Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Meal worm farming, it's a success!!!

Back in January, I was so fed up with paying outrages prices for meal worms which I use as treats for my hens. What was I to do? That is when I decided to start my own meal worm farm. My oldest country kid and I set to work with a bowl, some oats and a container of worms. It all seemed simple enough and with those 100 meal worms, we were off and "farming." To read how we started you can click here.

By the end of January, we were well on our way as our meal worms began to pupate. Oh the joy!!! My little babies were growing up and moving through the stages of life. It was just like my research said it would be! To read about the pupa stage click here.


From Enchanted Learning
Our pupa



By March, we were knee deep in Darkling Beetles! Okay, not really knee deep, but we had a wonderful success rate of larva to beetle. Now the fun could start, we had our "breeding stock." It was time for those beetles to do what they do best...... that's right, whisper sweet nothings in each others' ears and make me a lot of little meal worms! And they were busier then a frat house on a Friday night! I was so excited.... this was really working! To read about the beetle stage click here.
 
But then everything came to a screeching halt. We had one baby meal worm... just one! What the heck happened? I had no clue, till some of my blog followers clued me in. I needed to separate my beetles from their bedding, they were laying eggs but they were eating their young! Could it really be that simple? So I went out and got a second container and moved the adult beetles in and gave them new bedding. I then set the original container to the side and waited....... 
 
And low and behold..... we have baby meal worms..... lots of them!!!! Finally we have success! Thank you to everyone who shared your knowledge with me. That one simple piece of advice saved "the farm."

I also went on the hunt for the perfect three drawer organizer (like you use for crafts) so that I can rotate the beetles and have worms going full time! So if you have gotten to the beetle stage and like me aren't seeing any worms.... SEPARATE YOUR BEETLES from their bedding! Good luck and happy worm farming my friends!
 


 

54 comments:

  1. my chickens won't get these as treats as I don't plan to grow my own and won't ever buy them. They will do fine without them anyway, but I'm so glad you found out the problem. I wouldn't have thought of that. Congrats on your worms. I don't have time to mess with these as my food is more important but ypour posts were great to read. Deb

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    1. Our girls free range so they can get their own bugs but meal worms are such a treat for them (and good for them too.) It is almost like chicken "crack" LOL I refuse to pay $3 for 100 any more so I had to figure out a way to grow them. It is one of those "set it and forget it" projects. Not time consuming at all. Plus we now have extra we can use for bait when we go fishing this summer. Nothing like yummy pan fish.

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    2. Hello, I have a bearded dragon and I am going to try to breed some mealworms as well. So far I have only successfully bred superworms (Zophobas morio) which require higher humidity, so it will be my first time with the little ones. The three-drawer thing looks splendid :)

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    3. I stay clear of the superworms. Our lizard is too small for them anyway. Honestly, the regular meal worms do best if you just leave them alone in a dark corner LOL The three drawers is a super big help when it comes to sorting and growing different stages.

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  2. I don't understand how you get baby worms if the beetles are in a separate container...can you share how that is? I might like to try this but I need to convince the hubby that the beetles won't escape into the house, lol.

    Such a neat idea!

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    1. After your beetles are in their container for a while, you then move just them, not the bedding, to a new container. Their old bedding has the eggs in it! Just wait for them to hatch :) My hubby dislikes bugs (understatement) so the first container I used had a secure top with air holes. I now have them in a 3 drawer organizer and there is enough of a crack for air but they can't climb out. In the summer you can always keep them in the garage!

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  3. So cool Mindie - glad you figured it out. It sounds like a really great project - it's now of the someday list.

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  4. how long do the beetles live and how long (approx.) after reaching the beetle stage do they lay their eggs? I have been wanting to do this with my eldest son for our chickens who can not free range because of predators. What do you do with the beetles?After they lay do you feed them to the chickens too? Will the ladies eat the dead beetles? I tried feeding mine caterpillars but they did not like those.

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    1. I am not sure how long the beetles live LOL But some of ours have started dying off now, so I just let some of the mealworms pupate so we have more. We just let the beetles live and lay eggs till they die.... I have never tried feeding any to the girls.

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  5. My girls will eat the dead beetles. I've had great success with my one-container mealworm farm but now it's filled with frass and very little of the oat bran it was originally filled with. Not sure what to do. I don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater! I guess I do need another container to put the pupae in and another one for the adult beetles, leaving the old one full of frass and (hopefully) eggs?

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    1. What I do is move the beetles to an empty container. I then move their drawer to the bottom (with the eggs) as the Baby drawer. The old stuff in the baby drawer whih now has tiny worms gets dumpped in the middle drawer with extra food if needed. I then put the beetles back in that drawer with new bedding/food. It sounds complicated but it is just a quick moving around of stages. That way I never throw out eggs or tiny worms.

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    2. Do the beetles ever get out of the drawer and free range in your house?

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    3. No LOL Hubby would have freaked if they did!

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  6. So glad the Chicken Chick sent me over to check you out. This will be my next project. My girl's just love them. Thank you for sharing.

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  7. I tied recently but too bad they cannibalized despite plenty of food for them. What do i need to do to prevent this problem.

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    1. I move the beetles to an empty container ever so often so the eggs they laid can turn into worms without being eaten.

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  8. What a great post, thanks so much.I know all about the expense of mealworms, but had a bit of a laugh when you said you paid $3/hundred. I paid $12 for 100 grams yesterday at the pet shop (Should have checked out the produce store), anyway thats $120 / kilo. I probably got about 200 worms though, but still they are very expensive here in Australia so I am also going to farm my own for my quail. (4 little Jap quail that are going to start my quail farm lol) I enjoy the worms already, much more fun that the quail, and who knows, maybe I will make some money with them. Anyway thanks again Mindie, great post.

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    1. They are easy to grow once you figure out the downfalls LOL You very well could make a little extra money if you decided to be a worm farmer. Prices are just crazy! Good luck on your new project!

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  9. But how do you move the beetles? Do you have to touch them?

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    1. I do touch them LOL I know I am odd. But they are just "livestock" to me not bugs. You could use a kitty litter scooper with the slots sp the oatmeal falls through and the beatles can be transfered that way with no touching.

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    2. Oh thank goodness - I want a snack bin for my chickens but I don't wanna touch them!! And you are SURE they can't escape from the bins??!!

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  10. I have moved mine and can not see anything that looks like an egg! I am going to wait 2 weeks and then move them again and see if there is any progress

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    1. You can't see the eggs... and the baby worms are TINY. I put some of the oatmeal and dust on black construction paper and that is when I finally saw their little butts. LOL

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    2. How often do you move the Beatles? I was trying 2 weeks and still have not touched the bedding from the first couple of weeks. I still dont see anything moving though!

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    3. I am a bad worm momma... or bettle mama... I tend to forget my beetles a lot so I would say about once a month-ish. But like I said, the new born worms are super TINY. Are you keeping enough moisture in your containers? What is your temp like?

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  11. Be sure to save the frass to add to your worm bins and compost piles. It adds a lot of beneficial microbes and enzymes to your compost. Chitin/Chitinase are great for helping your plants defend against insect infestations.

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  12. Wow! just stumbled onto your blog and I think I'm in love! Great info on the meal worms. I'm doing it! thanks for sharing.

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    1. In love!?!? Wow, thanks! Happy worm farming!!

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  13. I have my meal worms for about 14 years now, i dont separate at all and they just multiply and multiply.
    Their are 7 containers 3 of them are the drawer size that you use the rest n lot bigger i need to know what to do with their droppings. When the bottom section gets to deep i separate the "live stock" from the castings with a sieve i keep the castings in a pail and give food as normal to feed worms that might breed from that, normally not a lot of worms from that (that is from the bottom section where you normally dont find worms) Now i need to know what to do with those droppings can you use it as a fertilizer on plants ?

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    1. I would put it in your compost pile if you have one :)

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  14. Simple question...how to you separate the worms from the oat?

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    1. by hand LOL yes I know, that grosses some people out, sorry

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    2. Thank you for the quick reply.

      I am trying to figure out whether I want to do this...I have not problems touching my earthworms, these gross me out a little. I might try to set up a straining system.

      I am going to do it! I want to save money on the chicken food.

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    3. You could always try like a cat pooper scooper..... just a thought :)

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  15. Thanks for the tips. I have the same setup as you. I also have a ton of Beatles for a few weeks now and no babies. I will have to try removing them from their current drawer and wait and see what appears.

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  16. I've been raising meal worms to feed my bluebirds for about 5 years now...a mesh sieve works great for straining the frass ( worm poo) and eggs...The larvae, pupae, and beetles are all harmless ( don't bite ) so no reason to be squeamish about handling them ...

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  17. My pupae are not moving. Is this normal or have they died?

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    1. If they are still white they are alive. Pick one up and it may twitch a little. It is kind of creepy! LOL

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  18. Great article. I breed my mealworms in the same manner as described in this how to breed mealworms article. Quick question.... how often do you separate your beetles from worms from pupae? lol I heard they eat one another.

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    1. They will but I forget from time to time LOL I am a bad worm mama As long as they have moisture they will not turn on each other much

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  19. I have a 3 drawer bin and in the top drawer I cut out most of the bottom and then hot glued alum. screen on the inside over the hole. The beetles and the oats go in that drawer and the drawer below that i did not cut up I put a little oatmeal, baby oatmeal, and bread. As the beetles lay their eggs and also make frass it drops into that drawer and that drawer becomes the nursery. This is my first try at farming and it is working because I just took the nursery drawer and put it under a light moved the contents and all of a sudden it was moving on its own.
    We were paying $10.00 per 100 at the pet store to feed our Bearded Dragon and that is what made me look into farming. Also for anyone looking to get worms to start their farm, we used Rainbow Mealworms they seemed to have the best prices and ship very quick and the worms are in great condition.
    Thank you for the wonderful tips, I was not sure I was doing it correctly and it looks like I am doing ok according to your info. Happy farming

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    1. Sound like you are doing beautifully! $10 for 100 is outrageous!

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  20. So excited to have found your blog! We are also knee deep in beetles and hadn't found a single worm! Now I know why!! We are so happy now lol! This is our new project and call me weird but putting the pupa in their container then moving the beetles to their container etc its calming to me! I think its because I get to sit down lol! I'll be adding you to my blogroll! Www.fruittreehillhannibal.blogspot.com oh and I'm on instagram too are you? I'm @fruittreehill! Thanks again! Love jl -

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  21. It is warm here in australia, about 25c at the moment and my worms are not moving. Do they go still for a while before they pupate?

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    1. They turn white and weird looking and hardly move. They are kind of creepy LOL

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  22. Hi Mindie
    I am currently researching alternate food supplies to feed my fish in my aquaponics system. I currently have a Cricket farm going and have been looking into meal worms and black soldier fly larvae. I came across a similar 3 drawer system before where they cut the bottoms of the 2 top drawers our and replaced them with wire mesh.
    this allowed the small matter eggs and tiny meal worms to get though but not the beetles. Dont know how successful it was but it seemed like a good idea.
    Cheers Matt

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    1. I have seen that too, but for use, our way works, so we were sticking to it. Aka if it ain't broke, don't go messing with it and bugger it all up LOL

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  23. I have 500 meal worms coming and want to do this. Can you measure your 3 bin system and let me know how big it is?

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    1. It isn't that big, maybe 2ft high by 2 ft deep

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