Dead compost worms and other questions...

by Stephan

2 worms

2 worms

Questions about worm composting?

I obtained a worm system from you about two years ago, and since that time,
it functioned admirably. During winter 2014, however, all my worms
suddenly disappeared from the box. Here and there, the dead rests of worms
in the box seemed as though they had dried out or had been sucked out.

I left the compost in the two boxes, and more or less forgot about them,
thinking that I would have to start all over again some time.
Now, in summer, I wanted to use the compost as potting soil, and to my surprise,
the compost was full of a large number of very small earthworms.

I therefore started the process over again, and the new worms seem to thrive
When I phoned your office a few years ago, i asked you whether housefly
maggots in the bin could do any harm, but you assured me that they are not
detrimental to the worms. I remember however, that you mentioned some other
maggot or pest which could attack the earthworms and cause damage.. I
cannot remember whether you mentioned the name. Could it be that something
like that killed off my worms?

Although the new worms seem to be starting out well again, is there some
way of avoiding a recurrence of this dying off of the worms?.

Might this be something seasonable?
Can the box be disinfected or something?
I know that excess water can drown the worms, but when they died out in winter, the compost was comparatively dry, because I was careful in this regard.

I have been told that worms grow faster if you chop up your kitchen refuse
in a blender.

I have also been told that maize meal added to the compost
also helps them grow faster.

Your advice will be appreciated.


Hello Anton,

sorry to hear that your worm herd has died off. The way you describe the remains of the dead worms it it sounds to me that the worm bedding must have been to acidic for the worms.

An indications that the worms are not happy in their worm farm is finding many of them on the walls of your worm farm. you should than aerate the worm bin and sprinkle a thin layer of agricultural lime over the surface of your worm bin.

Another problem could have been the fact that the worm bedding had become to dry. If in doubt rather have the bedding in your worm bin to moist than to dry.

Yes worms can drown or rather suffocate if submerged in water that doesn't hold any oxygen but if there is enough of it dissolved in the water they can live even in a fish tank for months as long as there are no fish in it of course. If the drainage of your worm bins is working well you can easily pore several liters of water over the surface of your bedding to keep it moist and the worms will not get harmed.

The creature that can cause problems in your worm farm are "black soldier fly maggots." The worms dislike them and flee towards the bottom of their bedding.
The contents of the bin will turn soggy in a short while and the worms will have died or left the worm bin.

The worms don't have teeth and do actually suck their food into their mouth. So the smaller and softer it is the more can they consume and the quicker they can grow and recycle the organic waste.

Maize meal, or other materials like dog poop or ground chicken feed can help to speed up the worms growth but another factor to consider if you want big worms is that worms grow bigger if there are fewer worms in their bin that are sharing the living space and the food on offer.

I hop this will help you for now.

Kind regards


Comments for Dead compost worms and other questions...

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Oct 11, 2018
re: My earthworms have disappeared all of a sudden
by: Stephan

Hello Sidra,

sorry to hear that your worms have disappeared. The way you described it the only option would be that the mature worms have crawled out of the bin. They do this quite regularly when they are placed into a new bin as well as during rainy weather. I am not sure what weather conditions you had last weekend and if your worm bin was standing indoors or outdoors?

However have a look at any places within a few meters away from the new worm bin that might have given the worms a place to hide under to avoid the sun and predators like birds...! So look under carpets, bricks, other bins, anything that they could crawl under and that might hold a little moisture. You might find some of your worms there.

If you want to place worms into a new worm bin in the future I suggest you make absolutely sure that the worms cant escape and possibly place them for the first 2 weeks under a strong light at night that will prevent them from crawling out.

One more thing I would like to know is what kind of animal manure you added to the bin?

Below is the URL of an article I published a while ago about worms crawling out of their worm bins.

Kind regards

Stephan Kloppert

Author of "How to start a profitable worm business on a shoestring budget"

Editor of

Oct 10, 2018
My earthworms have disappeared all of a sudden
by: Sidra

Hi, my students are working on a vermicomposting project with Eisenia foetida aka red wigglers. While everything was going fine, this weekend the worms suddenly disappeared. The students had shifted them to a new bin as the previous one had grown large number of meal worms. There were about 300 gms of earthworms added in the new bin with layers of shredded newspaper, spinach, leaves, animal manure and garden soil on Friday. When the students returned on Monday, only two worms were seen with rest of the stock entirely disappeared. Careful inspection of the pile revealed no dead worms as well so we are all unable to understand what happened to the worms in two days only? The bin is a drum 24 inches tall with a mouth opening of 10 inches and the worms have been growing fine for one month before this incident happened. Kindly help as I am unable to understand what happened to the worms. Although we have the cocoons at present but where did all the mature worms go at once? If the pile was too acidic (due to spinach) we had been adding spinach along with animal manure before as well in small amounts and the worms loved it.

Dec 17, 2017
Re: Dead woms
by: Stephan

Hello Kylie,

sorry to hear that your worms died. It might have had to do with the heatwave. Especially if the worm bin didn't have a lot of worm bedding and processed worm castings in it.

If the worm farm smells terrible of rotting dead worms it would probably be better to . start from scratch with new worms and bedding if you are in a hurry. There might be to much ammonia in the environment.

Alternatively aerate the worm bin and bedding a lot to get the bad smell out of it and the pH to level before you add new worms. Do you have some pictures of your dead worms and worm bin and does it smell bad?

Kind regards and good luck


Dec 14, 2017
Dead worm farm
by: Kylie

Please help, over the past couple of days we have had a heatwave. I moved worm farm to a shaded place, and gave some water. Only to find today they have all died. Can I buy new worms and add them 2 the dead ones or do we have to start off fresh? Please help my 5 year old is going to be Devo when he fines out
Thanks Kylie

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions about worm composting.


How to make

$ -MONEY - $

with earthworms! 


The Book 

"How to start a profitable worm business on a shoestring budget 

Order a printed copy from "Amazon" for only


or a digital version from the "Kindle" store for only


Prices valid till 30.06.2024

How worms recycle human manure