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 Bin||Worms 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 temperatures||In 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 paper||Worms have very sensitive skin. Bleeched paper can irritate and be harmful to your worms.|
|Starvation||If you have forgotten to feed your worms, they may try to look for greener pastures.|
|Acidity||Worms are comfortable when the pH level is between 6 and 7.|
|Barometric Pressure||Worms can sense barometric pressure and sometimes surface above ground before heavy rain to avoid drowning.|
|Too Crowded||If 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.|
|Vibrations||Worms can get agigated by vibrations and may scatter / move in all directions.|
|New Worms||It’s common for worms to take some time to settle into their new environment.|
What Should You Do When You Find Your Worms Are Trying to Escape?
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
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
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 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.
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.