Why are my worms escaping out the bottom and swimming in the puddle beneath my bin?
Worms will naturally seek out moisture, and if accessible, they will head for the wettest spot they can find. Put them back into the top of your bin. or let them find their way back on their own. You can discourage their swimming expeditions by elevating your bin higher so there is more of an air space beneath your bin, and by frequently draining the drip pan so that leachate (water seeped through the worm bed) does not accumulate. Water your plants with the leachate – it contains soluable nutrients and beneficial microorganisms.
My worms are hanging out on TOP of the newspaper cover! How do I get them to go back down into the bed?
Worms will move throughout the bedding material based on moisture, temperature, pH, food, barometric pressure, or whim! Worms don’t eat 24 hours a day – they may be cooling off, looking for a mating partner, or just resting. If the bin is humid and dark, they will often come to the cool surface. They may also disappear deep into the bedding for periods of time. Don’t worry about them and don’t attempt to micromanage – they can and will take care of themselves. All you have to do is attend to their basic needs, feed and water them generously, make sure the bin is draining freely, and always keep the food deeply covered with moist, shredded paper.
My worms are not consuming food very fast. How can I get them to eat more?
Keep in mind that different foods will decompose at different rates. Lettuce, melon rinds, papaya, rice, bread, etc., will disappear quickly, whereas cabbage, potato skins, citrus peels, and banana peel will sit there for a while before they break down. Speed up feeding rate by chopping food waste (’til chunky but not soupy) – to create more surface area. Storing your food waste in the freezer, where ice crystals break down the cell walls, can assist in speeding things up. Be sure to thaw before feeding! Our mineral boosters, Azomite & Worm Farm Conditioner, will fatten the worms up and provide them with beneficial grit, which will encourage worms to consume more.
What do I do about fruit flies?
Fruit flies are a fact of life in worm bins and we all get them once in a while, because their eggs come in on rinds and peels. If your bin is outdoors and you don’t mind them, fruit flies are not an issue, because they do absolutely no harm. While a few flies from time to time are inevitable, no one likes a huge infestation in their house – it’s a nuisance.
Fortunately, fruit flies are easily controlled. Always, ALWAYS, keep a one-to-two inch layer of moist, shredded paper covering your food – no pukas. Fruit fly adults will not burrow through the wet paper barrier to lay their eggs. Freezing the food first will kill off any fruit fly eggs in food scraps. If you do get a big explosion of fly maggots in the bin, remove the infested material. If adult flies get well-established in your bin, sink a little cup of red wine or cooking sherry into the top cover and let them drown in it. You can also use a strong hand-held vacuum (Dust Buster) and suck ’em up in one sweep! If the problem continues there may be too much moisture at the bottom of your bin without enough air pockets. Mixing several good handfuls of Coir into the bottom bedding will create more air pockets. If the problem still continues, Contact Kokua Worms to discuss further possible options.
What are all these BUGS doing in my worm bin?
All the critters you see scampering around the worm bin – mites, earwigs, springtails, beetles, sowbugs, millipedes, snails, spiders, Asian roaches, etc. – make up the decomposer community. They are in there doing their job – breaking down decaying organic matter so that nutrients can be recycled. Mites for example (tiny moving dots) act as shredders that scrape the surface of material so that bacteria and fungi can get in and break it down. All these organisms are either eating decaying matter or each other and they will not leave the bin. They will do no harm to you, your house, pets, kids, or plants. As your worms have no teeth or grinding mechanism they are dependent on the array of other organisms to break down the food for them.
Occasionally you may inadvertently create a perfect environment for certain critters and will experience a population boom, sometimes called an “infestation.” Not to worry – just let it run its course. No harm will be done, and nature will re-establish a balance over time.
There are ants in my bin. Is this a problem?
Ants are freeloaders – snatching food from our bins and taking it elsewhere – and although they are not a problem they are most definitely a nuisance. You can isolate your bin from ants by placing your drip pan in a second pan filled with soapy water or talc (baby powder), or by smearing a ring of vaseline around the inner rim of your drip pan. Ants will not cross water, talc, or vaseline.
