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.
What to Do:
If you notice that some your worms are dead, act quickly to save the remaining worms with these steps:
- 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.
- Replace bedding with something neutral like shredded newspaper, clean leached peat, or something you know your worms have liked in the past.
- 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!