Raising meal worms as feed supplement

Wannabefree

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The funny farm 6 wanted this posted so here goes.

I ordered 250 mealworms from Ebay for $10.

When I got them, I had already studied a bit about how to make them a bin/habitat.

Honestly, all I have done so far, is get a shoebox size plastic bin with a lid, put in some old Cream of Wheat and cornmeal about 2 inches deep, added a folded sheet of newsprint on top of the food, added the worms, and kept the newsprint damp because they do require humidity. The newspaper keeps the humidity up, without clumping their feed with water. They are growing in their box beside the couch. I do pick out the shed skins, and dampen the newsprint every few days with a spray bottle. I have been working with them only about 3 weeks, and have went from the initial 250 to estimated 1000 or so. Now they are small, about 1 inch long at their largest size, so I want to get an established colony of at least 15000-25000 before I start feeding them to the birds regularly but they are extremely easy to grow.

A few points I have learned about them... the babies hatch and grow FAST! (full grown worms within days of hatching), and so you should have another box ready within a month to split the colony or get a larger box set up.

In order for them to breed, they need a certain temp range...if I recall correctly they will stop breeding below 55 degrees, and continue breeding best around normal room temps 70-85 or so. For that reason I am keeping them in the house.

So far they are doing really well, and are SO easy to grow! I have yet to have a problem arise, will post if I do. I am pretty inexperienced, but am very inpressed with their growth rate so far. I am figuring with 25000 established worms breeding I should be able to feed my birds AND my pigs daily to supplement their feed with all the protein they could possibly need.

Being inexperienced, I hope some others with MORE experience chime in. I'm here to learn too!! :)
 

Denim Deb

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When you do start to feed them to your critters, how many do you feed per day per animal?
 

Wannabefree

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Denim Deb said:
When you do start to feed them to your critters, how many do you feed per day per animal?
I'm not feeding them yet. My birds still have forage right now. I am trying to build them up to a large quantity before beginning to feed. I'll start at every other day feedings. 50 of these add up to only about a small handful of worms. So I am waiting for a well established colony before fedding, otherwise I will have to reorder eventually.
 

so lucky

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The shed skins do end up being a lightweight layer on top. The worms sift through the bedding and make layers out of it: lightest on top, coarse stuff like oatmeal next. The finest stuff, the "frass" (worm poop) is heavy, and lies on the bottom. As the beetles die, they are on top, too. You can take a shallow container outside on a windy day and that takes care of most of the shed skins, but not the carcasses.
I have had my worms about a year. I may not have kept them at the same temp as WBF, as mine develop quite a bit slower. The container does start to stink after a while. You get to a point where you need to separate out the largest worms from the beetles and the dead stuff, and that has been an issue for me. There is a great thread over on BYC about raising mealies, with a couple of very experienced growers, as well. I have read that the frass makes a great fertilizer. I have used it in the garden, but this year was not a good year to try to determine the efficacy of anything, except water!
I feed my mealies banana skins, apple cores, carrots (their fav) potatoes, broccoli. just about any vegetable matter that is not too soggy. I don't have any problem with fruit flies or maggots, as the stuff dries out pretty quickly. I used oat bran for the bedding mostly, but have used mixed stuff out of the pantry such as oatmeal and cornmeal.
 

the funny farm6

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so the worms turn to beatles. do the try to climb out of the box? do you keep a lid on the plastic box?

p.s. thanks for the thread!
 

~gd

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the funny farm6 said:
so the worms turn to beatles. do the try to climb out of the box? do you keep a lid on the plastic box?

p.s. thanks for the thread!
Actually the worms [larva] will shed their skin several times [9-20] as they grow larger [commercial growers use a juveile hormone to get larger worms, if you plan to raise your own, select larger worms and put in a completely new container and leave the old bedding to produce more larger worms] they should turn to a pupa (not moving form) for about 20 days before the adult beetle comes out. only adults can reproduce or fly so your breeding box should have a screen cover to prevent excape. After some hanky-panky, the females will lay up to 500 eggs. They will live 60-90 days but I can't tell you if they breed again or not. after the eggs hatch(4-19 days) the tiny worms should go back to the original material to take advantage of any hormone residue.
I hope this helps and is not too confusing.~gd
 

Wannabefree

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Yes, the beetles will attempt to escape I have heard, haven't experienced it yet. I did read they have a nasty little bite on them in the beetle stage too, but again, no experience yet. SO glad others have chimed in on this subject!! My box isn't stanky yet :lol: I keep it pretty clean right now with so few though. That could be an issue later on. We shall see I suppose ;)
 

so lucky

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Wannabefree said:
Yes, the beetles will attempt to escape I have heard, haven't experienced it yet. I did read they have a nasty little bite on them in the beetle stage too, but again, no experience yet. SO glad others have chimed in on this subject!! My box isn't stanky yet :lol: I keep it pretty clean right now with so few though. That could be an issue later on. We shall see I suppose ;)
WBF, I think it is only the giant breed of mealworms that bite. Those can even bite the intestines of whatever just swallowed them! And I have never experienced any of my beetles flying either. They can't crawl out of a slick-sided plastic bin. The beetles are only intent on eating and mating, as far as I can tell. Lots of people do cover their bins, but be careful you don't cover it with a solid lid, because moisture will build up and cause problems. If you have cats, you will probably want to cover the bins.
 
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