worm factory: worms crawl down and die, then smell bad

amyleee217(Zone 9 Sacramento CA)March 6, 2011

Hi everybody! I bought a worm factory and have started out with one tray. Its been about 3 weeks. I followed the directions and put several sheets of newspaper in the bottom (supposedly to prevent them from crawling through) before adding the layer of bedding. Well, they are crawling down through the paper anyway. The working tray smells nice and clean and earthy, however, every day i check down below in the moisture catching area and I always find 4-8 worms down there and 2 or 3 that have drowned in the tablespoon or so of water at the collection site. The dead worms start to smell bad! I try and move the live ones back up and also bury the dead ones but I'm wondering if this is normal? I'd rather not have drowning worms. I put a little shredded paper where the moisture gathers hoping they could save themselves from drowning but still had 2 dead worms when I checked this evening and 3 or 4 just hanging out down there.

Should I just leave it alone down there?


Maybe I should peel back the bedding and add more whole sheets of newspaper so they can't crawl down below?

any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks :)


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I do not have a worm factory (I used to want one an maybe still do even with their bad quirks because they are just so cool) but I have read they lack air exchange and lugging heavy worm dangling trays around gets old every time the trays need rearranging. Some people prop up each tray a bit. Adding newspaper sort of landlocks the drainage area into no air. Is the spigot open to allow in air? Some vermicomposters put a tray of damp bedding for the bottom tray. Some vermicomposters put their next to be harvested tray on the top of the system to allow worms to crawl down and the vermicompost to dry out a bit. One would of thought $ystems would arrive with clear instructions and those wize wisdom filled ones selling the product would of crossed rivers and fought lions to include these tidbits in their written instructions for their vermicomposting dreamin' purchasers. However one wonders by the lack of included Usefull instructions if some sellers have ever actually seen a worm never mind used a worm factory to keep live worms. I encourage purchasers with questions to e-mail these questions to the worm factory seller since these are the very same questions that everyone seems to have of these products and have had for 15 years. One would think sellers would of noticed.

The number of worms you have found in the drainage is not alarming and probably normal. Some worms are just way to adventurous for their own good. That is how worms spread out and find new piles of goodness. Like it would of killed them to tell you this in their sales material. They probably have no idea worms even do this.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 1:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
amyleee217(Zone 9 Sacramento CA)

Thank you for the ideas! I didn't have the spigot open but went ahead and opened it. Will be more mindful of air flow. Like I said, they seem to be doing their job and there is no bad smell otherwise. when i checked just now when i went to open the spigot there were no worms down below. You are right, a little more info would have been helpful :) I opted for the $79 version of the worm factory rather than the "new and improved" worm factory 360 that costs around 120 - seems like the biggest difference is the "worm ladder" on the WF360 which supposedly is to help the worms who get stuck down below (selling point?), as well as a different lid that allows you to stack trays on, and a tool kit. well i had the tools laying around, and a shallow plastic tub from the dollar store works just fine to set the trays on :) so far i am really enjoying my worm bin... it really is very cool...

has anyone else had this problem?

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 3:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I also have a Worm Factory with 7 trays, although the very top tray is filled with shredded paper (for fruit fly control), and the very bottom tray is lined with landscape fabric (to prevent some of the drowning worms & also to catch the little bits of vermicompost which can clog the spigot). The landscape fabric does a pretty good job of stopping the compost from going any further, but I'm not sure there's anything to stop the wandering worms.
So, to answer your question, yes, others do have this problem, but no, I don't think you can stop all the worms. Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 8:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Trying to control nature- damn that's a tough job.
And I agree on system salespeople. If they were to admit to a problem, they would be job hunting. So when something comes up, go to the forums. Decent folk will share, and nature continues and we learn. It's all good. Wurmz iz e-z!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2011 at 6:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Most people want to use that bottom bin to collect water and moisture. People forget that a little moisture is a good thing when it comes to red worms. I put shredded cardboard or paper my that bottom bins to collect that moisture. I find that it creates a nice "stinky" environment to raise worms. In fact, if you can stand the smell, you can have an absolute population explosion down there, if you can keep the worms from drowning. Over time, you can relocate the worms to a new bin if you want. Just make that bottom bin work to your advantage.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2011 at 12:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

if i may suggest - bins should never smell bad

a collection of anaerobic(anoxic) gases such as ammonia and sulfur will eventually kill worms

in my experience it is not necessary to keep water pooling in the collection bin. the excess moisture will prevent a healthy oxygen exchange and hamper squirm health.

just some thoughts


    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 12:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have a Worm Factory, and I collect worms down the bottom. In the end, I decided to add shredded newspaper to the bottom liquid collection area (and cardboard), and the top over the feed site.

Down the bottom, the worms love it, and have something to prevent drowning. Once every few months, I scoop out the contents of the bottom, and add them to my compost bins, or back ontop of the feeding tray.

Not a problem really at all.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 1:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
growingood(z8a SC)

I found some helpful information at this web site:

My issue has been that although my tray is full of worms, my farm has not grown into needing a second pan yet; and it's been up and running for six months. I just can't get a handle on how much to add and when. The directions said not to add more food if food is present, but everytime I check the bin food IS present. I'm probably only putting more scraps in once a week, and not putting much in. I fluff it up to let air in, feeling encouraged that it is getting taller in content, but it settles back down.

I even watched several youtube videos, thinking I needed a visual directive. No one seems to address what you do for daily/weekly maintenance, and I haven't seen one for the Worm Farm specifically.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 9:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have solved this problem by adding a window screen at the bottom.... you should ONLY use it in the bottom tray or worms will not be able to move upwards. The screen (mosquito type) works beautifully at keeping castings and worms in the right place.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 9:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

At least in the newer factory 360 they have added the worm ladder in the bottom drainage/catchall tray. So worms in the bottom can crawl back up into the above tray. Yes it is normal to have worms down there .

This water thing has me befuddled possibly my bins are not wet enough and Im just not sure what people are doing to have that much water in their bins. Even when I put loads of melon rinds in I still have no water drainage in my factory 360 or my plastic bins. In fact most of the stuff I find in the drainage bin of the 360 is about half dry. I do keep a good amount shredded paper strips in my bins and dampen them as needed. I get plenty of VC harvest and no dead worms that Im aware of.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 12:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

hummersteve: Volume wise what would you say is a good amount of bedding to put into the bin for a given amount of mixed kitchen scraps? For a dishpan containers worth of kitchen scraps would you put in a dishpan's worth of shredded bedding?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 1:43PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Shredded Cardboard Question
I am a vermicompost novice with two bins right now...
how fragile are worms?
I was harvesting vc and really had put some force into...
Come Out and Play, Worming Friends!
Please oh please don't go! I think we can adjust to...
recent roamers
I've had 2 bins inside since last Oct. without any...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™