Have you ever had a vermicompost?

All worms dead

Contribution from Friedwart »

Hello worm friends,

we have been running our WormWorks worm farm since mid-March. Everything seemed to be going great, and by the end of next week we wanted to put on the third work box and start filling. There were plenty of cocoons in the farm, and there were always young worms. Sure, every now and then a worm escaped overnight on our balcony, but on the whole everything seemed fine. We even had almost a whole week in the end with all the worms in the box.
After our hemp mat had survived less than four weeks, we used an old tea towel to cover the top layer, which seemed to serve its purpose.
Last Tuesday, six days ago, I checked the collecting box. I do that about every two weeks, and there were always a few worms in the bowl, which we then carried to the upper work box. This time I found an estimated 300 worms in the collection box. I blamed this on the fine weather and the increased temperatures from which the worms were taking shelter below. I put all the worms in the top box and put our balcony table over the farm as protection. The next night there was a huge escape of worms, about 25 worms escaped. We collected the worms and put the living ones back into the worm farm. That was Wednesday morning. In the evening a dried worm was found on the balcony again. This was the first refugee who had ever left the box during the day. Because I wasn't sure whether the farm was too damp, I mixed in some paper with my fingers. Wednesday evening, before I went to bed around 11 p.m., I wanted to check again that everything was okay. At that time there were already about 15 refugees on our balcony. That's why I left the lid open for the night and switched on a lamp over the box, as is recommended in the event of excessive worm escape. On Thursday morning we didn't have any refugees, but no worms were to be found on the upper working level either. The lid was put back on during the day, and in the evening there were still no worms to be seen on the upper level. However, we found that the farm smelled quite strong. As a precaution, we left the lamp on again during the night from Thursday to Friday with the lid open. Conclusion: no refugees on Friday, but still no worms in the upper level. We then fed a little more, and then we went on Whitsun leave. Depending on the position of the sun, the farm was in the shade of the balcony table for a large part of the day.
When we came back from Whitsun leave today, we noticed mold on about 1/3 of the area of ​​the upper level, but no worms were to be seen. However, the whole box smelled pungent. We then looked in the drip tray, and here we found a pulp that only after closer inspection could be identified as the remains of our dead worms. There was also about half a liter of liquid in the drip tray.
It seems clear that the worm farm has become too warm in the fine weather of the last few days. When we rummaged through the two work boxes that we had previously used, we noticed how warm the material was. Apparently the balcony table on our south-facing balcony does not offer enough protection. What do you think of that? Do you suspect other causes?

We now ask ourselves the following questions:

1. Is the south balcony of our rented apartment even suitable for worm composting? It's only May, and much higher temperatures are to be expected in midsummer.

2. Do we have a chance at all to get the farm going again with the cocoons that are still there? The lower work box, in particular, seems to be full of cocoons.

3. Was the worm farm moisture content right? It has always been stated that the substrate should be as damp as a freshly squeezed sponge. In my opinion it was, but in the ten weeks of operation, which I still consider to be the start-up period, we didn't have a single drop of worm tea in the drip tray (the liquid today probably comes from the dead worms?).

4. Is a worm farm even suitable for us? It should be possible for us on vacation to leave the farm to itself for two weeks without the neighbors complaining about fleeing worms or that all worms die. We also don't want the farm in the basement, then fleeing worms would be even more fatal here.

At the moment we're a little sad because everything seems to be going so well at the moment. Everything in the lower box is pretty well processed and we are sure that we would have had great humus in four weeks.
We'll just try again to let the box stand for a few days and hope that a few more worms will slip out of the cocoons. We removed the dead worms and washed out the drip tray. This also removes the pungent smell and everything smells like a normal compost heap.

We are grateful for tips and comments, also with regard to possible further errors on our part.

Greetings from Cologne,
Friedwart