Vermicomposting Mistakes and Other Lessons Learned From Worm Composting

I was so pumped when my husband finally gave in to my requests for a compost bin. Even better than just agreeing to help me set one up, he suggested that we make it a vermicompost bin. Vermicomposting is a fancy way of saying composting with worms. This solution seemed like the perfect win-win. I would get the compost bin I’d been wanting, which meant less waste tossed in the trash and great food for our vegetable gardens. In return, my husband would get an endless supply of worms for fishing. Of course, he was concerned that the standard red wiggler (the most common worm for vermicomposting) would be a little too small for fishing. Never mind that I had someone willing to give me a pound of red wiggler worms to get started, my husband ordered a pound of some exotic night crawler that would do well on the fish hook. The name “night crawler” should have clued me in on what was about to happen!

We read up on worm composting, set up our bin and patiently waited. The day the worms arrived we were excited to get started. Everything we read said that the worms would stay put, so we filled the farm and went off to sleep. Around 3:00 am I woke up with a horrible feeling that worms were everywhere. I couldn’t shake it, so I dragged myself out of bed. Nothing could have prepared me for the scene in our living room! Worms were everywhere; I’m not just talking about a few escapees, I am talking mass exodus from the worm bin. I didn’t even know worms could crawl up a wall, but trust me when I say they can! These aptly name night crawlers had apparently been exploring the living room for hours; a few adventurous little guys even made it into the kitchen.

When we were certain we captured all the night crawlers we knew we needed new game plan. That first night, after hours of clean up, we decided to leave the lights on for the rest of the night, hoping the bright lights would keep them in their bin. After all, we had ordered night crawlers, not day crawlers. After a couple more hours of sleep, I hesitantly stepped out of the living room. To my surprise we had no new escapees. After a few nights of sleeping with all the lights on like a 4 year old – we had to find a new solution. We decided that we would put the worm bin in the bathtub in case anyone got out. We should have known that the worms were drawn to water. At least the runaways were confined to the tub. Of course, for the next 6 months I didn’t want to turn my back on the shower drain for fear of a giant worm joining me in the shower. Again, not the best solution.

Fortunately, we weren’t giving up on this yet. We tried a lot of things over the first few weeks with our new slime babies. Where we live the weather doesn’t allow us to leave them outside, or even in the garage. We finally found our little guys a comfortable and happy home in our laundry room – with the lights on! When we hadn’t seen anyone try to escape in months, we started leaving the lights off for a few hours at a time, gradually working our way up to leaving the light off overnight. I finally felt safe enough to trust the worms and stopped worrying about fugitive worms. In fact, we haven’t had a deserter in almost two years.

I still have no clue how some people calm that they just keep the worm bin under their bed. Clearly those people have no idea how creepy it is to see our carpets covered in worms. Our little guys have finally found a comfortable, happy and dark home in our laundry room and I intend to keep them there.

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