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Featured Customer Questions – John H.

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

I live in Mesa Arizona where the summers are really, really hot. I set up a
worm bin in June. Now it’s September, and I think all my worms are gone. My
wife won’t let me take the worms in the house. Is there any hope for me?  I
keep my bin in the shade under a tree in my back yard. Should I give up? 

John H. 

Hi John,

We have a heat wave coming this week where I live.  Temps expected to be above 100 all week.  Not fun, but I don’t expect to lose any worms. 

Yes/No questions are not always so simple, as things are not always as they appear.  Your question brought up a lot more questions in my mind.

I looked up Mesa’s average temps, in the summer.  The records show they are about 104-105 degrees.  These are definitely extreme. 

Here are some questions for you:

When you say “Shade”, is it total 100% shade or a little sun at times?

Have you ever measured the temps of your bedding when it is hot outside?

In these temps, does anyone keep a dog or a cat outside?

Does your house have a garage? Does your house have a basement?  Possible alternative location?

Does it cool off in the evening where you live?

From my experiences, worms can tolerate a few days of temps above 100 degrees in the heat of a garage (Although nights cool off where I live).  This is much warmer than many articles I’ve read stating sustainable temps for worms.  Yet, if I take a pan of worms outside when it is 80 degrees, the outside of the pan gets warm to the touch, and worms die.  Mesa likely has temperatures too extreme for worms kept outside, even in “Total Shade”. 

People kill worms by having them set up incorrectly in temps of 60-70 degrees.  Although heat may be a contributing issue to the problems you have been having, it may not be the issue that caused you to lose your worms.  

Before I’d throw in the towel, I would ponder a few of the questions above. 

WHAT ABOUT HEAT?

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

There is a common misperception that Red Wigglers die when temperatures exceed 90 degrees.

This is completely FALSE. I cannot support this claim with scientific evidence (Yet), but I can support it by REALITY.

When we discuss heat, what we are really talking about is ambient air temperature. When it is 100 degrees Farenheit in my garage (Where I maintain my worm stock), it is probably 20 degrees cooler in the worms bedding (Experiments to come)!

I live in South San Jose, where we tend to get some temperature extremes, often exceeding 105 in the summer. I have never lost worms due to high temps in my garage, and I maintain between 100-200 pounds of worms year around.

Now, if I take this same scenario, and bring a pan of worms outside, even in partial shade, the worms will die quickly. Why? The heating of the bin quickly starts to raise the internal temperatures of the bedding. Again, at this point, I cannot support this scientifically, but, when a pan of worms gets warm to the touch, bad things happen inside…..starting with the distinct smell of dying worms!

The moral of the story: Don’t leave worms in partial shade. Full shade ONLY. This is even more important when receiving shipped worms.

Shipped worms can generate heat in the core of the ball due to the worms being in close proximity (The worms themselves are cold blooded). If any of the worms in that core break down, the nitrogen released heats up. More heat is generated over time as the worms die in the center core, releasing additional nitrogen until eventually all that is left is a ball of goo.

Although ambient air temps may seem pleasant, worms left on a porch that is ALMOST completely shaded will perish into a ball of goo.

Almost isn’t good enough when playing with worms!