Sometimes we don't realize that there is a problem in our relationship with our significant other until they just leave one day. One day, you wake up, find a text from another person, a pair of foreign underwear under the car seat, lipstick on their collar or they just up and leave you and you are left befuddled and heartbroken, trying to figure out what happened and how you could have stopped it.
Well, I had that moment this morning and I can tell you that same goes for worm farmers and their worms. Today, at 4 AM, I was awakened by the soft sound of light rain. Farmers get up early. I made a cup of coffee and decided to take a walk out to look at the 500,000 red worms we harvested yesterday, which were to be shipped today. Nothing seemed out of place as I walked to our staging area, which is outside but is under canopies. Then I noticed the lights were off. We always keep low wattage lights over our new beds or newly harvested worms. It stops even the worst offenders from crawling off from their new digs.
The lights were a clue but didn't really register right away. I was too busy thinking about how the got shut off. Everyone knows better. Maybe I didn't turn them on? Maybe I shut them off by accident? I am getting up there. I will be 50 in 6 months. I may have had a pre-senior moment.
I flipped the lights on and saw the swarm. Worms moving in masses in every direction. I should have run back to grab my phone to tape the swarm but I was too busy, living in the moment, grabbing handfuls of worms and tossing them back into harvesting bins. I scrambled on hands and knees scooping and pawing at the ground, trying to save the worms and my livelihood from slithering away.
I grabbed what I could, ran inside to get my son to help me and when I returned, the swarm was gone. The light had forced them to march on. The light caused them to scurry to darker pastures.
I estimate that we lost about 200,000 worms this morning out of the 500,000 that we harvested last night. That hurts. We will be fine, we will harvest more and we will be shipping on time this morning, but it really struck me about how much the relationship between a worm farmer and his worms is so much like any other relationships in this world. If you don't treat your worms right, they will leave you.
So, what made them crawl off? Worms will leave you for 5 good reasons;
1. The are too crowded. Crowded worms will crawl off to be less crowded. They will also stop breeding or will breed less in crowded conditions.
2. The don't like the food. If you are not feeding you redworms enough, or if you are feeding them things that they do not like, they will leave you.
3. Improper pH. Worms need a good pH of around 7 to thrive. If you do not test their bedding and adjust the pH, you will lose your worms. They will either "fly" or they will die. Get a good pH meter and test your worm bedding weekly.
4. They will flee if their bedding becomes anaerobic. You can tell an anaerobic worm bed by the smell. It smells like rotting death and will usually have very wet bedding. Worms cannot tolerate anaerobic conditions. Keep the bed turned weekly to aerate, keep the bedding moist but not wet and make a habit of smelling the bedding.
5. Worms will crawl off if it is raining and they are outside. I don't care how well you care for your worms, if it is raining, your worms will sometimes crawl off just for the sake of crawling off. You can stop this by installing anti-crawl barriers, lids or lights over the beds during periods of prolonged rain. Please don't electrocute yourself.
Well, I made a short video of the aftermath of the crawl. I am going to have a good cry now and then I will put on my big boy pants and get back to work because we have orders to fill today.
Have a great day.