The next morning I checked on the worms to find the bin tipped over onto the porch floor. Something had knocked it down and ignored the food scraps, but many of the worms were gone.
I guessed that a raccoon had gotten in to have a lively wormetti dinner, but I couldn't shake the vision of a Little Nemo-like escape orchestrated by one brave little worm, "Squirm to one side and we can tip this bin. Now! Just squirm down! Just squirm down!"
I was having inferiority issues. Did the worms hate me so much that they would rather risk the outside world than live in my lovely bin? Would I need counseling?
I worried over the worms all day while I worked in the garden, planting peas and clearing beds. They seemed to be eating, settling in, and otherwise as happy as clams, albeit long, wriggly ones. But at nightfall, I wondered if I should put the lid on the bin and risk a mass exodus or leave the lid off and risk more raccoon snacking. I chose the lid, and snapped it shut.
A few minutes later I peeked in. Worms were all over the side, heading for the air holes on the the edges and top. This meant another night of worm-sitting for me.
Jens finally helped me rig up a strong netting cover held on with bricks that let in enough light to keep the worms down in the bedding, but would possibly deter a raccoon - but only if it were not at all hungry and didn't like bricks falling on it's head. It wasn't a great solution, but I was tired and the worms hated me anyway. I went to bed.
The next morning the worms were fine. No raccoon had bothered them, confirming my suspicions that not only was tip-over of the previous night was a mass escape plot from the worms themselves but that I was a terrible worm surrogate parent.
Dejected, I went to the internet for help.
Surprisingly, I found a huge amount of detailed information for just my problems, and a lot of other fascinating (to me) information as well.
It seems that maybe I had too many worms and too much food for my small box. I put on garden gloves and looked. Sure enough, after only two days the worms were fat. Not just sated, but stuffed-sausage-oh-my-gosh-I-can't-believe-I-ate-the-whole-thing bloated. And already lots of worm poo. And there were worms in every corner of the bin, from top to bottom in writhing clumps.
The instructions I was following had said that for an 18 gallon tub, 2000 worms would be the right number, so that is what I had ordered. But I had also bought some extra of the Super Reds from a bait shop - I am not sure how many. The girl behind the counter, when I told her I wanted them for composting, told me I would need a 'whole passel' and presumably gave me that amount. And when the ones I had ordered from Amazon came, I noticed that the bundles seemed to be quite a bit bigger than the promised amount to make up for dead worms during transport, but all seemed to have survived.
I probably had at least twice the number of worms in the bin than were necessary, and that was why the worms were off to find less crowded pastures in the great wild world beyond my composting confines.
On the positive side, even with all the food scraps I had in there with the worms the only smell was one of damp paper.
But what to do about my overcrowding issues? Open up a second home for worms on the front porch? How many worms could one family handle?
We answer those and many other questions next time... on ....
All My Worm Children.