Bird lovers are always looking for a way to capture their backyard wild birds’ interest. Mealworms make a terrific treat. Whether the mealworms are live or dried, they are nutritious and popular with most outdoor birds. Why feed wild birds mealworms? How often? Which types of birdfeeders are best for mealworms? And how do you store mealworms?
Benefits of Feeding Meal Worms to Wild Birds
Mealworms are the larvae stage of the Darkling Beetle. These cream-colored grubs are high in fat and protein. Wild birds need extra fat in winter to stay warm. They need extra protein when they are:
- young and growing
- laying on feathers
- preparing to lay eggs
- feeding chicks
In a pinch, new parents will feed seeds to their youngsters in the nest. Most prefer to provide insects to their babies. Mealworms will do nicely.
Frequency of Feeding Mealworms
Mealworms are a treat. Therefore, offer live mealworms in small quantities, occasionally. Your wild birds will come to depend on your bird feeders stocked with seeds. This is true whether you feed year-round or just in the cold seasons.
During the spring, you can increase the frequency of feeding mealworms. Laying eggs and feeding youngsters is protein-intensive. Did you know that 80% of bird families worldwide include some insects in their diets?
If you are feeding dried mealworms: they can be offered year-round but in small quantities. You can place dried mealworms in their own feeder or mix them in with seed or suet.
Your birds might not take to dried mealworms right away. You can tempt the birds to start eating them. If sitting out on their own, dried mealworms can be moistened a bit to make them more appealing. However, do not leave damp dried meal worms out for more than a day or two. As soon as one bird catches on about the dried mealworms, its friends will partake, too.
Best Types of Feeders
There is no hard-and-fast rule on the best type of feeders for mealworms. Some bird enthusiasts use simple, hand-made bird feeding trays. However, the best types of mealworm feeders will have these attributes:
- sides tall enough so the meal worms don’t crawl out
- a roof, “baffle” or rain guard
- drainage holes
- tamper-resistant features
This picture is an example of an ideal feeder for mealworms. The feeding area is protected from rain, so the mealworms won’t drown or get moldy in a downpour. In case some water gets in, there are drainage holes. The ledge is deep enough that the mealworms can’t crawl away. The feeder discourages squirrels if placed in the right spot on the window.
Many hanging birdfeeders are also suitable. Bird feeders with lids or squirrel-resistant domes (baffles) protect the food from rain. Ideally, place the mealworms on a tray. Laying them out helps the birds spot the wiggling (if they are live) and easily get at them.
How you store the meal worms depends on whether they are dried or alive.
If they are dried, keep them sealed in their bag. Dried mealworms will last a very long time if stored without air circulation.
Live mealworms will last many months; however, you need to keep them cool. Warm mealworms will mature quickly into pupae and then beetles. Keep them at around 40 degrees. Since this is the interior temperature of a typical refrigerator, put them in the fridge.
Before refrigerating, you can make them grow a bit larger by feeding them. Small slices of potato, fresh carrot pieces and little bits of orange rind are perfect. Never add more than they can eat before it goes moldy. If the food gets moldy, your mealworms will die. When they have fattened up a bit, put them in the fridge and they will go dormant.
The ideal mealworm home is a plastic container about the size of a shoebox with a lid. Punch very small air holes in the top. The best mealworm bedding is wheat bran. Order live meal worms online from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. Place the mealworms in the container, then add enough wheat bran to half-fill the container. Leaving lots of air space between the mealworms and the lid discourages escapes.
If you are feeding them to the wild birds regularly, the mealworms will get used up before they turn into pupae or beetles. If you spot pupae or beetles in there, simply release them outside.
Where to Get Mealworms
Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm offers both dried and live mealworms. We have been raising various types of worms for 40+ years, so we are experts. Our mealworms are free of pesticides and chemicals, so they will not harm your precious backyard friends. Live mealworms are guaranteed to arrive alive year-round or we will re-send them.