Help! My worms are trying to escape my compost bin! Do not worry my fellow gardeners. This is either temporary or completely fixable.
For Hungry Bin owners, sometimes the worms will cluster towards the top of the bin, even climbing to the underside of the lid. Smaller worms even attempt to squeeze through openings meant to supply air to the interior of the bin. (No, really!)
The composting worms are attempting to leave for a reason. If the bin is maintained and fed properly, it will become a utopia for worms looking to fulfill their purposes! And you will reap the benefits.
Let's step through the different scenarios that could potentially lead to worms attempting to escape, and present some practical solutions to prevent this behavior moving forward.
During or Before Rain
This is a completely natural response, particularly when it is extremely humid or about to rain. Worms grouped on the side of the bin, clinging to the roof and attempting to escape.
But why do worms come to the surface when it rains? The scientific community is split on this. Maybe they don't want to drown. Perhaps they can travel faster on a flat, soil-less and wet surface. Or it's possible that the vibrations created by raindrops might draw them to the surface. For our purposes, it is not important.
But the solution is simple. Just wait. Your worms WILL return to the surface layer when the rain subsides. That's it. Avoid pushing the worms back to the soil surface or trying to bury them in the soil. This will not help solve the problem.
Alternatively, try moving your bin to a more sheltered or even temperature/humidity controlled area when heavy rain or flooding is approaching or expected. This should discourage the fleeing behavior before it begins.
Worms will also try to flea conditions they deem unfavorable or less than ideal in their home. Wouldn't you do the same if surrounded by piles of garbage?
If it's not raining and worms are still trying to escape, it's important to look for clues around the bin to determine why. The following scenarios are common, and each has a simple fix to prevent further migration.
- Overfeeding: This is the most common issue facing new Hungry Bin owners. Overfeeding leads to spoiling and molding food sitting on top of or in the upper soil. If needed, remove the spoiling food and reduce the amount being fed to find the perfect balance.
- Too Acidic: When the contents of the bin become too acidic, worms become disinterested. This often leads to an unpleasant smell. To reduce the acidity, add some fibrous materials, like paper, cardboard, dead leaves, or old brown grass clippings. Sprinkling on a small amount of dolomite lime or rock dust can also help. Observe your bin further over the next 3-5 days to see if conditions have improved.
- Too Dry: A bone dry bin is also a deterrent. If the soil is dusty and dry, and no liquid is being collected beneath, this might be a problem. Generally, you shouldn't need to add water; however, if the bin has completely dried out, sprinkle some water on top. Also confirm that the bin is not exposed to intense sun for long durations.
If the Hungry Bin lid is kept shut, it is almost impossible for worms to escape. A few creative fugitives might find freedom, but in a bin designed to hold 1000s of worms, one or two lost worms is insignificant. (Personally, I have never seen one escape my bin.)
Composting worms are incredible creatures that provide significant benefits when allowed to follow their intuition! Trying to escape it's just an extension of their genius.
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