Real Gardens

Would you–could you–with a mealworm?

Dscn2150_1  So there I was in England at Wiggly Wigglers, minding my own business (well, not really–I being led around the farm and shown the many marvelous things they do) when we peek inside a fridge and what do we see but millions and millions of mealworms, all squirming around in the cold?

Mealworms.  Tenebrio molitor, the larva of the mealworm beetle, also called the darkling beetle, or in Britain the flour beetle.  You can guess why–they munch on flour and grain (they’ll also find plenty to eat in a compost pile or in leaf litter.)  The larvae are perfectly happy to just live in a box in your garage.  Just give them a little bran to eat, and they’ll hang out, perfectly clean, odorless, and quiet, until it’s time for them to become bird food.

Mealworms are an important food source for wild chicks and fledglings.  If birds can’t find enough juicy worms and bugs to bring to their babies, adding mealworms to bird feeders is a good alternative.  Just ask the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which provides instructions for breeding your own mealworms with a diet of bread and cabbage.

Now, if anyone could get excited about breeding little protein-rich wiggly things in a box, it would be me.  But frankly, these critters give me the creeps.  Somehow I don’t think mealworms are going mainstream in the United States the way they are overseas.  In fact, the Audubon Society’s page on feeding wild birds doesn’t even mention live food as an option (although you can find info on mealworms if you did a little deeper.)

So, what’s up?  Would you?  Do you?  Or do the birds need to fix their own damn dinner?

Posted by on September 20, 2006 at 6:56 am, in the category Real Gardens.
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6 responses to “Would you–could you–with a mealworm?”

  1. Genie says:

    Own. Damn. Dinner.

    There’s no way. I don’t know why, but for some reason mealworms creep me out and earthworms don’t, so much. Perhaps it’s because I used to pick up earthworms off the sidewalk when I was a kid? Never did that with mealworms.

    I’d be OK with having them outside in a compost bin or just generally living their life in the great outdoors, but I definitely wouldn’t raise them in my garage.

  2. You also feed them to small pet lizards, like the anole, also called American chameleon. My kids had pet lizards years ago, and we bought the mealworms at pet stores. They came in the same kind of white paper boxes that held Chinese take-out.

    We were told that too many mealworms with their hard exteriors would be bad for the little lizards’ digestive systems, . I wonder if the same thing could happen to their winged relatives?

    Annie

  3. chuck b. says:

    Is there a mealworm birdfeeder to stuff them in? Because I wouldn’t want to leave them sitting out in a saucer. I suppose a tidy mealworm birdfeeder wouldn’t attract mice or rats, would it? That’s why I 86’d the birdseed bird feeder. The weeds were obnoxious too, but not nearly as bad as mice and rats.

  4. firefly says:

    “The weeds were obnoxious too, but not nearly as bad as mice and rats.”

    No squirrels in your yard, chuckb? Wait just a minute, I’ll send over 3 or 4 (or a dozen).

    After they’re finished, you can be sure there won’t be *anything* for the mice and rats. (Or, without baffles, for the birds either.)

    I might change my mind on the mealworms next spring, but I already have three seed feeders, a tray feeder for peanuts for the bluejays, and a suet cage.

    Feeding the birds is fun, but so is having money to buy your own food!

  5. chuck b. says:

    We have *no* squirrels. Weird, huh? I think so too. What we do have (besides mice and rats): neighborhood cats who leave donations that attract flies and raccoons that have no manners whatsoever.

    Believe it or not, I never have snails either.

  6. ginger says:

    Survival of the fittest! You don’t want to breed a generation of ‘welfare’ birds do you?

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