Wormery Frequently Asked Questions
We get loads of Emails everyday asking the same questions.
We have created this page to try and help you with either with buying your wormery, or helping to maintain it.
We believe that it is very comprehensive, however if your question isn’t answered here, please let us know so we can add it to this page.
Please use the menu on the left for answers to the most common worm and wormery questions.
A Wormery is a box system that contains composting worms that love to munch away on kitchen wastes. The bi-products produced consist of worm castings (worm poo or vermicompost) and Leachate (liquid fertilizer) these are excellent feeds for your indoor and outdoor plants.
Worm composting is an easy, convenient, environmentally-friendly and efficient way of turning your waste kitchen scraps into high quality super-rich compost all the year round. The compost, the worms produce, can be mixed into the soil when introducing new plants in the garden, added to houseplants and containers or used a top dressing (mulch)
Will the Wormery Smell ?
A normal wormery should smell earthy. Bad smells arise when to much food (more than the worms can eat) is allowed to rot and becomes Anaerobic (bacteria that doesn’t need oxygen to live).
When is the best time to setup a Wormery ?
Many customers ask (especially in the autumn months) what the best time to setup a wormery is, The answer is simply Any Time !. Although worms to go into semi hibernation in the winter (when the temperature drops) and don’t feed or eat as much – the wormery will still need to get established, which can take a few weeks. Essential moulds and bacteria’s will need to move in to help break the waste down so that the worms can consume it..
Therefore if you set up the wormery in the autumn / winter and add a really small amount of food the worms will be ready and raring to go when the temperature eventually warms up.
I Have A Smelly Soggy Mess.
If your wormery starts to smell then you have overfed them, or allowed the conditions to become Anaerobic. You can help by getting your rubber gloves on and stirring up any uneaten food as this allows the oxygen to penetrate. Stop feeding the worms, add damp cardboard and paper, and if you have a really horrible smelly mess, it might be advisable to remove the rotten food.
If your wormery is really wet, then add dry paper / cardboard to mop up the excess liquid.
Your wormery has a sump to collect any liquid residue. (Leachate)
As the liquid passes through the bin it becomes charged with nutrients and therefore makes an excellent plant feed.
It can take many months to get any liquid, as it is all dependent on what is placed in the wormery. Obviously vegetables will produce more water than bread. And if you use lots of paper, this will mop up any residues as well.
Dilute any liquid with 10 parts water and use it to feed your plants for free!
The liquid in the bottom of your wormery is not ‘Worm Tea’ it is Leachate.
Worm Tea is made from placing the worm castings in a directly or in a permanable bag and placed in water with air pumped through (an aquarium pump)
Leachate and Worm Tea have a limited shelf life, as the liquids are alive with bacteria they cannot be stored for any length of time.
Where Can I Keep My Wormery ?
Worm composting can be carried out all year round, however worm activity ceases below 10 degrees centigrade.
In the winter it will be beneficial to keep your wormery in a shed, utility room or garage The worms can be kept outside all year but the container should be insulated. This is easily done with old carpet or bubble wrap wrapped around your wormery. Using straw inside will also keep them snug.
Worms can also be killed if the temperature goes too high – above 40 degrees C.
Always site your wormery out of direct sunlight, away from strong winds, and in a place where children won’t be able to knock it over. In the summer a North facing wall is ideal, as it’s sunless.
What If I Go On Holiday ?
Worm sitters will not be be required when you go on holiday, as the worms will be happy munching away for a few weeks before they will need feeding again. If you are going away for a long time (or if you are a school and are worried about the long summer holidays) then add lots of damp shredded paper and cardboard, and mix it into wormery before you leave.
This will eventually break down and feed the worms.
How much waste will the system compost?
Worms can eat up to half their own body weight every day and can double their population every 60-90 days. If you start your wormery with 1 kilo of mature worms they will consume up to 500g of food waste per day*. After a few months you should have double your population and you can feed them more. As you become familiar with your system you will learn their rate of food consumption. * This is dependant on the time of year, and how long your wormery has been running
as an approximate guideline a 75 litre wormery should be able to manage 2 – 3 kilos of food per week.