There are really big ugly maggots in my bin! Is this a problem?
Meet the marvelous wasp-mimicking black soldier fly larvae, Hermetia illucens! Soldier fly larvae tend to show up in large numbers and can be quite alarming on first encounter. To their credit, they are world-class decomposers and grind through massive amounts of organic matter like no other. Aggressive eaters, in bins they can compete with the worms for the available food supply, so make sure there’s plenty of food on hand if they show up. You can either ignore them, let them eat, pupate, emerge as adults and fly off, or you can pick them out of your bin. Temporarily decreasing the amount of food scraps you place in your system will cause the “BSF” to loose interest. Just make sure you have an ample amount of coconut fiber for the worms to eat and you keep the system nice & moist. If the “BSF” do not go away in a month or 2, Contact Kokua Worms to discuss further possible options.
My bin stinks! What I’m I doing wrong?
A healthy worm bin should have virtually no odor whatsoever. You are either overfeeding, feeding foods that spoil before being eaten (check with Kokua Worms for foods not to feed), or your bin drainage system is clogged and excess water is filling up the little pockets of air that provide oxygen to beneficial aerobic bacteria. If your system has gone stinky-swampy or anaerobic, unplug clogged drainage holes and make sure your bin is elevated so it can drain freely.
If drainage is not the problem, you are feeding your worms too much or foods they don’t eat. Stop feeding for a few days to give the worms a chance to catch up and then slow down your feeding rate. Drench the bin with plenty of water daily to help flush out oxygen-depleted water and air.
Are there any foods that are poisonous to worms?
One food waste that seems to do damage to worms are papaya SEEDS. They do not break down and leach into the bin an enzyme that renders our worms temporarily sterile. Papaya skin and flesh is OK. Coffee grounds should be used only in moderation one to two times per month. (I personally prefer to put my coffee grounds out into the garden bed or potted plants.) A little common sense goes a long way when it comes to feeding. For example, an occasional lemon or orange mixed in with a variety of food wastes is OK, but several lemons or citrus fruits are just too much acid and “limonene” at once. If you have a question about a particular food, try a small amount and see what happens, or just don’t risk it.
I want to move my worms from a small container to a larger bin. Is this OK?
Yes, indeed, once your worms are ready. Compost worms prefer to live in crowded, dense colonies, so whether your objective is to have a larger capacity bin to process more food waste and increase vermicast production, or to promote worm reproduction, keep them in a small bin and let them populate it to the max (at least double the original weight of worms) before moving them to a larger container. There is no need to increase your bin size simply to accommodate your growing worm population. Amazingly, at capacity, your worms will adjust their reproduction rate to the size of their habitat. See the next FAQ for more factors in ratio of worms to size of bin.
Why can’t I start my bin with just a few worms? Don’t they multiply?
The recommended worm-to-bin ratio is one to two pounds of worms for every square foot of surface area. For example, a 10-gallon tub (surface area just under two square feet), started with 1/4 pound of worms, will reach capacity of one to two pounds of worms within 1 1/2 to 2 years. Your worms will eat one ounce of food per one ounce of worms per day. If initially overfed, an abundance of other critters may grow to dominate the bin and create an unhealthy imbalance, possibly at the risk of losing all your worms. Also in a too-big bin they spend so much time and energy looking for each other that their reproduction rate (essential to a healthy bin) drops way down or ceases, and they virtually die out.
When investing in a worm system the most valuable component is the worms, which, with proper care and feeding will multiply and prosper endlessly.
I’m going on a vacation. Do I need a worm sitter?
If you are going to be away for two weeks or less, slow down the decomposition rate by feeding food whole or in big chunks. Feed them plenty, put lots of shredded paper on top, drench with water and bid your worms a fond “aloha!” They will be fine until you return.
If you will be away for a longer period of time, let us assist you with worm care options.