European Nightcrawlers disappeared from my worm bin

Comment: Hello, I'm new to worm composting. Have made some mistakes but have been able to make my worm farm successful. I thought the initial problem was not keeping enough "fresh" bedding. I tried another approach using a 5 gal bucket/cow and horse manure/and feeding vegetable matter to 2 pounds of European Night Crawlers. I cut a hole in the lid of the bucket covered it with screen material from a screen door. After 2-3 months I harvested the worm castings from my worm farm and found I only had a few worms in the bucket. Less then 100. I didn't find any dead worms. Never found any "escapees". The worm bin was kept in a laundry room and I never found or saw any worms on the floor,
I am unable to figure out where the worms disappeared to and why. Do you have any ideas?

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Sep 12, 2016
Re: European Night Crawlers diasppeared
by: Stephan

Hello I am sorry to hear that most of your worms have disappeared from your worm farm. I think you definitely made some good choices concerning your worm composting set up. Placing your worm bin in a laundry room should keep the temperatures inside the bin relatively stable which is a good thing. Horse manure is as well a good choice as worm bedding as long as it doesn't contain to much urine.

The fact that you found less than a hundred worms inside your bin after it had run for a couple of month is unfortunately not uncommon. European Night Crawlers (Eisenia hortensis) worms have their name for a reason. They are really master escapees and when crawl in large numbers during the night. Many of them might just explore their bin but a lot of worms will actually try to escape from their bin and if there is anywhere the smallest opening in the worm farm set up they will find it and wiggle through it. I have found worms on some mornings that have left their bin and ended up in a different room of the house. They will try to find a dark and moist place to hide once the daylight is coming up. So it is not always easy to find them. They might hide underneath a washing machine for example or in a pipe, under a cupboard or carpet.

If Night crawlers are not contained inside their bin some of them might escape night after night from their bin and often will never be found again.

When using European Night Crawlers in a worm bin you must make extra sure that they can not escape at night. As they need oxygen for their survival there always has to be an opening in a worm bin set up which if allowed the worms will use to escape if they can. The best way to keep them inside their bin is the use of light. Like all composting worms night crawlers flee and hide from light. So if a lamp is placed over a worm farm and covers it in light during the night the worms will stay inside their bin. Another way that works quite well are crawl traps inside the bin. They have to be installed around the upper inside edges of the bin and will make it impossible for the worms to pass.

Eisenia hortensis are really nice worms they consume a lot of waste, breed quite fast and make excellent bait for freshwater fishing but the art is to keep them contained in their bins. Once you have managed that you will have lots of fun with your worm farm.

However you should maybe consider to switch to "Eisenia fetida" known as Red wigglers the most popular composting worm of all. They are much easier to contain and apart from being smaller than their cousins outperform them in many ways.

I wish you all the best for your worm composting project. Just keep on going and you will succeed.

Kind regards

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

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