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Why Are My Compost Worms Dying? (3 common reasons)

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So, you have taken up vermicomposting to ensure your garden is filled with nutrients? This is great as composting with worms which can be much better than normal composting.

Composting is a decomposition process of leftover organic materials, like food scraps and leaves, to produce decomposed material filled with nutrients for your garden. In normal composting, you have to leave the organic scraps piled up together for some days in proper conditions until the bacteria can do their job and decompose it.

In vermicomposting, worms are used to decompose the compost. This makes the process much faster and easier. However, there is one issue that you might have to face sometimes when you adopt vermicomposting, the dying worms, and it can leave you wondering – why are my compost worms dying?

If you have just started using worms for compost decomposition and are facing a similar issue, here are all the causes to answer your question: Why are my compost worms dying? Keep reading.

Why Are My Compost Worms Dying
Compost with earthworms – via Wikimedia

Why Are My Compost Worms Dying?

Vermicomposting is the breakdown of kitchen food materials by the use of worms. It is faster than leaving the scraps in a pile to decompose independently. You can easily start vermicomposting at your home.

You need to have a bin, food scraps, and a starter colony of worms. Once the worms get going, they will reproduce on their own and keep growing. You need to make sure the bin of worms is kept in a cool, dark environment.

Although the basic concept of vermicomposting is very simple, you might still find dead worms in your bin now and then. If it starts happening frequently, you need to figure out the reasons behind it so you can take some action and solve it.

To avoid frequent deaths of worms in your vermicomposting bin, it is important to ensure that the conditions are suitable for their survival. Regularly checking and adjusting the conditions of your worm farm composter can help create a healthy and thriving environment for the worms, resulting in a successful and sustainable vermicomposting process.

There could be several reasons for the compost worms dying from inadequate moisture levels, temperature issues, and more. Let’s explore some common reasons to answer your question – why are my compost worms dying?

3 Common Reasons of Compost Worms Dying

1. Lack of Oxygen or Poor Aeration

Poor air circulation or lack of oxygen is one of the top causes of the death of compost worms. Compost worms indeed breathe through their skin, but this does not mean that they don’t need lots of air. If plenty of oxygen is not available, the worms will start dying.

The compost bins you take usually come with pre-drilled holes, but these holes might not be enough in some cases. You will have to drill more holes into the bin to let the airflow in and out smoothly.

Most people worry that too many holes in the bin would lead to the compost worms escaping through them. Don’t fret about it, as worms won’t escape because too many holes are present in the bin. If your compost worms are escaping, there is probably some other environmental stress inside the bin.

There are some cases where the holes in the bin are enough in number, but you need to be cautious of one more thing. These holes can become clogged with dirt over time. So, make sure to check for that and clean them.

Also, remember to keep mixing and shuffling the compost pile so the air can reach the middle and the lower parts.

2. Too Much or Too Little Water

This is a bit confusing answer to your question – why are my compost worms dying? If you are not careful and vigilant about the moisture level in the compost bin, your worms can start dying.

Worms thrive in a moist environment, and they need water to keep their skin wet, from which they breathe. If the compost pile is too dry, the worms will die. Fortunately, lack of moisture is easier to deal with than excess water.

If your compost bin is too dry, just add more water. You can also add some water-rich foods, like fruits, to increase the water level in the bin. Also, make sure to spread and shuffle the bedding in the bin so that the moisture gets distributed evenly.

An excess of water in the bin can be dangerous too. Too much water can clog the holes in the bin and lead to a lack of oxygen in a pile. This will cause the worms to die. Blocked holes also mean that the bin is not draining properly, and the water accumulates.

There is one significant factor that needs to be considered before moisture levels are looked after. Adding water is not the only way to add moisture to the pile. Fruits and other foods that have a high moisture content can make the compost pile wet as they are broken down.

To counter the excess water, you can add a layer of bedding made of sawdust or cardboard to balance out the moisture. Also, check the holes to make sure they are not blocked.

Why Are My Compost Worms Dying 2
vermicomposting – via Flickr

3. The Temperature Is Not Right

A lot of temperature variation can cause the compost worms to die. These worms thrive in moderate temperatures, but they would die as soon as they are exposed to extreme temperatures.

To protect the bin from too much cold, you can keep the composting material inside your house in a warm place. If there is too much heat or the weather is extremely hot, make sure to move the bin away from the glare of sunlight and into a shaded area.

If you are composting indoors, you should check the bin as the indoor temperatures can change quickly too. The ideal temperature for the composting worms is between 77 and 55-degree Fahrenheit.


I hope this answers your question – why are my compost worms dying? There could be several reasons for the occurrence. Other than the ones mentioned above, there could also be issues with the bedding material, protein poisoning, and insufficient food.

It is not a complex task to look after the compost worms. All you need to do is make sure the prerequisites are provided in the right amounts, like water and oxygen.

Then, you just have to sit back and relax while some great food is being prepared for your beautiful garden. If you have any tips on taking care of the compost worms, share them with us in the comments.