This is dependant on the season and how long your wormery has been running for.
Approximately 3 months from start to finish. As above this is dependant on the health of your wormery, the amount of worms and the season.
If you have a stacking wormery, this is very easy.
Depending on how many levels you have, the wormery should follow these guidelines.
The bottom tray should be fully composted (filled with black vermicompost / worm castings) very few worms should be in this level – but there will be worm eggs and a few stragglers.
The middle tray should be half composted, there will worms here as there will still be food that hasn’t fully broken down
The top tray should be filled with the ‘fresher’ food, you should find plenty of worms here amongst the food that has started to soften.
Simply take the top two layers off and place on the ground, remove the bottom layer and place it to one side, replace the top two layers back onto the wormery.
Empty the ‘bottom’ tray onto your garden (leave a handful of compost in the bottom of the tray) and then place back on the very top.
Then you can start slowly adding more food.
Don’t worry about any worms that are placed in the garden. they are all native to this country, and will not cause a threat to other wildlife.
This can be bought from most garden centres.
Please note – we do not sell lime simply because unless you know you have an acidic wormery, adding too much can change the ph levels in your wormery, which could result in unhappy worms.
Instead of buying lime – we recommend that you use crushed egg shells which is calcium oxide.
If you have egg shells simply dry them out by cooking them in the oven (when you are cooking something else) and then grind them into a fine powder.
This can be sprinkled into your wormery. Not only do eggshells help with any acidic problems they are also an essential form of grit, that helps the worm digest the food better (they do this by grinding the food against the grit in their stomachs.)
Worms like to live and eat under something dark and moist, which is why you often find worms under rocks and stones.
Moisture mats will eventually get eaten by the worms.
We do not sell moisture mats simply because your worms should be eating your kitchen waste not moisture mats.
Therefore give the worms one (or more) of the following.
Use shredded or whole paper, dampen lightly and place on top of any food
Cut a sheet of corrugated cardboard to size and place on top.
Use an old jumper / t-shirt / carpet.
All the above will eventually be eaten – but will keep your worms happy and deter flies from getting to your food.
The answer is simply – Yes – but they shouldn’t want to.
Worm wander (as we call it) happens in the first 3-4 days of starting a wormery, this is because the wormery starts as an alien environment (no bacteria or microbes present) –
We do suggest that you inoculate your wormery by adding a spade full of garden soil or used compost as this will contains billions of tiny creatures, microbes and organisms that will help your worms feel at home, and start the composting process.
After the worms are settled they will stay in their new home, where the food is.
The only time they will want to leave is when there is a problem with the wormery.
Getting The Worms To Move Upwards
When you add the next tray, add some of the compost from the bottom layer, this gives the worms something familiar to move into, and live in. It also gives the new tray the essential bacteria to kick start the composting process.
Your worms will also continue to eat the food in the lower tray, until it has all composted then search for new
Do I have to keep buying worms?
No, worms are prolific breeders and will expand their numbers to suit the conditions they find
So, will I get too many worms ?
No, you can never have too many worms. They self-regulate their population to the confines of available space and the amount of food you give them. Worm concentration should reach capacity (about 15,000 to 20,000 worms) after 2 – 5 years
HELP All My Worms Are Escaping !!
When you first start up a wormery it will be an alien environment for your worms. They won’t have the ecosystem that they are used to, so for the first week as night time falls your worms will try to escape their new home.
Unfortunately it is impossible to prevent this, but you can help to settle your worms more quickly by putting some garden soil in with the initial bedding. The soil will contain lots of microbes and bacteria that will help your worms to feel at home.
