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Part of farm life is living a frugal life. When you spend $10.00 on a measly 1 lb of mealworms, it’s hardly cost effective or frugal. I will show you how you can raise your own mealworms for just a fraction of the cost of buying them. Not to mention, they are a healthy and nutritious treat for your livestock.
How To Raise Your Own Mealworms
If you have chickens, you know how much they love mealworms. It’s like chicken crack. In fact, using mealworms is a great way to train your chickens to go into their coop, it’s how I did it.
If you have fed your chickens or other livestock mealworms, you also know how much they cost. Ooohhh boy, they cost about the same per pond as a good steak! For a worm?
Great news! Not only is raising your own mealworms easy, but it’s cheap AND you could end up selling them and make a little spending $$.
How To Raise Mealworms
Whether you have land or a condo, mealworms are something that anyone can raise.
Even if you don’t have livestock, you can raise mealworms to sell to those that do! You will see by the materials list that you can raise mealworms with a minimum investment.
What you will need:
- Organic Live Mealworms
- Housing (plastic bins or totes)
- A dark area to live. Closets work great
- Oats and or wheat bran
- Produce scraps
- Cardboard egg cartons
They don’t like light so anything that makes it dark is great. In addition to the storage bins, youtube offers tons of videos on building your own contraptions. So you can go all out or just simply use a tote.
Mealworm Bedding & Food
For bedding, you can use oats, wheat bran, or a combination of the two. You should be able to find either at your local grocery and feed store.
Bedding should be about 3 inches for them to burrow in. Add some cardboard egg cartons or drink trays from a drive through.
I was using oats and wheat bran for their food, now mostly just wheat bran. I put in potatoes, kitchen scraps such as carrot peels, celery and such for their moisture, refreshing whenever needed which usually is a few weeks or so. The wheat bran lasts a few months so it is very cheap to grow them.
The list is very small on what they can’t eat, but pretty much like the chickens, they are what they eat so any veggies, but the wheat bran is their main food source.
The temp to keep them at is just room temp. Too hot and they die, too cold and they die, they need a dark place to be in since they hate light. I would say in the 60’s seems to be ideal. Any closet or dark pantry works great for raising mealworms.
For the moisture, they just need a little, so as long as there is something (food scraps) in there it is good. A potato cut in half works great but you can also pile in whatever scraps you have, they will use them up. As long as nothing is molding then you are fine. if anything starts molding, just remove it.
From start to finish it is about 3 months. Beetles live a couple months then die, the worms will eat the dead ones and the cycle continues on.
More Than Just Chickens: Animals That Eat Mealworms
In addition to your chickens loving mealworms, the following animals enjoy eating them as well.
- Wild and Domestic Birds
- Reptiles i.e. lizards
After realizing the different species that enjoy this special treat, you could diversify your money-making potential.
Nutritional Content of Mealworms
If you are raising livestock for consumption, it’s only natural for you to want the best nutrition for your animals. You know what they say, you are what you eat.
You may think me calling mealworms a superfood is a bit far fetched, but I present to you their nutritional content.
- Omega 3
- Omega 6
- Protein 25g per 100
- B12, B2, B5, B7 and B9, with relatively high levels of Vitamins B1 and B3
For more information about their nutrition and the comparison to other protein resources, click here.
If you would like more information about choosing the best feed for your chickens, read my article here.
Mealworm Life Cycle
The mealworm is not a worm. It is actually the larval form of a mealworm beetle. This larval form is the second stage in its life cycle, and at this stage, it does look like a worm. Elaborated below is a mealworm’s life stages.
It takes about 3 months to first start out. The worms you order should all change to beetles which can take 2-3 months after that, they start laying eggs like crazy and you can start seeing a return at that time. About a week after the first beetles, you start seeing the small mealworms, depending on their condition you will start seeing the larger ones in a couple weeks or so. every 2-3 months you will see them change to pupa and then hatch out into beetles.
So it does take patience in first starting out and getting up to the number you need for your livestock.
In roughly 6 months from the start, your 1,100 should be about 10,000 worms.
Feeding Your Flock Mealworms
In addition to an excellent protein source, you can use the worm/beetle poo in your garden for fertilizer.