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What Do I Do If My Worms Are Sick?

Worms don’t need much to stay healthy and happy, but occasionally bad things happen. Just like humans, worms respond to changes in their environment. Sometimes the conditions in your worm bin may have become unintentionally harmful to your worms. What do you do if your worms appear to be sick or dying? Fortunately, there are some simple measures to take.

sick

What to Do:

If you notice that some your worms are dead, act quickly to save the remaining worms with these steps:

 

  1. Move worms to a new, clean bin. Even if you don’t have another designated worm bin, clean and use whatever container you have on hand. In the future, keep another bin around in case of emergency.
  2. Replace bedding with something neutral like shredded newspaper, clean leached peat, or something you know your worms have liked in the past.
  3. Clean and check your old bin for any of the trouble signs below before returning your worms to the bin.

What to Look for:

On a regular basis, and especially after finding dead or dying worms, check your bin for the following conditions:

 

  • Temperature. Worms can easily get too hot or cold. Maintain a 55-70ºF climate in the bin by monitoring with a probe thermometer, and moving the bin to a cooler or warmer location accordingly. Insulation also helps.
  • Moisture. Make sure the worm bin is not overly wet or dry. The bedding should feel like a wrung-out sponge. If too wet, soak up excess water with cloth or paper and insert small rolls of newspaper throughout the bin. Make sure your bin has working drain holes. If too dry, judiciously pour some dechlorinated water in the bin, making sure drain holes are clear. If there are still a lot of worms in the bin, don’t add too much water at once or they will suffocate.
  • Light. Worms need the subterranean darkness they’re used to. Too much light can be fatal. Keeping your worm bin in a dark basement or garage is ideal to maintain healthy light levels — or keep the bin lid on. For an outdoor worm bin, keep a lid or cover closed, especially during daylight hours.
  • Fresh Air. Worms need some fresh air! Make sure your bin has good holes for drainage and aeration and that the contents of your bin are not so compacted that they restrict air flow.
  • Food. Worms must have enough food at all times or they will begin to eat their own castings. Sometimes worms will surprise you with how much and how quickly they eat what you put into the bin, so check and add food frequently.
  • pH Level. The worm bin should not be too acidic or too alkaline. If this is a concern, monitor the bin regularly with a pH probe. Shoot for a neutral pH of 7 by adding more alkalizing or acidic food accordingly. Limestone is also a handy ingredient for balancing pH.
  • Water. Be certain you are using dechlorinated water for your worm bin. City drinking water from your tap often contains chlorine, which can be harmful to your worms. Buy dechlorinated water, or dechlorinate tap water by boiling or letting it sit out for 24 hours to allow chlorine evaporation.
  • Space. Worms like a nice full bin of bedding and food scraps, but even they can feel crowded. Make sure your bin isn’t overly full of food, bedding, or even worms. Harvest worms and move them to a new home when you too many new hatchlings to make sure they don’t feel crowded out.

In the event that your worms aren’t doing well, follow these guidelines in your old bin or start fresh with a new one and continue to monitor your worms. Attention to these conditions should help you avoid dealing with worm sickness and death altogether. With regular checkups, your worms can remain healthy and hungry for years!

19 comments on “What Do I Do If My Worms Are Sick?

  • Ethel Mills says:

    Help uncle Jim: I went away for four days and left my worms with food however , there seems to be a distinctive odor coming from the bin and I don’t know whether there are maggots or what they are . I think I’m supposed to start a new bed from scratch but not sure where to begin . This is my first attempt at keeping worms . I have kept them going for the past six months until I went out of town this past weekend for four days . I i’m not sure where to start any help you can give me or advice would be greatly appreciated . Thank you

    Reply
    • Stewart Gregerson says:

      They won’t be moving. Touch them, when they’re dead it’s pretty apparent, and smells really bad. A living work will always wiggle around when you pick it up.

      Reply
    • Shawn Marie Hardy says:

      Are they moving? They should recoil when you try and move them. They don’t like to be messed with. If they aren’t doing that they are probably dead, or dying.

      Reply
  • I have some worms with white speckles inside!!? It that some kind of parasite?? The spots move…and the worms are a lighter color than my red wrigglers…super strange! They are alive and reactive when I touch them … but so strange. Have you ever seen anything like that?

