March 20, 2009

Worms in the Basement Part 2

Here are instructions for growing and feeding meal worms for the backyard birds. The picture here is of my favorite type of feeder. I have tried several and this seems to work best. I bought this one at Wild Birds Unlimited but I am sure they are available elsewhere. I put worms out every morning all year but you can feed only in winter and in nesting season if you prefer. It may take a few days before the birds find your feeder. Mine is very close to my other feeder on my deck so they found it right away. I can almost guarantee that a Titmouse will be the first to find it. They are the most curious little birdies – and the biggest eaters! I take worms out of my basement beds and keep a weeks supply in a recycled butter container in the refrigerator. They will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks - they go simi-dormant and perk right up in room temps.

This picture is the container that I keep and grow the worms. As I mentioned in the previous blog “worms in the basement”, I got my first worms from my cousin. If you are lucky enough to have a friend who grows meal worms, maybe they will share a few with you to get you started. If not, here are a couple of links to web sites where you can purchase worms. Be sure to NOT buy the giant worms, they are sterile – treated with a growth hormone. I buy small or medium if I ever need extras when my birds are eating a lot. It usually takes about a week or two for the small ones to get large enough to feed but they are perfect to start you clan with.

The very best bedding and food for meal worms is wheat bran but my local feed store that used to carry it went out of business so now I use Chick Starter. The worms are doing well with it and it seems to last longer than the wheat germ did. I purchase my Chick Starter at our TSC store and it is very cheap. The wheat bran that you can find in the grocery store will work but is expensive.

In addition to the Chick Starter, you will need to scatter some raw apple or potato slices or lettuce leaves on top of your worm bed every once in a while. The worms love these; it gives them moisture that they need. I add new ones when I notice that my worms have eaten almost all of what I put in last. Do not let your bedding get wet – it will mold and could destroy the worms.

In a few weeks you will see black beetles in your container along with the worms. This is good – these are the last stage in the life cycle of a meal worm. The beetles will lay eggs and the process starts all over again. If you get a great deal of beetles, I get rid of some of them. They will eat them worms if there is not enough food for them all. I toss them in a pile of leaves in the yard – who knows maybe they will reproduce there. Meal worms live under leaves and other debris in nature.

About once a year, I sift all the worms and beetles out of my container, dump the old used bedding into my compost and start out with fresh bedding. I put it about six inches deep and place my worms and bugs back in, top it off with a few apple slices and I’m ready for a new year of bird feeding. Wear something old and a mask if you have dust allergies. This can be a dusty chore!

Once your worms are established and reproducing, you can run your fingers through the bedding and you will notice movement in the bedding. These are tiny baby worms –thousands of them! Future blue bird treats!

If you have additional questions or suggestions of your own please leave a comment.

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