Why Are My Worms Trying to Escape?

Worms trying to escape when it’s too hot

When conditions in the bin become unbearable, your worms may attempt a mass escape. Worms are attracted to moisture and like condensation. Worms are attracted to moisture and condensation. So the odd worm on the lid or sides of the bin is nothing to worry about. But if you see hundreds (if not thousands) of worms clumping together, then that is a sign of stress. And your worms may be trying to escape.

Reasons Why Your Worms Are Trying to Escape

Soggy Worm BinWorms need moisture to breath through their skin. When it’s too wet, worms can drown. And when it’s too dry, worms cannot breath.
Extreme temperaturesIn extreme conditions worms can perish. Sadly, I’ve experienced a couple of mass die offs due to hot weather. On hot days, worms will try to relocate to cooler areas.
Bleached paperWorms have very sensitive skin. Bleeched paper can irritate and be harmful to your worms.
StarvationIf you have forgotten to feed your worms, they may try to look for greener pastures.
AcidityWorms are comfortable when the pH level is between 6 and 7.
Barometric PressureWorms can sense barometric pressure and sometimes surface above ground before heavy rain to avoid drowning.
Too CrowdedIf your worm bin is overcrowded with worms, some may try to escape. This sometimes occurs when adding new worms. Otherwise worms self-regulate their own population based on available space.
VibrationsWorms can get agigated by vibrations and may scatter / move in all directions.
New WormsIt’s common for worms to take some time to settle into their new environment.
Common reasons why worms may try and move out

What Should You Do When You Find Your Worms Are Trying to Escape?

Worms trying to escape via bottom tray due to overfeeding
Worms trying to escape via bottom tray due to overfeeding. Source: Reddit

Often the reasons why your worms are trying to escape can be a bit of a mystery. Has there been any drastic changes which could throw things off kilter? Do you worms appear deformed or discolored? If you can’t immediately work out what the problem is, you may need to do some detective work.

Temperature Is Too Hot for Worms

Worms will try to migrate to cooler spots in the worm farm such as the base when it starts to get too hot.
Worms will try to migrate to cooler spots in the worm farm such as the base when it starts to get too hot.

Temperature is an obvious one. Worms like the same temperatures as humans between 60°-80° F or 15°-26° C. Make sure the bin is in the shade and doesn’t get too hot. On extremely hot days, add a frozen water bottle in the bin to create a cool zone. In Summer, I move my worm farm indoors to prevent a mass extinction.

Worm Bin Is Too Acidic

Worms clumped up together trying to escape near lid.
Worms clumped up together trying to escape near lid. Source: Reddit

You can use a pH meter to measure acidity in the worm bin. Have you been overfeeding or do you have the greens vs. browns balance wrong? Are you adding too many acidic fruits? If your worm farm smells rotten or mouldy, your worm farm could be a little bit toxic.

It doesn’t hurt to add some eggshells or crushed limestone into the bin occasionally to help neuatrlize acidity.

Bin Is Too Too Wet and Anaerobic

Worms crawling up the sides of the bin tryig to get out
Worms crawling up the sides of the bin tryig to get out. Source Reddit.

Worms will try to escape a wet soggy mess. I don’t blame them. They can down in it.

Check the moisture levels in the bin. Have you been adding too many foods high in water content?

Perform the “squeeze test” or use a moisture meter. Squeeze the worm bedding in your hand and check whether any water drips out. The bedding material should feel like a damp sponge, moist but not dripping.

You should also check whether the drainage is blocked. If excess moisture continues to be a problem, consider drilling some holes to increase air ventliation.

Add lots of bedding to reduce moisture and condensation build up.

New Worms Settling in to New Bin

It can take a couple of days for your worms to settle into their new environment. Put a bright light over the bin. It will encourage the worms dig down. After 24-48 hours, you can put the lid on like normal.

Overfeeding And Adding The Wrong Foods In the Bin

If you feed them the wrong ingredients like meat, onions, dairy etc… then your worms will try to escape because the soil will not be suitable for them.

Overfeeding will create a toxic environment for your worms. Remove any rotten or uneaten foods.

One of the most intriguing worm facts is the phenomenon of protein poisoning (also known as sour crop)
One of the most intriguing worm facts is the phenomenon of protein poisoning (also known as sour crop).
Source: The Squirm Worm

Someone I know was adding a lot of sugar cane mulch into their worm bin. Unbeknown it is low in pH. A week or so later they found worms with “string or pearls” (also known as protein poisoning) and hundreds trying to scape.

How to Stop Worms Escaping

You can put some plastic mesh or nylon stockings over the holes in your bin. This will stop the worms from escaping without effecting aeration or drainage. I always add a thick layer of carboard covering the holes in the bottom tray holes to detract the worms from venturing down below.

Make sure you have a lid that snuggle “snaps” to the top.

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