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Hi All:

Built my first bin in November, 2011, about 3.5 months ago. I put 2 lbs of EN in a 18 gallon RM tote from Wallyworld.

Initial bedding was peat moss, newspaper, and a little soil. Feed my worms weekly predominantly coffee grinds, egg shells, green table scraps and decaying leaves. Put all the food through a food processor before adding. Occaisionally, I will add a little cornmeal, which they love.

Until about 1 month ago, the bin was kept indoors. No foul smells and the worms seemed happy and lively. However, I had a pretty heavy infestation of fungas gnats. At first, I tried treating with diatomaceous earth. After one week, the infestation was worse. Then I added in some beneficial nematodes. The fungus gnat population continued to grow. 

I moved the bin outside and quit adding in coffee grinds to their foods. The next week, the fungus gnats were swarming and the EN seemed lethargic. Since the worms didn't appear to be trying to escape their bin, I wrongly (I think) assumed this was due to colder temperatures (about 50 degrees) in the garage to where I moved their bin.

Last week, I gave them some more cornmeal, which was once one of their favorites.

When I did the weekly bin maintenance yesterday, I still had a healthy infestation of fungus gnats and I noticed the worms had not touched the cornmeal from the week before. I decided to dump the entire bin out to see what was going on.

When I dumped the bin, most of the worms just kinda laid around, very very lethargic. They didn't flee from the natural light as rapidly as they normally do. The temp yesterday was in the low 60's so I am pretty confident it was not temperature related.

I also noticed that on about a third of the worms, about a third of their bodies were a pale yellow color and all it was the tail end one third. These worms were more lethargic than the others. I think I have had quite  few die as well because the final heap, after cleaning away all the bedding, was not even close to the size of my original two pound purchase. The good news is there were quite a few very small worms which tells me that at least some of the worms have been mating and laying eggs.

Any ideas on what I am doing wrong? Why just in recent weeks do almost a third of their bodies have the pale yellow color?

As an FYI, I threw out all the old bin material and yesterday put the worms in a bin composed of fresh bedding of peat moss, newspaper and decaying leaves, with just a little bit of food from the food processor.

Thanks all.

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Wow, that's disturbing and I have no clue what's is going on. I am subscribing to this to keep in contact.

I see that you do "weekly maintenance". I generally just leave mine alone and was wondering what it is that you do.

I hope you get this figured out.

I am of the opinion that unfortunately, it was a temperature related issue and there was absolutely nothing wrong.

I believe you mentioned that the temps were in the 50's and then the low 60's. These are temps where activity in a bin slows down as they do in a natural outside setting.

Your worms were mating as they felt the temps drop because outside this means it is time to die and we have to keep the population going. Make sense?

I think you had no problems at all. If you want to increase casting production, increase temps.

One more thing, worms do not like anything fresh. Bedding or food. I compost most things before they go into the bin.

Hope this helps.

Harry

Thanks all, I appreciate the input.

Harry, not sure I buy in totally to the temp idea. My best guess is that I have lost well over half of my original purchase. There are in an insulated, but unheated garage. The temps here have been like a roller coaster. I may have mislead you with the 50's comment. Its probably 50's at night but higher during the day. I am having a hard time accepting I lost over half my initial purchase in just three weeks because its been in the 50's. The bin temperature has been much higher than that.

Sick, I apparently read wrong or typed wrong. I certainly did not mean to imply that 50 degree temps would kill your worms.

""I threw out all the old bin material"" Did you mean you got rid of it totally? Or you meant you put it aside somewhere? You also mentioned that there was no foul smell. If that is the case, I wouldn't have thrown out that old bin material because it may have lots of cocoons. Even if it did smell, I would put them in a bucket (or even a plastic bag) and hoping for babies to hatch. 

""worms do not like anything fresh"" - I agree 100% with Harry. How long before the worms arrived did you set up your bin? How old is the peat moss? If you have lots of decaying leaves, you don't really need to add peat moss or soil.

""Feed my worms weekly predominantly coffee grinds, egg shells ......"" I would hold back the coffee grounds until the bin is established. So, how much kitchen scraps do you have per week appr.? Worms do get stressed from shipping and change of environment and diet especially when the new home isn't "worm ready", teaming w. MO. It is also said that the 2nd generation will have a better tolerance to your bin because they hatch in that environment. I use cornmeal/oatmeal/worm chow as a light sprinkling on top and wait until all is gone before I add more. This is to prevent what GG called sour bedding.

""about a third of their bodies were a pale yellow color"". So are many of my worms and I thought that may come from the carrot pulp and pumpkins I have been feeding them. Somebody on this forum posted a picture of his worms that are on the yellow side too, can't remember who.

Dear Susan:

No foul smells. Good bin temp from composting. Seasoned bin before worms arrived. Worms were doing well until gnat infestation. The real sign to me of major problems was the lethargy. As I said previously, when I dumped the bin on the plastic, they never moved from the light. They just all kinda laid there while I sifted through all the bin materials.

Hi  sickworms....

I read and  re-read your  post  and the  comments and  from my  own personal  experience I think  the  temp  got  to  them.

I  killed a perfectly  happy  batch  of  EN's by  moving them into  a shed and  keeping them in the  mid  20's.... your hi 60's

"I lost over half my initial purchase in just three weeks because its been in the 50's. The bin temperature has been much higher than that".

Also,  I think  VC has a  very  high heat  capacity, which means once it  has warmed up, it  is  not  going  to  cool down that  quickly in a  closed  system, unlike a  flow though. So it  will ratchet  up  or down in temp depending  on the  season or  ambient  environment.

I have  2Lbs of  EN's for  over 5  months now, kept  at  approx  10C no  more than 14C (your  50's) not,touched, messed with at all, just  food and  paper thrown at them and  in a  small  bin. I think  the  population has  exploded and  I am itching  to  find  out what is  in there.  Posted a  discussion on this a couple weeks ago. (as an aside  in a  different  thread).

You  have an awful  lot  going  on there,  by that I mean a  lot  of  things changing in a very short time to  solve what is a  fungus  gnat  (I dont know what they  are) problem,  maybe to  the detriment  of the worms.

 There have  been some  great suggestions posted, all of  them valid.

Now that  you have a population in new  bedding, I would  put them somewhere  cool and  leave them alone for at  least a  month. Then make  some  more  informed  choices.

Bok

When my first rubbermaid bin went sour, I thought I had failed.I dumped the contents into a compost pile,2 months latter it exploded with worms.Since then I have plenty of worms everywhere.

Hello Sickworms,

I can tell you for sure its not a temperature issue. Euros stay quite lively down to 40 deg F. I can almost say for sure it is an overfeeding issue. When food is mixed into the bedding it removes Oxygen from the bedding and also gives off gasses such as ammonia. Also sugars can ferment and turn into alcohol. Worms are quite resilent creatures, but they still can only take so much Oxygen deprivation while being drunk and gassed :) lol

The cornmeal is a very concentrated food source and the worms will eat it a little slower. The fact that you had gnats also indicates overfeeding.

You did exactly the correct thing my removing much of the old bedding and adding fresh. Just remember that they will be a lot of worms hatching in the old stuff and they will most likely survive. It is a good idea to set the material aside and after a few weeks check to see if it has composted enough to add back to the bin. This will allow you to get your baby worms back into the worm bed.

Matthew My Worm Website

Thanks Matt, its been a while since I posted but I believe you are correct. My EN are back to normal and I have gradually added back in the bedding I threw out a month or so ago. It was a newbie mistake. Too much food and too much moisture. Things are back to normal now. Thanks for your input.

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