Here are a couple of tips that might help
1) Put the wormery in a bin liner overnight and seal the top. Any worms that get out, will be trapped in the liner, and can be tipped straight back into the wormery. (Be sure to untie during the day so that the worms can get air)
2) Put a large sheet of damp cardboard under the wormery, your worms will crawl underneath, and can be retrieved (it is beneficial to put it on concrete, so your worms don’t disappear into the ground as soon as you lift the cardboard)
3) Keep a low energy light bulb switched on above the wormery. As worms are photosensitive they will want to keep away from the light.
Why Are My Worms In The Lid ?
If you find that your worms are on the lid or stuck to the sides (anywhere except in the compost) it’s possible that your wormery has something in it that the worms dislike.
Check the following.
1) Has your wormery gone anaerobic? Anaerobic means that there isn’t any oxygen in the mixture, you can usually smell an anaerobic wormery as it is very unpleasant, and not the normal earthy smell of compost.
To fix this problem add plenty of damp shredded cardboard or paper and mix up the waste to introduce some oxygen.
2) Check the waste you have put in, onions and citrus fruit are really bad for worms.
A great neutralizer is crushed egg shells as worms love the grittiness and they keep acidic conditions at bay. Other possible causes are foods that are overheating (like bread), too wet, too dry, too hot
When it’s raining the worms like to gather in the lid?
You are observing the worm’s sensitivity to pressure changes in the weather. They will often go up into the lid even before it rains, this would naturally take them out of the soil and prevent drowning during flooding, don’t worry they will return to their food.
My worms have all died
Unfortunately this does sometimes happen and it can be difficult to understand why. Here are some common reasons.
1) Too much food. – do not overfeed your worms, the food will just rot completely and possibly poison your worms
2) Too hot / cold / wet sometimes with the extreme British weather it can cause a problem. Try to site your wormery away from direct sunlight, and away from strong winds. Leave the tap open, and maybe insulate with newspaper or carpet placed on the top of the food
3) Insecticides / Pesticides – make sure that nothing comes in contact with your wormery, beware of cut flowers, some have been treated
4) Wrong foods; refer to the guide sent to you, or the list above as to what to feed them
5) No air – ensure that you put on your rubber gloves and turn the compost over once a week, worms need air, and this will keep them happy. If you wormery is inside, then leave the lid off.
Why Are There Worms In The Sump ?
The reason for this isn’t known, In the winter its possible that the worms are heading downwards to keep warm (in the wild, worms often burrow deep underground, where the ground hasn’t frozen)
In the summer we just put it down to the worms exploring their surroundings.
Worms living in the sump are usually fine, as long as they don’t drown in the accumulated.
If it becomes a problem, simply leave the tap open and add some crumpled newspaper in the sump, so they have somewhere to live.
They will be perfectly happy there !!
What Happens To My Worms In The Winter?
When it gets colder, your worms will slow down, and will not be able to digest as much food waste. You will most likely need to cut back on the amount of food waste you feed your worms between November and February. Worms can survive cold winters outside if protected by bedding in a worm bin
The Wormery In Winter – How To Protect Your Worms ?
If possible move your wormery into a shed, greenhouse or garage, as the temperature will be warmer
If your wormery has to stay outside, move it against a south facing wall of your house, not only will the wormery benefit from the warmth of the sun, but it might get some of the heat that comes from your house.
Insulate your wormery, wrap it in bubble wrap, or an old duvet, add cardboard or old jumpers to the inside.
Another small tip — as food composts it creates heat, certain foods like pasta, bread, cake, cereals produce more heat than others, so add a few slices of bread into the middle of your wormery.
The worms will use this a a mini heat pad !
We have designed a range of wormeries that are practical and value for money. In this section you will find the most commonly asked questions about the Wormcity wormery range.
This is NOT a design fault
Rain will trickle down the sides of the trays.
The easiest solution is to leave open the tap so any excess liquid can escape.
Gaps Around The Trays
When you add your next tray to the wormery, you will notice that there is a small gap around the tray.
