Mealworm 101

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by JimnJanet, Feb 26, 2008.

  1. JimnJanet

    JimnJanet Songster

    Jan 29, 2008
    S.W Pa.
    I saw someone ask about raising thier own mealworms in another post so here it is. Very simple and takes no time at all....

    Here we go, good luck all. yer birds will definately love you more for it and i assure you....


    It's not hard to get started. You'll need a supply of mealworms, oat bran, a few apples, brown paper grocery bags, and a container to house your "mealworm ranch." Ready? Okay, let's get started!

    Order or buy a supply of mealworms. Be sure to NOT get the giant ones since they don't seem to multiply as well as the smaller ones.

    In the meantime, get a 5 gallon plastic pail or a clear plastic container with a lid and with sides about 6" tall. The container should be about 1 ft. by 3 ft. If using the clear container, get out the drill and make about 30 - 40 holes in the lid so the mealworms will get plenty of air. If the inside of the container gets water droplets, simply drill a few more holes. If using the pail or a container without a lid, get a piece of screening that will lay across the top.

    Get enough oat bran to fill half of the pail or container. You can buy oat bran at a feed store (cheapest place) or a natural food store. The oat bran is food for your newly hatched mealworms.

    When you get your mealworms, they will normally be packed in crumbled newspaper. You do not need to touch them, just take the container and shake them out into the pail or container. Put no more than 1,000 in one pail or 30-40 per square foot if using the clear plastic container. Be sure to not exceed these amounts since overcrowding will generate heat and may kill the mealworms!

    Place your container or pail out of direct sunlight. Keep them in a place that has temperatures between 45 and 75 degrees F. Basements, closets, and cellars are great for your mealworm ranch.

    Your mealworms need moisture. The easiest way is to simply cut an apple in half. Push the cut side down into the oat bran until it can barely be seen. Do not spend time cutting off the skin of the apple. This is enough moisture - DO NOT add more. Every couple of weeks, take out the old apple and add a new half.

    On top of the oat bran, put 3-4 layers of torn brown grocery bags. The mealworms will crawl in and hide between the layers of bags.

    Remember the mealworms are the larval stage of beetles. In their lifetime, these mealworms will go through 10-20 molts, turn into a whitish pupa and then transform into an adult beetle. These beetles can not fly but to make your family feel better, you might want to put a screen over the top of the pail or keep the lid on the plastic container.

    The mealworms' cycle into beetles can vary from 100-300 days or more, depending on the available food and temperature at which you keep them. The mealworms turn into beetles, lay eggs and then die. The female beetle lays 500 to 1000 bean-shaped white sticky eggs. Eggs hatch in about one week but the larva are very small so it may take a few weeks before the larvae are large enough to be seen well. Teeny larvae will hatch from the eggs and will quickly grow to the size to feed birds. You can up to 3,000 new mealworms per square foot! With this many new mealworms, you may need to add an additional apple half when you see the newly hatched mealworms.

    When you have new mealworms the size the birds love, take them out of the oat bran, and put them in a different container. Clearly label this container (again to avoid domestic horrors) and keep it in the refrigerator to keep the mealworms in the larval stage.

    Every several months, take some mealworms from the pail or container and start a new pail or container. Doing so will ensure that your backyard birds will have a steady supply of tasty mealworms.

    PS, i can say from experience. As recommended above.Do NOT get the giant mealworms, they are hybrids and they WILL NOT breed.
    Also, when yer adult beetles die, take 'em out and toss 'em to yer birds, don't waste 'em.
    One more thing, yer mealworms are only as nutritious as what's in their bellys. Don't be afraid to feed 'em extra fruits and greens, jist stay on top o' this if/when you do and DO NOT ALLOW MOLD TO GROW in yer worm ranch.

    Good luck and have fun.
    oh yeah, crickets are just as easy to raise fer yer birds.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2008
  2. MBLayfield

    MBLayfield Songster

    Oct 22, 2007
    Wellsville, UT
    Thank you for this post! I posted on another thread about what to do with the beetles when they die. So you take some out and put in the fridge and let the cycle keep going in your farm, when do you change out the bedding and start over or do you? Not trying to be dumb just not getting that part I guess. [​IMG]
  3. JimnJanet

    JimnJanet Songster

    Jan 29, 2008
    S.W Pa.
    Quote:Hi Brandy,
    No need to fridge yer bugs. Jist take out what you need when you need 'em. If you find you are getting more worms that you need/want,you can take the excess and put 'em in yer wild bird feeders.
    If you are on top o' yer maintenence, not allowing any taoes or fruit to get moldy, then you won't have to change yer substrate very often at all. The only problem i have ever encountered was having too many worms and having to thin out the colony by starting another one. Depending on how many birds you have tho, you will most likely be using them up pretty fast. Just watch yer colony close for the first couple o' months and you will quickly learn thier cycle. If/when you see they are really growing in numbers, seeing more beetles than worms is a good indicater,you can take out some new beetles and any and all pupay(sp), the white ones,and use them to start a new colony.
    No such thing as a dumb question Brandy, ya jist aint gonna learn 'lest ya ask. [​IMG]
  4. Chickee's Mom

    Chickee's Mom Songster

    Aug 29, 2007
    Lacombe AB
    What a great post, we have mountain bluebirds that arrive here in Mid March. Central Alberta, and I always buy some to feed them, I am going to see if I can raise them. Also would be great for baby chicks...for treats.
    thanks again.
  5. nccountrygirl

    nccountrygirl Songster

    Jul 31, 2007
    Sanford N.C.
  6. K&H Chicken Farm

    K&H Chicken Farm Songster

    Feb 17, 2008
    Redding CA
    Great! I can raise meal worms in the winter and crikets in the summer and worms year around. I think I am going to have vary happy birds.[​IMG]
  7. Gonzo the Great

    Gonzo the Great Songster

    Jan 14, 2008
    Sugar Land, TX
    Quote:Oh, I've got a great way to handle that!
  8. MissPrissy

    MissPrissy Crowing

    May 7, 2007
    Forks, Virginia
    Doesn't the bucket they live in begin to stink?
  9. chickensista

    chickensista Songster

    Feb 23, 2008
    Do NOT get the giant mealworms, they are hybrids and they WILL NOT breed.
    Also, when yer adult beetles die, take 'em out and toss 'em to yer birds, don't waste 'em

    Hi all,
    I'm new to chickens, but not to bugs. I've been keeping reptiles for a number of years - and they need bugs. I agree, the giant mealworms(Tenebrio species) are not a good choice, but there are larger worms called superworms(Zophobas species) that are really easy too. They wont pupate as easily as mealworms - you actually need to isolate the worms to do this. They can be left in their box(same as the mealworm post) without refrigeration for a very long time - months even. They won't pupate, and just hang out waiting for food or to be used as food.
    You can also find silkworms, hornworms, phoenix worms, wax worms, roaches, and maggots online. And more. LOL
    Let me know if anyone would like bug links. Some can be pricey, but they make for nice treats in the winter.
  10. JimnJanet

    JimnJanet Songster

    Jan 29, 2008
    S.W Pa.
    Quote:Oh, I've got a great way to handle that!

    [​IMG] I was actually gonna reccommend that Gonzo.

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