other than screened off ventilation holes. Don't allow your bin to become too wet and be sure to clean up any spills around the outside of your bin. You may notice gnats, flies, ants, and a variety of others if your bin is not properly maintained. Keep in mind that if your bin becomes invaded with pests and nothing seems to be working to eradicate them, it may be easier to start a new bed and move your worms. You can use a cardboard box temporarily while you clean your bin inside and out. The following list should help you remedy the problem pests.

Flying insects-

Attracted by certain smells and can usually be avoided by completely burying food and keeping bin closed. Fly paper can be placed around the outside of bin and hung from the lid. Also for most flying insects, you can suck them up with a vacuum. While you won't catch them all, you can damage their population. Traps can be made from placing cups of vinegar with a drop of dish soap around your bin. Cover the cups with plastic wrap and poke some holes in it for the flies to get in through.


They work fast and can wreak havoc in a short time. It's best to get them under control at the first sighting. prevention is your best defense by keeping your bin area clean and dry. If your bin has legs, you can put them in a small dish of water and the ants won't be able to get in your bin. You can also treat the infected areas leading to your bin with granular ant poison. If you have them in your bin, you can soak the affected areas and the ants will usually leave on there own. For the rest you may have to scoop them out by hand and discard the affected bedding. After you have them removed, clean and dry all outside areas and add new dry bedding if needed to soak up excess water.


There are several species of mites that are normally of no threat to your worms, but they can rapidly increase in population, causing the worms to go deeper and not be ing able to process the upper levels of food. Mites will be present from over feeding, over moist bedding and meaty or wet food. To remove them, leave the lid open for a couple of hours, driving them into the bedding. Water the bedding, forcing them to the top and use a propane torch to flame across them thereby killing them. This is only a quick fix and you will need to correct the problem that caused them or you will find yourself repeating in a short time.


These oblong wingless insects will jump when disturbed and will turn the top of your bed with there rapid reproduction. The only real threat other than being a nuisance is the same as mites and can be dealt with in the same manner.


Usually no threat of rodents as long as area around bin is kept clean, bin is kept secured and no bad smells are present. Traps can be placed around bin as a safety measure if needed.

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Written as a helpful guide to vermiculture, providing tips and info on a all areas of healthy composting and loaded with information to help get you started and guide you through the process of setting up and maintaining a worm bin.

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  1. Wow ... this was great information and I learned a lot! I used to think that one could put the common worm into a compost pile and ... that was it. I see, now, that there is much more care that needs to be taken! Thank you for sharing this!

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  2. Good common problems shared Thank you

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