This allows for excellent air flow between the layers, resulting in happy worms, and food that doesn’t stagnate through lack of oxygen.
It is impossible to remove this gap, as the tops of the trays are larger than the base – needed so that the trays sink into the lower one each time.
Wormcity Setup Slideshow
What Can I Feed Them ?
Anything you eat, The best results our obtained from soft organic waste such as left over vegetable scraps, fruit and vegetable peelings, tea leaves/bags and coffee grounds, vacuum dust and hair (including animal) shredded newspaper, egg box type cardboard (pre-soaked), newspaper, crushed egg shells and stale bread. The greater the variety of organic wastes the better the resultant worm castings will be.
Worms cannot eat material such as glass metal or plastics. You should also avoid some organic material such as animal manure (the animal may have been ‘wormed’ and the residue can kill your worms) highly acidic fruit such as citrus fruits and onions should be avoided. Also avoid meat and bones – products covered in fat, vinegar, garlic and spicy foods, eggs (egg shells are excellent) and dairy product
YES PLEASE FOODS (foods that should be fed in moderation are in italics)
Vegetable Peelings (Potato Skins Take Ages to Rot Down)
Fruit / Peel
Coffee / Tea Bags
Flowers (if shop bought – ensure no insecticides are present)
Crushed Egg Shells
Cardboard / Paper
Pet Human Hair (this takes ages to rot down)
Pet Faeces (Rabbit / Gerbil Etc)
Pet Faeces (Dog/ Cat See Below)
Meat (can attract rats – and could smell rancid if too much added)
NO THANK YOU foods are
Spicy Foods (Curry etc)
Dairy Products (milk, yogurt, butter)
Insecticides / Pesticides
Soaps / Cosmetics
Grass / Lawn Cuttings (If Larger Than a Couple of Handfuls)
Chicken Manure (Too High In Ammonia)
Can A Wormery Compost Organic Nappies
Yes It Can – but….
A baby can use around 10 nappies a day so a wormery would never cope with the amount of waste produced, (you would need a huge wormery (or lots of small ones)
A compost bin is far better suited to the job
Rabbit / Gerbil / Hamster / Mice etc
If your animal has a vegetarian diet, then you can safely add the straw / woodchip / paper bedding to your wormery
Dog / Cat Poo
Dog and cat waste can be put into a wormery.
However we do recommend the following guidelines are adhered to.
Dog and Cat poo can contain many dangerous pathogens mainly Toxocariasis.
1) Do not put dog poo in a wormery from a dog that has been recently wormed
2) Once the poo has been converted into vermicompost (worm poo) please do not place it anywhere where children play, and please do not put it in your vegetable patch – or where you grow food.
Chicken/ Bird Poo
Most bird poo is very high in nitrogen and ammonia, which could potentially kill your worms.
You can put bird poo into a wormery, but you must pre-compost it first – chicken poo will get very hot when composting, but when well aged it will be safe to add to a wormery
Must be pre-composted to take the heat out before putting in a wormery.
Worms love horse manure
Always remember to wash your hands after handling animal faeces
There are many species of worms that are native in the UK, however not all of them are ‘composting’ worms.
Compost worms differ from garden worms in that composting worms live and feed near the surface whereas garden worms (lobs) are deep burrowers.
There are two main types of composting worms.
1) Dendrobaena (Eisenia hortensis) also called the European Nightcrawler
This is the largest composting worm, and is reddish brown with stripes all over its body; it has a yellow or cream tip to its tail. This worm can tolerate acidy soils better than other species. Dendras have a preference for damper conditions.
The Dendra is also the preferred worm for fishing, as it can wriggle madly on the hook for 30 min’s in fresh or salty water. It’s found in woodland, compost heaps and rich organic soil
2) Red Tiger Worm (Eisenia andrei / Fetida) also called the Brandling Worm – Manure Worm.
This worm is smaller than the Dendra above, and is usually found in manure and compost heaps. It is either Red or stripey
These two species of worms are both fantastic for composting, and will happily live together in a wormery.
