Worm bedding! Moist like a wrung Out Sponge - How wet is that??

by Pat Donovan
(Staunton VA )

A compost worm on the surface of the worm bedding

A compost worm on the surface of the worm bedding

I have read over and over that the correct moisture in the worm bin is to squeeze the bedding and it should be like a wrung-out sponge. Well, that is not a good way to determine the correct amount of moisture. Can a moisture thermometer be used and how wet should the reading be??

When I open my worm bin there are always worms on the side of the bin near the top where the holes are located. Does that mean they are not getting enough oxygen? I have many holes in two rows along the top of the bin. The bedding is coir, compost, shredded newspaper, and a little garden soil.

I do not put more food in unless the old is gone and my bin does not smell.
I do however have some kind of small fly (gnats??)in the bin that flies out when I open the top. I am making sticky paper to attach to the inside of the lid to catch these flies.

I have a double-stacked bin system. The top bin has the bedding and the worms with holes in the bottom for liquid drainage.

I used to have holes in the top lid but thought perhaps they did not like the light that came through.

I put 500 worms in my first bin set up and 1000 in the second worm set up. Some of The worms in the second set up escaped one night and I found them on the garage floor all dried up.

My worms do not seem happy and I don't know what I am doing wrong. I also found some worms in the bottom bin in the leachate. I was able to save some of them and put them back in the bin.

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Jun 25, 2020
Re: Worm bedding! Moist like a wrung Out Sponge - How wet is that??
by: Stephan

Hello Pat,

I am sorry to hear that you are having problems with your worm bin. The way you described it sounds that you have done a great job setting your worm bin up. However, it is still possible from time to time for something to go wrong and the fact that you are mentioned that there are always lots of worms on the sidewalls of your bin above the bedding indicates that the conditions inside your bin are not perfect.

I will try to answer your questions as good as I can but must tell you that there are quite a few unanswered questions to get to the bottom of it

For how long has your worm bin been active?

What type of compost worms do you have in your worm bin?

What kinds of worm food are you feeding your worms with?

The more information including pictures you can supply us with the better we will be able to assist you!

In the meantime let me answer some of your questions.

1. What is the correct moisture level of worm bedding?

Worm bedding should be moist but not soggy! Soak it in water for a while and then squeeze most of the excess liquids out. The moisture level is perfect if a handful of worm bedding squeezed in your fist will produce just a few drops of liquids dripping from it. If in doubt the bedding should rather be a little too moist than to dry. The worms are quite hardy and I don't think that the moisture level of your worm bedding should be the cause of your worm bin problems.

Your bedding materials sound fine and I don't think that the worms are leaving the bin because of a lack of oxygen either. You mentioned many holes in the sides of your worm bin which should offer plenty of ventilation for your worms and their bedding.

From time to time there can be a few worms along the sidewalls of your worm bin but if they are leaving regularly in large numbers that could have a few reasons.
1. Have a look at one of my articles about this subject. The URL: is


2. European nightcrawlers / Dendrobaena veneta worms tend to crawl out of their bins quite regularly at night. So it is best to take precautions against that behavior. Either offer no space for them to escape through or place a light over the top of the bin which should prevent them from crawling out.

3. There could be quite a few kinds of small flies that come out of your worm bin. Sticky paper is not a bad idea to reduce their numbers. Other ways can be found in this article of mine. The URL is


4. Holes in the top lid of a worm bin are not good for several reasons. Especially if the worm bin is situated outside. Firstly if it rains the worm bedding can get flooded with the rainwater and animate the worms to leave the bin and secondly as you mentioned correctly worms don't like sunlight at all costs and would not come to the surface of the worm bin to feed during the day which would / slow down the productivity of your worm herd.

5. A few worms can end up in the bottom bin in the leachate. Place a small stone or brick inside the bin which could act as an island for any worms that might fall into the leachate if you want to save them.

I hope this will help you in the meantime. If you need further assistance please supply us with more information and /or an update on the situation in your worm bin.

I wish you lots of success and am convinced that you will become a successful worm farmer once these initial problems are solved.

Kind regards, stay healthy and God's richest blessings for you and your family.

Stephan Kloppert

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

Editor of www.worm-composting-help.com

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