So there I was in England at Wiggly Wigglers, minding my own business (well, not really–I being led around the farm and shown the many marvelous things they do) when we peek inside a fridge and what do we see but millions and millions of mealworms, all squirming around in the cold?
Mealworms. Tenebrio molitor, the larva of the mealworm beetle, also called the darkling beetle, or in Britain the flour beetle. You can guess why–they munch on flour and grain (they’ll also find plenty to eat in a compost pile or in leaf litter.) The larvae are perfectly happy to just live in a box in your garage. Just give them a little bran to eat, and they’ll hang out, perfectly clean, odorless, and quiet, until it’s time for them to become bird food.
Mealworms are an important food source for wild chicks and fledglings. If birds can’t find enough juicy worms and bugs to bring to their babies, adding mealworms to bird feeders is a good alternative. Just ask the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which provides instructions for breeding your own mealworms with a diet of bread and cabbage.
Now, if anyone could get excited about breeding little protein-rich wiggly things in a box, it would be me. But frankly, these critters give me the creeps. Somehow I don’t think mealworms are going mainstream in the United States the way they are overseas. In fact, the Audubon Society’s page on feeding wild birds doesn’t even mention live food as an option (although you can find info on mealworms if you did a little deeper.)
So, what’s up? Would you? Do you? Or do the birds need to fix their own damn dinner?