Dendras can eat half their own weight of waste each day. Red Worms Eat There Own Weight Per Day.. They are also photosensitive (dislikes light) and can live up to 2 – 3 years. Worms mature in about 3 -6 weeks after hatching from cocoons and will breed every 3-4 days throughout the spring through to autumn. Fresh worm cocoons look very much like tiny lemons that darken in colour as the worm grows in the cocoon these cocoons take around 3 weeks to develop before the baby worm’s hatch. Worm cocoons darken as they get closer to hatching .
Red Tiger Worm Reproductive Rate
3.8 cocoons per adult per week
3.3 babies per cocoon
Net reproduction of 10.4 young per adult per week
From Egg To Sexual Maturity = 75 Days
Dendrobaena Worms Reproductive rate
1.6 cocoons per adult per week
1.1 babies per cocoon
Net reproduction of 1.4 young per adult per week
From Egg To Sexual Maturity = 85 Days
Can I collect the worms from my garden for a wormery?
No!! The most commonly found worm in the garden is the lob worm. Lobs are deep burrowers and will not survive in a wormery. A few red worms can usually be found in a well established garden compost heap and could be added to your wormery, but why not leave them to help in the compost heap?
The worms that we supply are called dendras. The natural habitat for dendras is in the leafy waste of the forest floor.
Remember, to worm compost effectively you need lots of worms, approximately 1kg per cubic metre, so if you do decide to collect your own, you’ll need plenty of time and plenty of patience to say the least
Below are some amazing pictures of worm eggs – looking like little lemons, they darken the closer they get to hatching
A huge thank you to Mary for allowing us to publish these photos.
You may occasionally notice patches of mould in your worm bin. Moulds and fungi are a natural part of the composting process, helping to break down the food waste. Vegetables may sprout in your bin because of all the nutrients present. These things will eventually be consumed by the worms and other organisms
Once your worm bin has been going for a while, you may notice other creatures like white worms, springtail’s, and tiny white spider mites in your bin. This is normal; these creatures will not hurt your worms and they help the composting process.
Ants – Not generally a problem as long as the queen doesn’t move in. Ants in the wormery is a good indication that the wormery is too dry. Dampen the compost, and the ants soon move out. Ants feast on fungi, seeds, and small insects.
Centipedes – A Centipede’s body has 15 or more segments with one pair of legs on each segment. They are fast moving and found mostly in the top few inches of the compost heap. They eat small red worms, insect larvae, newly hatched earthworms, and spiders. If large numbers are found it is best to try and remove them.
Fruit Flies – Very small brown flies. They wont harm the worms but can be a bit of a nuisance, as when you open up your wormery, a cloud of them appear.
Obviously they are attracted to the vegetable matter so eradicating them is virtually impossible. There are however a few steps to bring them under control. 1) try to bury your food, the fly’s lay their eggs on the food, so if its under a layer of compost, they wont be able to get to it. 2) put a covering over the food like a carpet cut to size, again this will help keep the flies at bay. Or make sure all vegetation is buried by at least 2.5 cm of shredded paper .
The fruit flies eggs often get into your wormery on the fruit / vegetable peelings. Boiling, Freezing or Microwaving can help solve the problem (and help the vegetables compost quicker).
Flies can be trapped in a jar with a holed lid, and filled with a sweet fruity liquid.
Spider Mites – Small white / red mites that can appear overnight in their hundreds – They like moist conditions, and may be an indication that your wormery is too wet. Add dry newspaper. Aids composting
Springtail’s – Springtail’s are small wingless insects that jump when disturbed, they have a small spring-like structure under the belly that catapults them into the air. Springtail’s feed on fungi. – aids composting
Worms can eat half their own weight of waste each day. They are photosensitive (don’t like light) and can live up to 2 – 3 years
Body – A worm has an anterior end (head) and a Posterior end (tail) and has 5 hearts. If you look closely you will see many rings around the body called segments. Each segment has 4 pairs of hairs protruding from it called Setae, which help the worm to stop
When the worm has reached about a month old, it will produce a light coloured raised band near the head called a Clitellum. The Clitellum tells us that the worm has reached sexual maturity, and is responsible for the formation of the cocoon containing the eggs.
