To be upfront, diagnosing why worms are disappearing or seem to be dying off is very difficult from afar. But it may not actually be the case that worms are disappearing.
Worms May Simply Not Be Near the Surface
Many new vermicomposters expect their worms to all be at or near the surface, eating at fresh food waste. But worms are attracted to moisture and a worm bin - especially a new worm bin - may be more wet towards the bottom or middle, meaning the worms didn't disappear but instead traveled lower to where the moisture is. In this case, the worms didn't disappear, but just made their way to the areas of the bin that are the most moist.
There is nothing wrong with digging down into your worm bin to explore where the worms are if you don't see them near the top.
Worms May Be Dying
But it may be the case that worms are dying. If worms are dying all at once, then expect the worm bin to have a very foul smell.
Worms can die a slower death if they are suffering from protein poisoning or string of pearls. This article goes into greater detail on protein poisoning, which is when the worm's guy cannot keep up with the proteins in certain food wastes, releasing amino acids into the worms gut which cannot be neutralized. The acids begin fermenting inside the worm, killing it from the inside.
If the worms seem to be languishing or dying very slowly, then it could be that your worm bin is too dry. If so, add small but frequent additions of water using a water bottle on a mist setting. Do not pour water into your worm bin.
The one thing that will NOT kill worms is a lack of food over the course of several weeks or even months. Worms eat all sorts of organic matter to include the carbon-rich bedding like paper and cardboard that new vermicomposters do not consider to be food.
If you need further guidance, we are happy to help, but please let us know the following:
- what kind of bin you own
- where you keep it
- how long this bin has been running
- what the temperatures are inside your bin
- what your bedding is
- what your food is and how much you have been feeding