Why Are Worms Crawling Up The Walls of My Bin? Are They Escaping?
Worms are nature’s decomposers—they play an important role in the composting process by breaking down organic material.
Without them, composting wouldn’t quite be the rewarding activity that it is.
Most first-time composters are frazzled when they see worms collecting at the top of the composting bin or near air vents.
It often leads to questions like, “Why are my worms climbing to the top of the bin?”
Read on to learn why worms behave in this peculiar way.
Reasons why your worms are attempting to escape
If you notice your worms making a break for it by climbing out the compost bin, they’re most definitely not happy with their new home.
Here’s a list
1.They Need Oxygen
Did you know that worms breathe through their skin?
Worms are happiest in warm, humid areas as the high moisture levels prevent them from drying out.
The mucus covering their skin helps them breathe by dissolving oxygen present in the air and allowing it to enter their bloodstream.
There are several reasons why your compost bin may lack oxygen. These include the dumping of extra material, ill-designed containers, excessive dryness, etc.
If your bin lacks sufficient oxygen, the worms will collect in areas like the air vents or the bin lid where there is air movement.
2. Excess Moisture
Moisture is important to worm survival. However, is there such a thing as too much moisture? The answer is yes.
While worms can survive in pools of water for several weeks, they will eventually drown if they don’t find an escape. The same applies to compost bins—too wet, and your worms will attempt to move to drier and safer areas.
3. Recent Change
Worms will abandon their otherwise comfortable home if they’re unhappy with a change.
The usual culprits are adding a new type of waste or moving your bin to a new location with a noticeably different temperature than the previous one.
Such changes often distress worms.
4. Adjust the pH of the Worm Bin
Worms flourish in soils with a pH level range between 6.0 to 7.0. They can even survive a pH of 5 or 8 for a short duration. Foods high in acidity include citrus (grapes, lemons, oranges), oily and salty foods. Adding these to your compost bin would throw off the pH.
5. New Baby Worms
Overcrowding of worms in your compost bin can cause various problems, including a lack of nutrients and air.
If your worms lack the space to move freely and don’t have enough of the material to share, they may migrate towards the top of the bin.
Worms are usually aware of how to regulate their reproduction. They produce the perfect number of worms that can occupy an area. If there is an influx of new baby worms, and the older ones haven’t died yet, fighting for resources would exhaust them.
6. Type of Material
Determining the right bedding material for your compost bins is necessary to keep the composting process going smoothly.
Usually, grass clippings, tree leaves, food scraps, newspaper, printer paper, and cardboard are used for bedding.
Certain materials like bleached office paper are irritants that can bother your worms.
Also, commercial potting soil contains salts that distress the worm population in your bin. Chemical ingredients are generally uncomfortable and cause worms to crawl away.
If you’ve got a plastic compost bin and it’s closed, moisture can rapidly develop inside it. For those of you wondering, “can worms climb plastic,” they absolutely can. Therefore, plastic bins aren’t the best option either.
If you are interested in purchasing a worm composting bin then there are various options online on Amazon
7. Over or Under Feeding
Like every other species, worms require an adequate diet to sustain themselves. This diet should not be excessive or scarce in amount, as that may prove fatal to the worms.
Overfeeding would result in acidity, and as mentioned earlier, this would lead to your worms searching for alternate environments.
In contrast, underfeeding also causes your worm to seek food elsewhere by leaving your compost bin.
The food needs to be accessible from the bedding so they can feed when they please and perform their magic.
Some worms like the Red Wiggler may be able to go without food for two weeks, but it’s best to keep them fed, so they take good care of your soil.
How Do I Know If There Is Indeed a Serious Problem?
Finding worms in the compost bin lid might be an indicator that you need to reconsider your composting practices.
However, before you panic, observe how many worms are nestled near the top. While a handful implies curious wanderers, bucketloads of worms mean you have a problem.
Another way to tell if you need to reconsider your composting practice is to check the output.
There must be adequate nitrogen content in your compost pile at all times, given how rapidly micro-organisms consume the nitrogen and leave behind carbon materials without decomposing them.
Here’s where the brown-green balance matters.
Your carbon to nitrogen ratio must be 30:1 for proper decomposition of the compost.
The bin must be replenished with fresh scraps, grass clippings, and weeds while ensuring that the pile is moist enough.
Do also remember to sift lightly through the compost every now and then to check for adequate life inside: worms, mycelium, and mites must be present.
If they aren’t, add in some composted material and introduce new earthworms. Yes, you can buy worms for composting!
Sight, smell, and texture are other indicators of how your composting efforts are going. Soggy and smelly composts are breeding grounds for undesirable pests.
So, if you have a rat or roach problem, then re-familiarize yourself with the how-to of composting. Most importantly, the finished product of the compost needs to have the right consistency.
If it is too coarse, you’ll have to handle the materials and throw them back in physically. Conditions like these inhibit your pile’s breathing, and the material becomes matted.
How do you stop worms from escaping?
How To: Fixes for Common Composting Problems
It is quite easy to ensure that the worm population of your compost bin does not navigate towards the top and escape.
If you’re unfamiliar with these, read on to learn more about common problems, how to identify them, and their solutions.
The aerobic bacteria present in vermicompost bins help worms break down their food. Improper oxygen levels could prompt anaerobic bacteria to take over, and your bin will begin to smell. This is a clear sign of oxygen shortage.
To maintain sufficient oxygen labels in your compost, use large ingredients like sticks as the foundation for your pile.
They create pores that allow air to flow through. Break up fresh kitchen waste properly and distribute them evenly in your pile.
You could even add a passive aeration tube so that the middle of your pile has access to oxygen as well.
2. Moisture Level
Perform a simple “squeeze test.” There’s definitely excess moisture if you squeeze the material inside the compost bin and find water dripping from it. Typical culprits include moisture-rich kitchen scraps such as tomatoes and melons.
To drain the excess moisture from your compost pit, add ingredients such as torn-up straw and cardboard, sawdust, shredded prunings, etc.
These carbon-rich materials can absorb the water content from your compost, and they will also decompose quickly.
Turn the compost pile every 4-5 weeks to increase aeration and eliminate moisture. You could even try adding nitrogen activators if available or sprinkle finished compost from the bottom onto the top.
Blood meal, manure, alfalfa meal, garden topsoil, and bonemeal are also great alternatives.
A range of 50 degrees F to 80 degrees F is ideal for compost bins, so anything too cold or hot won’t work.
To determine the temperature of your compost bin, use a temperature probe. If your compost pile is too hot, turn it a few times.
And if the probe registers low readings, add new scraps gradually and reposition your bin somewhere warmer or place an adequate light or heat source nearby.
4. pH Level
An easy indicator of improper pH in your bin is pungent stenches and mildew. Avoid food items like coffee grounds, citruses, tomatoes, pineapples, etc., that are too acidic.
If you’ve added them already, simply remove them and introduce some eggshells into the mix.
Items like aged horse manure, shredded cardboard and paper, pre-compost organic waste, Coco Coir, and peat moss are items that have high carbon content, therefore the perfect bedding materials that your worms can thrive in.
Most of these items are easy to use for first-time composters.
In addition, the compost bin that you’re using needs to have proper lids and holes that allow aeration and sunlight inside.
Here are some great options we recommend!
You can aid the feeding process of the worms by providing them easily digestible food particles. Avoid stacking your bin with excess food to avoid pests and rodents. You can give blended food so the worms can directly access the nutrients in it.
Composting can be a fun process. And despite its challenges, you can make a warm, wet, and nutrient-rich home for worms with a little alteration and attention.