    Reply
  • I started a night crawler bin using an old chest freezer. I bought quite a few night crawlers ( 500) and they all died. The question I have is…. is the seal too tight on the old freezer and I suffocated them ? I did notice that the leaves I put in with them were quite warm and thus now I plan on insulating them better. They are in the shade all but an hour or so a day. I live in western NY

    Reply
    • James Shaw says:

      Hi Ed,

      If you don’t have any places for air to get through along the sides, then it is very possible that the worms suffocated. We also usually recommend having some small holes for drainage along the bottom of the container, so that moisture doesn’t build up and create an anaerobic environment for the worms. If you do have air holes along the sides and bottom, then the next thing to check would be the temperature and moisture level for the bedding that the worms are in. Perhaps getting a soil thermometer would help with this if you are concerned that it is too hot for the worms? The temperature that they are in should not go higher than 84 degrees, or it can harm the worms.

      As far as moisture, you want to make sure the bedding is damp like a wrung-out sponge, so if you were to squeeze a handful, you would get a drop or two of water, but no more than that.

      We hope this helps! If you have any more questions, please feel free to give us a call at 1-800-373-0555 or send us an email at sales@unclejimswormfarm.com.
      -Bethany, Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm

      Reply
  • I have ph test strips… not sure if this is the best route to go as I don’t know if I stick it right in the bedding or out some bedding in water and test the water?!

    When I test directly in the bin the ph is at a 9 which I know is too high! When I put bedding in water and test the water it’s at a 7…

    I have found so many things on how to make beds LESS acidic but not much on how to make it less alkaline! Should I just add some orange peels?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • VICTORIA BOUDREAUX says:

    I ordered 100 worms and have them in a 1 x 1 bin. I been sprinkling the Uncle Jim food, but they won’t eat. The for just sits there, I even had a corn stalk start growing. I have followed all directions and don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Please help.

    Reply
  • live in San Diego and have an indoor vermicompost that I started about a month ago. A few days ago I noticed worms fleeing my compost bin en masse and upon further investigation I noticed little round eggs all over the compost and particularly concentrated on the bodies of my worms. Whatever this is is clearly attacking my worms and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have system collapse soon. It doesn’t match anything I can find online. Does anyone know what these parasites are? Or how to get rid of them? Thanks!!!!

    Reply
  • me and my friends made a worm collection, sadly one died, the first worm we found, pretty big but that big, anyway, her name was Illy because she was ill, well atleast I think she was…

    but now we have a pretty big farm, but no where close to yours, we have one earth worm his name is KingJr and were looking forward to lots more earth worms, but why I got on this website is because I need to know what a worm looks like when its sick or ill, I thought they would be white or green-ish, how much water do they need a day, and how much dirt do they need a day to eat and drink, and last of all, keep up your work (this is the first time im on this website, and last time too) THANKS!!!

    Reply
  • Im afraid I killed a bunch of my worms because there’s a massive pile of stinky white goo! I quickly need to save the others before this affects the whole bin. I’ve looked almost everywhere to confirm that this is what worm death looks like. Is it true??

    Reply
  • I started a Canadian night crawler farm in a 55 gal aquarium and used peat moss as a medium, giving it 24 hours to moisten and squeezed it out until it had only a drop or two per squeeze. I then fluffed it up and put 12in of it in the bottom. I then carefully selected 5 gallons of horse manure from a customers ranch that was not too decomposed and was just past the mold. I found red worms in it there and figured it would be great. I then dumped 200 night crawlers from the yard and neighborhood into the top and they crawled into the medium. Each night for a couple seeks I would check on them and they looked happy and were feeding. I am almost sure they were getting bigger. I started to notice the horse manure was less discernible from the peat moss so I added some lettuce, cucumber, water melon rind and a little moistened newspaper. I had read that it is good not to keep bothering them, so I left them a week undisturbed and when I checked on them, all but five of then could be found alive among a few dead worms…. There were 200 worms on there, what happened to them? The moisture is correct, the food was all gone except what had dried on top, and the air gap at the lid is only 1/8″ Could they have staved and then the bodies eaten by the few remaining worms? I checked again today after two more weeks and I found a few baby worms and one big lively one. That’s it. I need advice.

    Reply
  • Lindsay Levy says:

    Is it possible my worms are dead even if I get worm leachate from my bin? I just poked through the decomposing scraps and I don’t see any movement. Could it be that the food is just decomposing and that’s why I am getting the leachate and not that the worms are eating it since there aren’t any?

    Reply
  • I think all my worms died within a couple of months. It’s just so hot here in Houston. I could not keep the worm factory 360 below 100. When I dig through the bin, I see a thriving black soldier fly larvae community doing a great job on my scraps, but no worms. They all escaped through the bottom and just died or abandoned ship.

    I wan to try again but not sure how to make it work. The bin is on my porch, in the shade. Maybe I just need to skip summers? Any ideas how to manage through high humidity 100 degree summers?

    Reply

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