If you are feeling hot in the summer, so are your composting worms! Unless they are snuggled indoors in air conditioning, your wiggly composting helpers need help staying cool. A few precautions will keep your worms operational. What natural cooling techniques do worms have? Where should your worm bin go? When should you intervene? What’s the worst that can happen?
Natural Worm Cooling
Worm in the wild knows what to do when they feel too hot. They dig down deeper in the earth or bedding (such as manure or rotting vegetation). This moves them away from the hot sun, sultry air, and warm surface.
Worms do not have sweat glands. They cannot pant to cool off. These simple critters are some of the oldest on earth. Worms are somewhat at the mercy of their environment.
When you harness the power of worms for composting, you create a partly artificial environment. The bedding you provide gives them room, food, and moisture. Bedding needs to be a bit fluffy so they can breathe through their skins. Confined in a box or bin, worms cannot move somewhere else. Therefore, you need to help your composting worms to keep them cool.
Composting Bin Design for Cooling
The vermicomposting bin itself should have features that help keep the worms cool.
- A lid keeps the sun off and moisture in. Keep the lid on.
- Proper drainage holes help regulate moisture. If the bin gets too wet, the extra water can drain instead of drowning the worms. Some bins have a water collection area and a spigot.
- Sufficient ventilation helps prevent too much hot air from accumulating in the bin. Make sure the bin has air holes.
- Place a special worm bin blanket or newspaper soaked in water on top of the bedding. This helps retain moisture.
Where to Place Your Worm Bin
Your vermicomposting bin needs to be placed out of the sun in the summer. Sunlight raises the worm bin temperature significantly in hot weather. Place your bin in the shade. Under an awning, under trees or bushes, in the shadow of a building, or in an outbuilding are good locations.
Moisture for Keeping Cool
Your worm bin is getting some moisture from food. The kitchen scraps you place in the bin often have a high water content. Sloppy melons and juicy vegetables are especially high in moisture. However, evaporation during hot weather means your bin might not get enough moisture.
Worm bin bedding should have the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. If your bin is too dry, pour some water on top of the bin. Dechlorinate the water first, if possible, by leaving it out overnight. A clean watering can makes this process easy. Be careful! Too much water all at once could drown your worms! Pour, let soak in, and test the moisture level again.
Want to give your worms a treat? Add ice. Place plain ice on top of the bedding or buried in the center of the bin. You can cool and feed the worms all at once by freezing scraps and water together. Place kitchen scraps in a plastic container, add water, and freeze solid. Bury it in the middle of the worm bin. As the ice melts, the scraps defrost, providing a meal for the worms.
Worst Case Scenario
What happens if the worms get too hot? They dehydrate, die, and dry up. Finding crispy dead worms in your bin? Try to salvage your worms by providing moisture and reducing heat. Worst case, they may have laid eggs that will hatch when conditions improve.
Have your worms died from heat exhaustion? Interested in starting a worm bin? Order a composting bin and composting worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. We are the #1 supplier of composting worms in the USA. We have Red Worms for composting, and European Night Crawlers (Super Reds) for composting, fishing, and aeration. Also, check out our selection of indoor/outdoor composters.