Dead red wigglers, lots of little white ones

LexiCanada(7)April 26, 2014

Hi everyone

I am new to vermincomposting - am working on my first bin now. It is in a sterilite drawer with holes drilled in the bottom.

Things seemed to be going well, but then I got fruit flies and figured maybe I was overfeeding. I went away for a week and the worms had lots of food before I left.

I have now returned, and see that my red wigglers appear to be dead, and that some tried to crawl out of the bin and dried up & died too. But it is FULL of little white ones. They are only about a half inch long and I am not sure if they are baby wigglers or potworms. The stuff at the bottom of the bin is MUCH wetter than it was before I left. It seems that a bit drained out the bottom but not much (a pool of about 5 inches across).

Appreciatively seeking suggestions and advice-- what has gone wrong, and what to do next?


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We need more information.
How many of these posts have you read ?
Drawer ? wood ? lid ? capacity ?
Bedding ? How much ?
Food: What and how much ?
Picture ?
Do you have access to horse manure ?
A riding stable within driving distance ?
Any worms left ?
Do you have a yard, a garden, other compost ?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 11:30PM
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I'm just hazarding a guess here, but you mentioned holes drilled in the bottom. Are they just drainage holes? Were there any other holes drilled along the top edge for air, or was the lid left off?

It sounds like overfeeding and suffocating might have been an issue. Overheating would do it as well.

I killed half my herd once many years ago when I put rice in the bin that we didn't like. It was my first time cooking brown rice and it was a gloopy mess. I didn't check on the lads for a couple of day and the bin overheated drastically because of the rice.

One other time I bought some worms thru the mail and the post office wrapped the package tightly in plastic and when I received it, it was the most gawd-awful smell anyone can imagine. Suffocation killed those guys.

Too much food mixed in with the carbon will overheat the bin. I'm careful what I put in the bin.....very little rice, but they love pasta.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 8:57AM
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I agree with jasdip. Too much food, not enough shredded newspaper.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 1:20PM
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Keeping in mind that the bedding is also food for them, there is need to stock-pile a bunch of food for them when on vacation. Oftentimes, when we leave them alone for a number of days (I know, hard isn't it?) the bin is very nicely worked. So a week isn't a long time at all to be piling on the food.

They are happy and healthy and doing what they do best, eating whatever is in their bin, and thank us by leaving their droppings for us. :-)

This post was edited by jasdip on Sun, Apr 27, 14 at 16:01

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 3:59PM
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I had the same exact thing happen once with an order of worms. It got delayed and worms started dieing and smelling and leaking so the PO wrapped it in plastic , it was pretty bad when I received that order. JIms worms replaced the order.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 5:07PM
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Hi everyone

Thanks for your helpful and timely responses!

I am confused and relieved to find that today there are far more wigglers wiggling in my bin than yesterday. And I can see clearly that I have both baby wigglers and potworms in there so I am pretty excited. Totally confused as to why the wigglers would be not moving yesterday and active today though. Has anyone else seen that before?

The drawers I am using are plastic, and not airtight so I did not drill any holes other than in the bottom. I have it topped with a piece of cardboard that fits snugly but not airtightly. Do you think I should get rid of the cardboard lid, or drill additional holes in the sides of the drawers? Or poke holes in the cardboard?

I have added a lot more shredded paper and mixed it all in with lots of airpockets.

I read that I should feed them 3x their weight per week. I started with one pound of worms and fed them 3 pounds of kitchen scraps (veggies & fruit, rinsed eggshells, non-greasy paper meat or dairy or citrus). I added small bits daily for a bit after that first week but then stopped because I was getting fruit flies and the worms did not seem to be eating the food as fast as I was feeding it. Most of it is nicely broken down now though. And there really isn't much of a smell.

Do I need to worry about the dead worms that are in there? I know some people say it is okay to compost animal matter but others say not. Suggestion?

Thanks again everyone!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 6:36PM
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If your worms are over fed or the ph level is off, sometimes instead of trying to escape, they are just lethargic in the bin. They don't react to the sun and squirm away and move at the rate of a slug. But it doesn't always mean thier dead.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 8:21PM
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Can we address the small white worm part of the question? I have a large wooden bin, no new food types, no excessive flies or gnats, no overheating / cooling. But I've seen a huge growth in the number of small white worms while the number of red wigglers continues to expand slowly.

These aren't maggots, as they're too long and skinny, plus I've had them in the bin for at least 6 months without any changes other than them increasing in proportion to the reds. They don't seem to get any bigger than an inch long at most.

I'm guessing that these are potworms, but am unsure if they cause any problems for the red worms. If caused by overfeeding, do they provide more benefit by eating and excreting than would be provided by underfeeding and trying to remove 'em?

If they don't harm the reds, then it seems the primary drawback would be when it is time to harvest the castings, when the soil would have to be left in the sun for a few days after removing the reds to kill all the potworms before use in the garden.

Here is a link that might be useful:

This post was edited by Thornezilla on Wed, Apr 30, 14 at 10:19

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 9:59AM
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