It has been just over a year since we became mealworm farmers and I have had folks ask, “So how’s it going?” It is going GREAT!!! I have to say, micro-livestock is one of the easiest things to raise! We have changed set ups in the last year and even with neglect (yes, I was a bad worm farmer) our set up is STILL thriving. So I thought now would be a wonderful time to revisit the topic of mealworm farming.
So why raise mealworms? For our poultry of course! Our girls can suck down 100 mealworms in under three seconds. It is crazy to watch. I tell folks that mealworms are like crack for chickens. I have been asked if we eat them too since they are a great source of protein and the answer is, ummm…. NO. The oldest country kid and I once tried some chedder cheese mealworms and found them to be, well, not our thing.
When it came to mealworm farming, let me start out by saying, my hubby is NOT a bug lover. While my hubby was a little creeped out by the wiggling oatmeal in our farm, he was nice enough to let us keep our mealworms. Yeah, I kind of just did it without running it by him. I in turn, made sure to keep them out of site. I also don’t “tend” them when he was around.
So how do you get started?
Well you need some worms! You can order them online or just run down to your local pet store and pick up a couple hundred. We started with a mere 100 worms and a plastic container and now…. well, we will get to that!
Your worms are going to need two things…. something to eat and a way to get moisture. We use oats for their food and carrots (sometimes potatoes, when we run out of carrots) for their moisture. You will want to keep them in a container that gets ventilation, but that they can’t escape out of (especially if your married to my hubby!) One thing I have learned over the past year is temperature places a big role in how fast the whole life cycle goes. If you want them to really get busy and start moving through the stages, a higher temperature will increase their metamorphosis.
The reverse is true too…. if you are a bad worm farmer, like I was this winter, and their set up gets shoved in a cooler corner, it acts like suspended animation. When I finally dug out my container, I was expecting to find drawers of dead worms, only to be pleasantly surprised that after a few months of not taking care of them, there were a large number of mealworms still alive!
So how does this life cycle thing work?
Well it starts with your mealworms pupating. The pupa then hatch into Darkling beetles, which lay eggs. Those eggs, which you can’t see, then hatch out into more mealworms!
Now here is the tricky part that I totally missed the first time I cleaned out our pen and why we now use a three drawer method….. If you throw out the “waste” or castings, you are also throwing out your eggs! *smacks forehead* Yes, yes I did. I kept wondering why we weren’t getting any baby mealworms! I thought maybe the mealworms or beetles were eating the eggs.
|Waste or castings from our worm farm|
While the beetles and worms eat the oatmeal, the beetles are also laying eggs in the substrate as well. So, when I threw out the waste, I was throwing out our eggs too. This is when I switched to our current three drawer method. I keep the worms in the middle drawer and I move the pupa and beetles to the top drawer as they develop. When the top drawer needs new oatmeal, I pour the old oatmeal in the bottom drawer so the eggs can hatch. And ya know what?!?! BAM, baby worms!!
Once you have a nice “flow” going in your mealworm farm, it is just a matter of replacing dried out carrots and moving beetles after they pupate. These hardy little buggers really do take very little effort! Here is what our current system looks like.
And while my hubby still isn’t a big fan of our micro-livestock herd, the country kids love to watch them on a regular bases (when dad is at work.) They enjoy finding the “white” worms that have just shed their skin. Did you know, there are no albino mealworms? It just means they went through a shed within the last couple hours. If my kids ever get on Jeopardy, they will rock the mealworm category!
So now that we have a year under our belts and are successful meal worm farmers, I can without a doubt puff out my already rather large chest and smile, because I no longer have to pay $3 for 100 worms that my poultry sucks down like spaghetti. My children are learning scientific information and other then my hubby….. we are all having fun with our mealworms!
**Homestead Tips on Tuesday is a weekly series where we help you learn skills, tips, and trick to help you on your journey of homesteading. Many places post list of things you should/could do as far as homesteading skill, but I feel lists are at times overwhelming and can make people give up before they even start. So every Tuesday I share one thing for you to try or consider. I hope you join us every Tuesday and I would love to hear about your adventures with each weeks topic.**