Most people feed seeds and nuts to birds or store-bought birdfeed.
If you wish to spice up your backyard ecosystem, mealworms may be the perfect choice for you. Help birds get through a tough winter by adding mealworms to the food palette.
Mealworms are an absolute favorite food of the little birdies.
Almost 80% of the bird kingdom has some sort of insect as part of their diet. Mealworms are a great source of a protein-rich diet, which fills most of the nutritious requirements for birds.
Learning about mealworms will allow you to provide the best nutrition to birds and their younglings. This is just what birds need during nesting season.
Molting is a process in which birds shed feathers and grow new ones.
It happens annually, usually in late summer after the breeding season. A great deal of protein is needed to replace these feathers.
What Are Mealworms
Mealworms are sometimes mistaken as worms, but these are two different organisms.
Mealworms are the larvae of a beetle, Tenebrio Molitor, also called the darkling beetle or Tenebrio Beetle.
This larva is also called golden grubs and is rich in nutrients. Birds require it to pack up their energy reserves for the winters.
Mealworms are safe to be handled by humans. The beetles can’t fly and aren’t a source of threat. Insects are the main source of proteins for birds. However, they are not the sole food requirement.
Insects lack some nutrients that need to be consumed by other food sources. For example, insects are extremely low in calcium.
The nutrition value of mealworm is as follows:
Which Birds Eat Mealworms
Insectivorous birds are birds whose diet consists mainly of insects.
These insects are of numerous kinds, including flying insects, grasshoppers, caterpillars, dragonflies, ants, spiders, aquatic insects, butterflies, etc.
Most birds are partially insectivorous and may also feed on seeds and other herbivorous sources of food.
Here is a list of common birds that enjoy mealworms:
- And more
Numerous other birds also enjoy insects, and you may be surprised at what rare sights your feeder will attract.
Grab your binoculars and get ready for some interesting discoveries.
Should Mealworms Be Live or Dried
There are pros and cons to each type of mealworm.
Dried mealworms are cheaper and easier to store. But they may not be as effective in attracting birds. However, dried mealworms can be mixed with seeds and fruits to provide a rich, balanced diet.
Live mealworms may be a bit pricier, but nothing gets the attention of a tiny, feathered friend like a living mealworm. Live worms are juicy and extremely delicious.
How to Store Mealworms
Live mealworms are able to survive in a plastic box of 2-5 gallons if there is plenty of air.
Mealworms require moisture so that they don’t dry out. You can put apple slices in the box as food for the larvae. Mealworms can be stored in a fridge for a few days.
The growth rate of mealworms depends on the temperature they are kept in. If you keep your stash in a cool and dry area, the worms’ growth will slow down considerably.
At a temperature of 8-10°C, mealworms can be kept for up to several months. But a lower temperature will kill the mealworms.
For dry mealworms, just keep them in a dry and ventilated box to protect them from mold or other micro-organic growths.
How to Offer Mealworms to Birds
Place the mealworms on a dish or a feeder. Mealworms are very sly and easily crawl out of places. Make sure that your feeder has smooth edges because rough edges make it easier for the larvae to crawl out if they are alive.
Don’t leave the mealworms on the ground.
Remember to place the feeder a little far from your windows, closer to a tree or other vegetation, so that birds don’t feel threatened and approach the tasty snack with ease.
Choose a good pair of binoculars for a clear view of your visitors.
Place around 100 mealworms in the location that you have chosen. Mealworms are not a complete meal, so add some birdfeed like seeds or fruits.
Feeding mealworms to birds once a day is enough. Leave out seeds and fruits if they want another snack as filler and to ensure a complete diet.
Other Animals Who Might Eat Mealworms
If you place too many mealworms, leftover mealworms will attract pests and rodents.
Mice, rats, squirrels, raccoons, cockroaches, frogs and even snakes may be attracted to mealworms. Even humans can eat mealworms.
Go Easy on Your Pocket
It isn’t cheap to constantly buy fresh live mealworms to satisfy the appetites of birds.
To make this hobby cost-effective, buy larvae in bulk from your local wholesale market or online bird food suppliers who sell affordable feed. Instead of buying expensive platforms and bird feeders, do a DIY project and make one on your own!
You will love watching the birds make your handcrafted project their home.
How to Breed Mealworms
Breeding mealworms at home is easy and fun if you are a dedicated bird feeder who doesn’t want to spend so much on mealworms. It can even be a great family activity for your kids!
Pick a shallow and sturdy box; add a 2-3 cm layer of food and bedding. For the food, you can add cereal like bran or oats to the box. Add a few handfuls of worms or adult beetles, around 80-100.
Add some torn pieces of cardboard or egg cartons to allow some space for the mealworms to roam around and socialize.
The process of the pupae formation and then the eventual emergence of beetles take several weeks. Alternatively, you can also buy adult mealworm beetles and to help kick-start your farm.
Keep your larvae warm at room temperature for optimum growth. Colder temperatures will slow down the growth of the mealworm larvae. Too high temperatures can cause mealworms to die.
Be sure that your larvae stay nice and moist. Keep adding sources of food that are high in water content and sweet.
Some examples are slices of potatoes, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, or any other vegetable or fruit. Do not let mold develop. This can be problematic for the larvae.
Change the bedding every 1-2 weeks to keep the mealworms at their healthiest. This will improve their rate of mortality immensely.
It might take a few months to reap the prize of growing a mealworm farm. It will be worth it when you get to feed your homegrown mealworms to precious birds.
Once your batch is finished, let a few mealworms develop into beetles to grow your next batch of mealworms.
How to keep larger species or species in great numbers from eating all the mealworms?
A caged live food feeder will allow only small birds to get access to the worms. This will help you ward off flocks and allow a small number of tiny birds to enjoy this tasty snack.
If you make a feeder yourself, consider adding some form of overhead protection that will prevent birds of prey from dive-bombing and grabbing the mealworms or birds feeding on the worms.
Your feeder and its frequent visitors may grab the attention of hawks or eagles that are ready to swoop in and grab a snack of their own. If you notice a hawk or any bird of prey eyeing your feeder, stop feeding the birds for a few days so that the hawk can move on to some other location.
What Else to Do
Avoid using insecticide or pesticides in your backyard. The birds will help with the insect population, meaning your garden won’t require unnatural chemicals to keep the pests away.
What a great added benefit of feeding birds in your backyard!
Remember that spices and flavorings that are suitable for humans can be toxic for birds.
Once you’re all ready and the meal is laid out on your feeder, have patience before birds start to notice your offering. It will take some time for birds to warm up to your backyard and realize that it’s not a threat.
Mealworms are the best way to attract birds and make them want to come back for seconds.
Try to be as approachable and friendly as you can. Your backyard will be lively with chirrups and songs in no time.
Other articles you may also like: