Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Homestead Tips on Tuesday: Mealworm Farming: One Year Later


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.**

30 comments:

  1. interesting hobby and cheap way to feed the chickens.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Do they ever get out? I have a cat and the idea of eating them is ewwww!!! Good idea though, I may do that, at least in the winter~~~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have never had an unaided escape. If the littlest country kid would stop trying to play with them, they would never get out LOL

      Delete
    2. I guess that would be my biggest concern. I would want to grow them indoors, (for the warmth), but, I'm concerned about them getting into my food-stuffs, (which I like to keep in tightly covered jars and Tupperware, and we always do, (except, when we don't), LOL! Have you had any problem with them invading your flour, cereal, etc.?

      Delete
    3. Anonymous, mine never get out nor do they get in our food. My youngest son loves them and tries to play with them but they are now out of reach LOL

      Delete
  3. I am very interested in raising meal worms and your post was very informative. I can't wait to get started!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is fun and shaves money.... our chickens LOVE mealorms

      Delete
  4. They are great for fishing as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are, but I think our hens would get a little miffed if we didn't for over everything to them LOL

      Delete
  5. I tried this with the 3 drawer method and finally gave up. I wasn't getting enough of them to make it worth my trouble. So I'm back at paying a fortune for them!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It takes time.... it takes trial and error..... Sorry you are back to paying a fortune..... sooo wanna buy some worms? LOL

      Delete
  6. I grew them as a kid to feed pet horny toads I got from the riverbed. I only kept them for one week, and traded my "pet" for another one when I went to the riverbed on the weekend. They sure loved the worms. - Margy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a wonderful memory. We have toads and frog visitors a lot thanks to the country kids.

      Delete
  7. I do enjoy your posts, but, seriously, it would be a NO for me also. :) Your friend, Linda at Crafts a la Mode

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think I am with your husband on this one 😉 but what a great thing to do with your children. Thanks for sharing this at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I respect is hate/fear of bugs and always "play" with them when he isn't around

      Delete
  9. Good on you Mindie, honouring your husband and growing meal worms, well done.

    ReplyDelete
  10. You make this sound so easy. Hoping to try it very soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is easy when you know what your doing... we did make mistakes, remember LOL

      Delete
  11. Very cool! Thanks for sharing at the Homestead Blog Hop!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think it's great that your kids have a chance to witness this whole process! Thanks so much for linking up to Awesome Life Friday! We'll be pinning this - we're looking forward to seeing what you have to share this week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the pin! My boys do love their micro livestock LOL

      Delete
  13. This is very interesting and I would have never thought about raising mill worms! Learn something new every day! Thanks for linking up at totally terrific tuesday! I love having you around!! Hope you have a fab weekend and see you monday at 10pm eastern!!
    Jess @liverandomlysimple

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for hosting. Yeah, mealworms aren't everyone's idea of "pets" LOL But we (and our chickens) enjoy them

      Delete
  14. Fascinating. I read the entire article. Bluebirds love mealworms also. Wishing you a wonderful New Year with your family. Your friend, Linda @VCrafts a la mode

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you get a little herd of micro livestock going!

      Delete

Print