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 Post subject: Mealworms
PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2007 2:46 pm 
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Old Mother Goose
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Location: Blue Mountains NSW
Hey Jocler,
What is the story with the meal worms?
Do you use them for food?
Please explain the idea.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 16, 2007 4:38 pm 
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Proud Rooster
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Jocler,

The geckoes in the shed where I house my mealworms love them too and I often find them so full of mealies they're unable to move! :? I have worked out the cycle thingi with the mealies and I'm now in full production, with breeders, feeders, pupae and beetles.

The cost of feed $30.00/40kg 17% protein mash and $25.00/40kg for layer pellets. I can't imagine the price going down when the rain eventually comes.

Glennie


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 10:22 pm 
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Phoenix
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Caladenia/Looloo,

Mealworms

Mealworms are actually the larval stage of a beetle. Yes you do feed them bran, or poultry mash, or wheat kernels or any grain based product. I use flakey bran for mine, for 2 reasons, its relatively cheap in a 40K bag and its easy to pop a couple of cups in the microwave and give it a go around in case there are any mites in it.

You can grow mealworms in an old 4 litre icecream container but I went to the $2 shop and bought a stack of plastic containers with lids. You only use about 25-35mm of bran to cover the bottom and usually that will last for quite a long time, like weeks. You add a peice of apple or banana skins or peeled carrot to it about once a week to add moisture. The worms eat it as well.

To buy mealworms, I used to pay about $8.00-$8.50 per 100g, work that out and thats $80 for a kilo of worms. The real advantage is you have a high protein packed larvae, that doesnt dry out or "go off", the chooks really do love them as live food, they are clean and odourless to grow and seriously you put a lot less into them then what you get out it. You can also put them in a container in the frig to slow down their development and these you use as feeders. Along with other containers with free growing worms.

You run some of the worms on so that they pupate, you move the pupae into a separate container with bran again, they hatch out into a winged (but dont fly) beetle that goes about their business and lay about 500 eggs each over their lifespan.

I guess out of 40Kg bag of bran, I have used maybe 2Kg and have 25 containers of mealworms in all different stages. The higher proportion are for feeding. Add a handful to your mash or grains and watch what disappears first, even the chicks will tuck in given half a chance.

It is a totally renewable resource from your initial purchase and if you can grow your own food and reduce what you have to buy in or use less of it, that cannot be a bad thing and of course it is totally fresh.

I actually started with mealworms when one of my peacocks got sick, I couldnt get him to eat so I took him to an Avian specialist. The first thing he did was feed mealworms and along with treatment, the peacock never looked back. Now if only I could get the mealworms to eat worming syrup!!

I think there was a writeup also in Australasian Poultry about 3 issues ago?? but if anyone wants more info, I can document what I have learned, just PM me. I think from reading this forum Ginney is doing the same thing so maybe we can put something together.

J

PS: you could always get the kids growing these for you and you buy them off them. Gets them involved and they can make some pocket money...even if they sell them to the local pet shop as fish and reptile people use them as well.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 1:03 am 
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Golden Brush Turkey
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thanks jocler,
i was talking about it with my friend before christmas, then got caught up with the christmas thing. i've also got an ordinary worm farm, some of them for the chookies too!
have plenty of time and i think the chookies will appreciate the treat!

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 12:11 pm 
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Champion Bird
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Jocler...could you please tell us where we can get our inital lot of worms from...and thankyou so much for that info...
Quote:
I think from reading this forum Ginney is doing the same thing so maybe we can put something together.


It would be a great idea to start a new thread with the info that you and Ginney might want to share with us...this is certainly worth learning about :)
Cheers
Looloo :)


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 2:20 pm 
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Great Game
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I would also be interestd in hearing more about the meal worms, and starting up with my own.
I setting up with earth worms this year, and i've much time, so it would definitly be something i'd like to look into.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 3:01 pm 
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Phoenix
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You can usually buy some mealworms from a petstore. I bought my original lot from Petcare 2000 on Taren Point Rd at Caringbah. They cost about $8.50 for 100g. They prefer a subdued light level (not dark) and do best at around 26 degrees C but if you cant find any, I will be going to the Goulburn auction on the 28th, if you want some starters for your mealworm farm, let me know and I will bring some down if you cant find any in your area.

