It is not uncommon to see worms gathering on the lid or the rim of the worm farms and some concerns are quite legitimate. However, don’t be overly worried if you see your worms seem to be “escaping”. In fact, understanding the reason why they are moving around will help us better diagnose potential problems and take actions if needed.
Why worms move up in the worm farm? Are they escaping?
The worms will travel around the bin including over the lid. It is not a sign of a problem unless they are massed in a ball or big lumps, which means they are stressed. This is usually when the environment inside the worm farm, especially in the feed layer become hostile because of excessive food, acidity, heat or lack of oxygen.
In addition, there are a few things that can make the worms travel more than usual:
Humidity– If it is very humid, or if the worms sense it is going to rain they may move to ‘higher ground’, which in a worm farm is the lid and sides. Once the rain passes they will move back into the bedding.
Food quantity– If you feed your worms on a regular basis and suddenly stop feeding, you may also find that they wander to the top to check what’s going on after they finish their food. In fact, this is quite a good sign that your worms are active and have a good appetite.
As the quantity of food they are expecting hasn’t arrived in time, they will just move up a bit to see if they can find more. Usually in this case, as soon as you start feeding them again, they will happily stay underneath the worm blanket (if you have one) and munching through their feast.
What should I do?
If your worms are moving to the top due to temporary change of air humidity or reduced food quantity, then you do not need to worry too much.
However, if you see LOTS of worms gathering around the surface, it is the time to investigate the reason behind and take actions accordingly.
– Use a little garden fork or hand cultivator to stir and see if there is any bad smell coming from your worm farm. If that’s the case, remove any rotting food that hasn’t been consumed by the worms, mix in more brown material (shredded paper and cardboad) and give the feed layer (top 15-20cm of your worm farm) a good toss to keep everything aerated.
– Only add brown material and cease from feeding them fresh food waste until the smell is gone. You can also add in some grinded eggshells or the worm farm conditioner to strike the balance back to normal.
They also move downwards sometimes…
In traditional worm farms that has multiple trays with the worm juice compartment at the bottom, you may also find worms moving down to the worm juice tray on very hot days, as it tends to be cooler there. But in the more advanced Hungry Bin Worm Farms, the beddings material and castings can get quite compacted at the bottom, making it hard for the worms to go downwards.