Have you ever noticed a serious funk coming from your worm bin? It’s okay, you don’t have to deny it- we’re all friends here; we won’t judge!
A reeking worm bin is bad, but, here’s the good news, worms don’t smell. Their castings don’t even smell. A bin full of worms, castings, and moist bedding…doesn’t smell.
But if you smell something you just can’t deny, now is definitely the time to look into it.
This month, The Squirm Firm is here to help you get that stinking situation under control. By the time you’ve read through this article you’ll know how to solve these problems and turn them into your worm composting success story:
- Smells caused by food
- Odors from stagnant moisture: swamp rot
- Stench of expired worms: just a fact of life
If a well-run worm bin (go ahead, say that three times fast!) should smell like fresh fragrant earth, what is going on when it is gag-inducing instead?
1. Smells Caused by Food
Food and compost worms- you can hardly separate the two. So it comes as no surprise that every once in a while the very addition of food leads to a little issue in the worm bin. And since we can’t do better until we know better, I’ve gotta point a few things out.
When it comes to food in the worm bin, not all foods are created equal.
Not all “food” can even be fed to our worms. And some of the stuff our worms consider food, would certainly never be found on one of our dinner plates. So, let’s take a closer look at food and how it may lead to an unfortunate situation.
Healthy Foods Done Right
Sometimes, you’ll find that a strong smell comes right from the food scraps you’ve given your worms. But, that doesn’t always mean something is wrong.
Be advised, certain foods, even foods that are safe to feed your worms, just naturally give off an unpleasant smell. Certain cruciferous vegetables can be the worst offenders. Have you ever come home to a house full of cooked cauliflower or broccoli smell? Cabbage perhaps?
Props to the cook, but wow, that smell!! And putting those veggies in the worm bin instead of your belly won’t make it stop. The good news is that as long as you serve your worms only what they can eat pretty quickly, you can expect the smell to be gone as soon as they’ve consumed their stinky meal.
Luckily, compost worms are far less picky than most children and welcome even that overcooked broccoli that nobody touched at dinnertime.
Healthy Foods Gone Wrong
When feeding time has come and your kitchen scraps are overflowing, it can be tempting to throw them all to the worms. Unfortunately, overfeeding results in some of the most common causes of “stank in the bin”.
Without question, too much food in the bin leads to food rotting in the bin. Rotting food gives off gasses that not only reek, but can be can create toxic conditions for your worms. Even if you cover the food with extra bedding, the still, moist air can encourage mold growth and fermentation.
I tell ya, it’s incredible how bad good-foods-gone-wrong can smell!
Wrong Food in the Wrong Place
The last category of foods to blame for a wicked stench are those that should never be fed to your worms. These include such things as meat and bones, dairy, eggs or, GASP, pet waste!
Rancid proteins create strong odors as they decompose. Not only is this unpleasant, but it also attracts pests that lead to even more problems. As for pet waste, it smells when it’s fresh, and smells when it’s old. You just don’t want it in there… ever.
2. Swamp Rot
Other similarly gross situations will have you detecting something reminiscent of a stagnant swamp. Because … that’s what happens when moisture is trapped. Without holes for aeration or drainage, stagnation is a sure bet.
Putting in too much food may lead to this kind of foul situation. Without that proper drainage, wet food leads to excess moisture in the worm bin. As that moisture collects, a reeking worm-bin swamp is formed. Ew.
And that’s not all. Worm bin conditions without adequate air-flow may turn food scraps sour in a short amount of time. This happens if the worms can’t access or consume the food before it begins to ferment.
3. Stench of Expired Worms
A healthy, old worm could live to be 5 years-old. But of course, all worms die in time. If it’s not of old age, it’s sometimes weather conditions, or a toxin in the bin, or a disease comes in and decimates a bunch of worms. If that happens, you may smell it for a while.
Normally, as compost worms die, they just become part of the bedding and eventually are also made into compost. This happens fairly quickly in a well established worm bin.
Let nature take its course…
…And be there to help out with the rest. We can trust that our worms know exactly how to do their composting thing, perfectly. So, our job is just to set up the ideal conditions.
“The ideal conditions for a compost worm include adequate: drainage, aeration, temperature, moisture, feeding, space and access to other worms.”
I can do that! — You can do that!
But, the truth is, I take a huge shortcut to make sure I’ve got all my bases covered. I take advantage of how my Worm Factory 360 masterfully maintains that adequate drainage, aeration, space, and access to food and other worms- so I don’t have to!
I still get to feed the worms myself, but that’s no chore. The Worm Factory 360 tray system allows for both air circulation and proper drainage. The happy worms do the rest!
What do you DO with a stinking bin?
Right? How do you restore what seems so far gone?!
Relax. It’s simple. Just ask yourself these four questions to narrow it down.
- Is moisture an issue? If so, add enough shredded dry bedding to absorb the excess moisture. Leave the lid open to allow for evaporation.
- Can aeration solve the problem? Fluff the worm bedding and make sure there is ventilation.
- Is spoiled food the issue? EIther remove it or bury it well under a layer of bedding.
- Are there Do Not Feed items in the bin? If so, toss them!
A healthy worm bin can usually self-regulate fairly quickly after the cause of smell is dealt with. Then, just maintain ideal conditions to help prevent any repeats.
Keep it Fresh
Once your worm bin is well-established, and properly balanced in terms of moisture, temperature, pH, and so forth, keeping it steady is key. These basic maintenance procedures will ensure you’re doing your part to help your worms’ ecosystem jivin’.
- Only feed worms when they have finished their last meal.
- Add dry bedding as needed to keep moisture balanced.
- Use only foods red wigglers can eat.
- Have good air-flow through the worm bin.
- Have adequate drainage.
Tip: A good way to know if you are keeping moisture levels in the proper zone, is to use a moisture meter. The probe of the moisture meter reaches down to the bottom of the bin to see if there is stagnant water.
Keep in mind that one of the easiest ways I’ve been able to combat many of the stinky bin issues was just by switching over to a Worm Factory 360. It’s easy to set up, maintain and really cuts down on issues normally found with the use of a storage bin worm compost system.
Now you should be well-equipped with all you need to keep your worm bin smelling great- or not smelling at all! For more useful tips, tricks, and expert worm composting advice, sign up for our FREE monthly newsletter.
Happy worm composting!
What about fruit flies? Seems they like the worm bin.
Hi, Amber! You’re right, fruit flies often love what they find inside a worm bin! Cutting them off is one of the biggest challenges. Check this blog about keeping fruit flies out of the worm bin, https://thesquirmfirm.com/fruit-flies-invading-your-worm-bin-we-can-help/. Best of luck!