I bought 3 plastic containers from a $2.00 shop. They were 300mm x 200mm x 100mm deep. The mealworms cant climb but they can reach up so this allowed a depth of about 40-50mm of bran in each container. The big thing is to allow a good circulation of air so I punched holes in the lids with a hole punch (you know those things that you use to make holes in paper to go into a folder), I then put some “fly wire” over the lid tops and glued it down. This isn’t so much to keep the lavae in but to keep other things out that eat them. Rats and mice also like them.

Oh word of warning. If you can keep them outside in a shed all the better (mine are in the stables where the chooks are, whatever escapes doesn’t get very far), if you keep them inside the house, make sure NONE escape because the next thing you will find them in your pantry going through everything grain based.

They will eat many things, even wheat flour, why I chose bran will become obvious as we go, but you can use wheat kernels, oats etc.

Reason 1 for bran, put the bran in the container and put it into the microwave for a second or two. This kills any mites (I use stock feed quality bran in 40K bags not the human consumption one but if you do use the human grade, you can leave this bit out) Mites are the enemy of mealworms.

Remember that growing mealworms is odourless, if you do start smelling anything, then you are doing something wrong, usually the growing medium is too moist.

So, the initial thing is, put the bran in one container, throw the punnet of mealworms you have bought in, put the lid on and leave it alone. The mealworms need to drink but they get their water from what they eat., because I used Bran, I added a couple of slices (made using a vegetable peeler) of carrots, you can use apple or banana skin just as easily. In the containers I used, I added 2 or 3 depending on how wide they were. Do this about every 3 to 4 days but make sure the bran doesn’t get too moist. When the bran starts to look like “sand” (Reason 2, ease of seeing when it needs changing) it is time to look at moving your worms to another container with new bran in it or clean out the old one, put new bran in and add the worms back in.

Depending on how old the mealworms were when you bought them after about a month, they will pupate. Visually they change from a worm to a non moving hard cased pupa, the good part here is that as they harden, they go to the surface of the bran (Reason 3) and are easily picked out and put into another container, set up exactly the same as your first one but don’t add any carrot as the pupa don’t feed. Don’t leave the pupa in with your mealworms, they will get eaten.

After a while the pupa will hatch and you will have beetles wandering around on and in the bran. I generally leave them doing this as they lay their eggs in there as well. The beetles will live for maybe 4 months and continue laying eggs during that time The female will lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime. I tend to leave them in the one container for about a month at a time, then make up another container and move them into that and so on. That way you end up with 4 or 5 containers all with eggs in them. Their eggs are tiny, hard enough for a youngster to see them, let alone me but here is where Reason 4 comes in. Because the bran is light in weight, you can see it “move” when the young mealworms hatch. After a few weeks you will see how many mealworms you have and then you can start sorting out whether to put them in one big container (you know those big plastic storage containers that go under your bed? Not high sided ones. Would be ideal) or leave them all divided up.

I generally leave one container aside to allow to grow, pupate and produce more beetles. The other containers you can grow on to being feeders for the chooks…remember your initial beetles are still doing a fine job off in another container. Just keep topping up their numbers and moving them into new containers. There are male and female but you cant tell them apart. The beetles are usually a light grey in colour but as they get older they turn black, hence their name of darkling beetle. They also prefer dim lit conditions.

To slow down the growth of the mealworms so that they don’t pupate and stay good for the chooks, put them in the fridge.

So that is how you get it all going, then it is just cyclic after that, you can either add more containers (bigger, better, faster) and grow a colony that is continually reproducing, growing and yet still allow for feeding all your chooks.

I have noticed on the board some discussions on the use of grains and whether to soak them, boil them, sprout them…..whatever. Obviously soaking them, in itself, can cause some problems with the water quality etc. I tried a little experiment here, I added a few handful of mealworms to the grains and let them get into the seeds and grains for about 2-3 days. The mealworm breaks the grain open, eats or gnaws away the tough outer coverings then the chook eats worm and half gnawed grains. The chook gets all the same vitamins/minerals/proteins and the grains are easier to digest because the casing is gone. Worth a thought?