Mouth – On the tip of the head there is a flap of skin called the prostomium which stops things going into the worms’ mouth. Underneath the prostomium is the mouth. A worm’s mouth is big enough to grab a leaf and drag it around. Worms do not have teeth
Eyes – Worms don’t have eyes. They are very sensitive to bright light. They will try to hide as soon as exposed
Movement – A worms has muscles all round their body, and others that run the length of their body. When the circular muscles tighten up, the body becomes thinner and longer this movement squeezes their front end forward the other long muscles squeeze together and help move the rear end of the body towards the front end
Breathing – Worms do not have lungs but take in oxygen through their skin and it goes straight into their bloodstream. The skin must stay wet in order for the oxygen to pass through it, but they can drown if they are in too much water.
Reproduction – A Worm is a hermaphrodite (both male and female) when mating, 2 worms join together with heads pointing in opposite directions. Sperm is passed from one worm to the other and stored in sacs. Then a cocoon forms on each of them on the clitellum. As they back out of the narrowing cocoons, eggs and sperm are deposited in the cocoon. The cocoon closes and fertilization takes place. The cocoons are much smaller than a grain of rice and are yellow. Each cocoon can have 1-5 worms. If conditions are not right for hatching, such as dryness, my cocoons can be dormant for years and hatch when conditions are right.
Worms mature in about 3 -6 weeks after hatching from cocoons and will breed every 3-4 days throughout the spring through to autumn. Fresh worm eggs look very much like tiny lemons that darken in colour as the worms grow in the eggs. The colour changes from pale yellow to mid brown. Each egg takes around 3 weeks to develop before the baby worms’ hatch. Baby worms are white and each egg holds around six babies. Worms self-regulate their population to the confines of available space and the amount of food you give them
How do they grind food? – Worms can only take small particles in their small mouths. Micro organisms soften the food before worms will eat it. Worms have a muscular gizzard. Small parts of food mixed with some grinding material such as sand, topsoil or limestone is ingested. The contractions from the muscles in the gizzard compress those particles against each other, mix it with fluid, and grind it to smaller pieces
If a worm is cut in two, will it grow back? – It depends on where the cut took place. If a worm is cut at the posterior end, sometimes a new tail will grow back on. Sometimes a second tail will appear next to a damaged tail. However, the posterior half of the worm can’t grow a new anterior (head.)
According to a study by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), households throw away about a third of the food they buy.
About half of the 6.7 million tonnes of food thrown in the bin each year is edible and the rest comprises waste such as peelings and bones.
Food accounts for 19% of domestic waste, cooked food is more likely to be thrown away than raw ingredients and fruit and vegetables are the most common uncooked foods to be discarded.
All this waste then gets taken to landfill sites around the UK which are not only nearly full, but also account for a huge percentage of methane emissions (one of the greenhouse gases) that pollute our atmosphere.
Worms have been recognised for their amazing ability to turn any organic material into a valuable soil fertiliser called vermicompost.
The simple solution…
Don’t Let Your Food Go To Waste –
We have included some of the magazine articles that have been written about wormcity and our wormeries.
Please click the image to view the related article (this will open in a new window)
The article below is a ‘Tried & Tested’ review by Amateur Gardening
Toby Buckland Trialling Out Our EcoWormery
An article we wrote about worm keeping
If you have further questions you can email us or if we are online (usually evenings) or you can phone us on 08000141598
Alternatively you can visit our Forum, and get some helpful advice there
Please remember – that although worms don’t carry any know diseases,
its always advisable to wear gloves and wash your hands after handling them or the food waste.