The Girl Scout troop we are in is working on a bugs and flowers badge. An unexpected storm ended our planned trip to the local botanical garden, so we met at the library instead. I offered to bring a flower head to dissect, but was instead asked the above question. Are your mealworms portable?
Which brings me to today’s post.
If you keep chickens, ducks, or other mealworm-eating animals, you may regularly buy live or dehydrated mealworms as high protein snacks. They’re not exactly expensive, but they add up if you buy them regularly. So why not grow your own?
Mealworms are probably the most low-cost, low-effort livestock to rear.
Livestock? Yes! It’s a valuable animal that provides feed to other animals and can be eaten by humans too. Point of note, nary a mealworm will ever pass my pink lips, but that’s my problem. Mealworms make an excellent source of dietary protein. But I’m not here to talk about the benefits of growing mealworms for human consumption; I’ll leave that for someone else.
Back to my point, I grow mealworms for my chickens and ducks. Mealworms are very high in protein and low in fat. According to Abigale’s Eatables, who cites Ghaly and Alkoaik’s “The Yellow Mealworm as a Novel Source of Protein” (American Journal of Agricultural Biological Science (2009;4(4):319-331)):
How do mealworms stack up in against other meats? Check this out:
- Mealworm larvae contain about 25 percent protein and 12 percent fat
- Beef contains 18.4 percent protein and 20.5 percent fat
- Chicken contains 22 percent protein and 3.8 percent fat, and
- Pork contains 14.6 percent and 31.4 percent fat.
You can grow scads of mealworms in a 10-gallon aquarium. That is plenty for your backyard flock’s needs.
Ready to start your mealworm farm? Here’s how:
- Get an aquarium with a lid. They are easily found in garage sales and thrift stores.
- Place the aquarium in a warm place away from direct sun and protected from rain.
- Pour one whole canister of old fashioned oats into the aquarium.
- Buy a container or two of live mealworms from a pet store (do not buy the giant mealworms, you want the small ones. Giant mealworms may not reproduce). Toss the mealworms in the aquarium.
- Add a chuck of apple, potato, or carrot. This gives them something to eat and keeps their habitat from becoming too dry.
- Keep an eye on the vegetable. Replace it before it gets moldy.
And that’s pretty much it! Keep an eye on your mealworm farm. If the veggie starts to go south–replace it. Make sure the habitat stays clean and dry. Eventually, your mealworms will pupate. They may look dead, but they’re probably not. Eventually, they will turn into beetles. The beetles will lay eggs and the cycle continues. Learn more about the life cycle of mealworms at Enchanted Learning.
Have you ever considered starting your own mealworm farm? What’s stopping you? Let me know if I can help in any way.