Reason 5 for bran, when you do want to separate bran from mealworms, wait for a windy day and “winnow” them apart. Don’t do this in bare feet, I have found the chooks enjoy the experience even more then you and tend to use your feet as a trampoline to grab the occasional mealworm that misses the bucket.


Ginny, please feel free to add anything I have left out.

J

Edit: I forgot something. Mealworms, like anything else, are not a complete feed. They are an additive like your table scraps. The good thing is, you know where they came from, they are rich in protein and they do stimulate even the fussiest of eaters in your flock. I have read you can even freeze your overstock if the need arises for those lean times when you make a mistake.

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Last edited by jocler on Thu Jan 18, 2007 4:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 3:35 pm 
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Champion Bird
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I'm also following this with interest and will check at my local pet store for mealworms to start with. Thanks for the info. :D Judy


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 7:12 pm 
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Old Mother Goose
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Wow, that is excellent information.
I think I will need to keep referring back to it as my brain can't hold too much knowledge at any one time.
How often do you feed them out to the birds?
How much do you give each bird approximately?
I think my kids would love the concept of 'growing' food for the chooks.
I will keep you informed of my progress.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 7:13 pm 
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Proud Rooster
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Jocler has some great ideas for the mealies.

Here's a few more tricks.

If you want the cycle to quicken, remove the moisture source. They will pupate faster. Keeping them warmer will also speed things up.

I spray mine with an atomisier every day. This would differ I suupose if you lived in Qld or Tassie. I also spray the egg bin.

I keep brown paper bags (the lunch size ones) across the top of the layer of lavae. They like to hide inside and are easy to harvest. It's also a nice quiet place for the lavae to hide before they turn into those alien type creatures, the pupae.

As Jocler said, make sure you take them, the pupae, away from the lavae. I have a seperate bin just for the lavae. When they turn into beetles, they go in the beetle box, which is a giant sieve. They are in a small layer bran. They do what beetles do and their tiny eggs stick to the bran. Every couple of days I give the giant sieve a shake and the bran with the eggs falls through into the egg box. Then the cycle starts again.

Those plactic storage type bins are great. I have drilled holes through the top for a bit of air circulation.

I keep the old "frass" for a long, long, time before I toss it. ("frass" is leftovers from of eaten bran, rolled oats, wheat germ, chook food, discarded lavae skins and poop) Pretty disgusting, but there's always somebody left living in there.

Make a seperate box for your "Feeders". These are the lavae being fed to your birds. I try not to delve into the "Breeders".

You can "gut-load" mealworms. I have never tried this myself. You put the mealies in with some special type food for a couple of days. Maybe something high in vitamins or proteins. This would be great for crook birds who are fussy eaters.

It has taken me since November to be in full swing. I have plenty for my birds and I am now looking at maybe selling on to local Vet and Pet places.

Hope all this has been of assistance. :?

Glennie


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 8:35 pm 
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Assist Admin
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I have excess tropical lima beans (aka Madagascar beans) and haven't been bothering to harvest the pods for myself, mainly using the bean vines for shade and poultry fodder and some young kernels for the poultry. I was wondering if it might be worth trying the bean seeds as a food source for meal worms? I might give it a try anyway. :D


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 8:42 am 
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Great Game
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Thanks for all that info, i have printed it out... i can't take all that in either :roll:

very inspired though, seems like a good project to start of the new year with :)


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 2:15 pm 
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Great info!, i think it will be something I will start too. Be prepared for many silly questions coming your way!!

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 5:22 pm 
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Showy Hen
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Jocler, I would love it if you could post some photos of your meal work operation - it sounds fantastic. It sounds like it could be a bit of work to stay on top of everything though. What is your time commitment to keeping the worms? cheers
jayne


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 5:48 pm 
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Old Mother Goose
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Hey Jocler,
Maybe you could run tours of your mealworm breeding establishment and workshops too.
It could become quite lucrative.
Seriously though, photos would be good.
I too think I will need to print this info out so as to digest it properly.
Lucy

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