My Worms Are Escaping!

One of the most common fears of vermicomposters is their African Nightcrawlers escaping the bin. However, there are a few main reasons why this happens.  Below are some of the most common issues encountered by vermicomposters.

1) Too much moisture
This is the number one cause of worms leaving worm bins. It is very common for people to drench their bins in water, then find a pile of worms on the ground the next day. Also, too much moisture would result in mushy vermicompost instead of the sought after crumbly and airy characteristic of vermicompost. Worms are more tolerant of dry conditions than thought to be. Keep the bedding material as moist as a wrung out sponge. If you don’t know how it should feel, if the vermicompost you produce isn’t crumbly, it’s probably too wet. A remedy for this would be to add more dry bedding, or place a dry piece of newspaper on top of the existing bedding. This would soak up extra moisture that would have ended up on the sides of the bin. The dry sides of the bin would then discourage the worms from escaping.

2) Overfeeding
Probably the biggest mistake every newbie worm farmer makes. There is no such rule as “one pound of worms consumes one pound of food everyday”. It is more likely that they eat a third their body weight in food and another third of their body weight in bedding. It is so much easier to overfeed than to starve worms. You could keep a worm bin unfed for weeks and still see many healthy worms. On the other hand, an overfed bin can become smelly and toxic to the worms, and crash very quickly. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feed your worms at all. Instead, let your worms be the gauge of how much you should feed them. Start off with half a handful of greens. If the food seems to deplete quickly, increase the feeding amount or frequency. However, if even after two feedings, much of the previously placed food still remains, try cutting down on the food. It is recommended to feed the worms once or twice a week. Any more frequent is unnecessary and stresses both you, and the worms out. In the end, you want a setup that is effective and doesn’t require much intervention.

3) Hot bedding (High Nitrogen)
Organic matter that quickly decomposes produces heat and toxic substances like ammonia. These drive worms away from their beds and kill those that can’t escape. Make sure you use only high carbon materials as bedding (slow-rotting) or thoroughly decomposed high nitrogen bedding. If you observe that your bedding is heating up, add as much carbon-rich bedding as needed to the system, and regularly aerate the bedding in order to facilitate the dissipation of heat from the system to its surroundings.

4) Stressed worms
When you first purchase your worms, the delivery process often stresses them out. You might notice they tend to leave their bin more. Don’t panic! In 3-5 days, they should start to settle in. For the meantime, leave the bin cover off, and place the setup in a lit room at night. If some worms do escape, they usually will not leave in large amounts. Most people, especially first-timers, think rummaging through the worms’ bedding would help them. However, all this does is stress them out. Try not to meddle with the setup too much; the worms will appreciate it. Checking the worms every few days is fine, but don’t overdo it.

Pests

1) Ants

According to most sources, ants are alright to have in worm bins. Though ants may help in breaking down your worm bin’s contents, some species will prey on the worms. Other ants may not attack your nightcrawlers. However, in high amounts, they will compete with the worms for the same food source, which may kill the worms. Ants aren’t harmful in small amounts, and are normal. However, they may be difficult to eliminate, especially when they create a colony out of your worm bin. To avoid these complications, prevention is key.

If your worm bin already has ants, try temporarily increasing the moisture of the bin to drive the ants away. Also, watch out for winged ants and make sure to kill them as they are the queens, which are the only fertile female ants in the colony. Killing the queen would effectively wipe out an ant population. Since your worm bin will be extra wet, do not feed your worm bins temporarily, and add some fresh, dry bedding to soak up the extra moisture. Lastly, try disturbing the contents of the bin, and the ants will eventually find a new place to settle in.

2) Mites

One of the most common pests in worm bins, mites are some of the most annoying insects to deal with. Mites like wet, acidic and almost anaerobic conditions. Although a small amount of mites is normal, a sudden influx of mites may point to a larger problem, such as overfeeding, overwatering, or a worm bin that is too acidic. Though it can be difficult to keep mites completely out, there are many ways to prevent them from colonizing your worm bin. First, make sure to keep moisture levels on the lower side by adding dry newspaper or cardboard. Next, stop feeding for about a week in order to encourage the mites to leave your bin. Then, add more bedding to increase airflow and promote aerobic conditions.  Lastly, check the pH of your bedding. If you see mutated looking worms, it’s probably due to an excess amount of food, or highly acidic conditions. Add crushed eggshells, crushed oyster shells or a small amount of agricultural lime to increase the pH.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why doesn’t UVC PH sell red wiggler worms (eisenia fetida)? 
Red wigglers are not available in the Philippines. This is for two reasons. First and foremost, it has not been legally imported into the Philippines. Secondly, alternatives such as African Nightcrawlers are much more suited to the Philippine climate, as determined by numerous studies. As a result, we exclusively use, and sell African Nightcrawlers, or Eudrilus eugeniae in our products.

How do African Nightcrawlers compare to red wigglers? 
Red Wigglers are less tolerant of the heat, being a temperate worm, while African Nightcrawlers are much more heat-tolerant. Furthermore, African Nightcrawlers are larger, and tend to consume waste more quickly, most especially in warmer climates such as the Philippines. Thus, African Nightcrawlers are much more effective in our conditions.

Can I purchase just the worms without the bedding and container? 
We offer the African Nightcrawlers in a starter kit in order to increase their chance of survival during transport, and post-purchase. Having a starter kit also helps you achieve the optimal conditions of a healthy worm bin much more easily. By providing you with a functional setup, you will have everything you need to get started, rather than going from scratch. With a starter kit, all you have to do is feed them weekly, maintain the moisture levels, and harvest the vermicast every month or so.

Which type of starter kit should I get? 
Our starter kits start at only P895. The Micro is suited for small expermients. However, it might not be enough to reduce your waste output. For that, we would recommend starting with a Standard kit. However, if your household is larger than 2 people, we’d recommend getting the Plus. Each Urban Worm Bin Plus would be enough for about 3 people. For larger households, or families that produce more organic scraps than the average, having more than one Urban Worm Bin Plus helps you process more waste, and ensures you aren’t overfeeding your worms.

How many worm bins do I need? 
Your needs depend on your organic waste output. For a household of 3 that outputs an average amount of scraps, for example, should be fine with one Urban Worm Bin Plus. For larger households, multiple Urban Worm Bin Plus bins would be more suitable. Also, if you’ll be processing the organic waste of just one person, the standard kit is recommended. On the other hand, the micro is great for those who are on a tight budget, and would like to learn more about worms. However, if you would like to greatly reduce your waste, we recommend going with either the Standard or the Plus.

When should I harvest my worms? 
On average, it takes about a month to harvest your bin. When most of the original material has turned into vermicast, you may either add more bedding, or harvest the bin. Your bin will be ready for harvest when you’re satisfied with the amount of vermicast already produced, or when it’s almost full to the top with earthy and crumbly organic fertilizer.

If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us:

Text: 09178900543

Email: [email protected]

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