Whether you're vermicomposting (composting with worms) in a closed container or in large wind-rows, sometimes worms start behaving funny. Not "funny ha-ha" but "funny bad". Here are some common worm behaviors to look out for.
Worms behaving badly
- Worm behavior: Worms are "balling up" meaning they are grouping together in tight wads.
What it means: The worms are unhappy.
What to do: Worms ball-up for different reasons, usually related to their bedding. Either the bedding is too wet, the bedding is too dry, the bedding is too acid, the bedding is too crowded, etc. Sometimes the easiest, quickest and most effective thing to do is change out the bedding.
Serious or not so serious: Worms balling up can be a sign the worms are sick or are getting ready to crawl. Do something a.s.a.p. (However, sometimes worms will ball-up after they've been shipped or if there's noise or vibration near-by. Usually, after a few days they will sort themselves out into happy individuals.)
- Worm behavior: Worms are crawling aimlessly on the top of the bedding.
What it means: The worms are dying.
What to do: Say a prayer. The worms are very sick and there's probably not a whole lot you can do about it. Your worms probably gave you other clues before they reached this point (see above). Be aware of your worms and fix any problems as soon as you notice anything.
Serious or not so serious: It's serious to the individuals doing the crawling. Usually, it's only a few worms at first, but it's a major warning sign. Get to work now so you're entire worm population doesn't get sick. Check your bedding, moisture, feed, and water source.
- Worm Behavior: Worms are crawling out of the box/bin/tray.
What it means: The worms are getting the heck out of Dodge. They don't like their bedding, it's conditions, and/or it's location. Another "worm crawl" trigger is a sudden temperature drop.
What to do: Find out why. Again, is the bedding too wet, too dry, too acid, etc. If you expect a cold snap, leave extra lights on over the bedding and try to supply some heat or bring them indoors if possible.
Serious or not so serious: If a lot of worms crawl, you'll loose a lot of them, not to mention finding dead and dying worms in various unexpected places. Worm crawls can be worm nightmares. But occasional worms trying to escape is no big deal so long as it's not an indication of things to come.