3 Common Mistakes That Can Kill Your Compost Worms

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Today I will cover three common mistakes that can kill your worms. Most mistakes that you make will not kill your entire worm bin, but some mistakes can be fast killers. In today’s blog post, I will cover three mistakes to avoid.

Placing Your Compost Bin In The Wrong Location

The first most common mistake people make that kills their worms is leaving the bin in a place that is too hot or too cold. I’ve heard many stories where a friend kept their bin in a basement. During the spring, summer, and fall this location was fine. However, once the first freeze hits, your worm bin becomes a popsicle. This often kills the worms and cocoons inside.

Avoid direct light or extreme heat
Avoid cold drafts and freezing temperatures

Another common mistake is to leave the bin in the corner of the room in the path of full sun. A friend recently started a worm composting bin. She tried to make her bin discrete as she lived with two roommates. She found a place to put her bin that was out of the way. However, she didn’t realize that the sun beats on that area of the room mid-day.

By the time she arrived home from work, it was already too late. All of the worms in the bin had died from the extreme temperatures.

How to prevent:

To prevent the total extinction of your worm bin from extreme temperatures, you will want to find a location between 40-80°F. In nature, works would wiggle out of any uncomfortable area. When you find a spot in your home, you need to find a location that consistently stays within the temperature range above.

Many people have found success keeping their bins in the basement during the summer and in a closet in the winter. Others keep their worm bin under the sink, so it’s easier to feed, clean, and maintain.

Take your time before deciding the location to see if it’s in the sun’s path, or if there is a cold draft that could present a problem.

Giving Your Worms The Wrong Food

The second most common mistake that can kill your compost worms is feeding them the wrong foods. Many people start indoor vermicomposting with the same attitude as outdoor composting. You can add just about anything (minus some pet waste, cooked food, dairy, and meat).

Adding too much food or the wrong types of foods can easily kill your worms. Too much food can lead to anaerobic decomposition, which will increase the temperature of your bin. The heat of the decomposing food can actually cook your worms.

picture of lemons, limes, oranges not to feed apartment compost bin

Not only can adding too much food be a problem, but adding the wrong kinds of food is also an issue. Acidic items like tomatoes, citrus, coffee grounds, and pineapple can all disrupt the pH balance. Adding too many of these items can turn your bin into an acid pit and kill your worms.

How to prevent:

When you first start vermicomposting, it is a best practice to leave up to two days of food in the bin. Starting off slow and understanding how much your worms eat is key to maintaining a happy worm bin. As your population grows, you will be able to feed them more and more food.

Similarly, it is important to note what kind of food you are adding to your bin. Because your worms can’t wiggle away, you must maintain a proper pH level of 7 in your bin. To keep a proper pH balance, avoid adding acidic items like tomato and citrus. Also, consider adding items like ground eggshells or oyster shells to keep the bin balanced.

Too Much Moisture

The final most common mistake that can kill your worms is not adjusting for moisture. In nature, you will see worms on the sidewalk after the rain to get air. However, in a composting bin, the worms can’t escape the moisture and often drown in the bin.

Moisture accumulates as food decomposes and as a byproduct of worm digestion. Often this moisture is what is considered leachate. Leachate is toxic and shouldn’t be confused with compost tea. If your bin becomes waterlogged, your worms may try to climb the sides of the bin. If not remedied, your worms will become exhausted and drown in the bin.

How to prevent:

The most common way to prevent the over-accumulation of water is to add extra bedding during every feeding. Ideally, the moisture level of your bin should be somewhere around a wrung-out sponge or a well-spun load of laundry.

When you notice your worms climbing the sides of your bin this is a warning sign that something is wrong. You can leave the lid off the bin to let the excess moisture evaporate, the dry bedding absorbs the water, and encourages worms to return to the bedding.

If you did make your own apartment composting bin, add holes to the bottom of your bin to allow moisture to leak out as necessary. Simply nest the bin in another container, or place it on a boot mat to contain the mess.

Summary Common Worm Bin Mistakes

So, there you have, three common mistakes that could kill all of your composting worms. Thankfully many of these issues are easy to avoid once you’re made aware. As you continue worm farming and composting you will learn how to easily maintain your bin and avoid failure.

Is there a mistake that you think I should have covered in today’s article? What tip would you share with first-time indoor vermicomposters?