Mad for Meal­worms

Birds flock to th­ese pro­tein-packed treats.

Birds & Blooms - - Feeder Talk - BY KELSEY ROSETH

A back­yard feeder full of nu­tri­tious meal­worms is beloved by bug-eat­ing birds— and a guar­an­teed way to spice up your bird feed­ing rou­tine.

Meal­worms are of­ten mis­taken for worms, though they’re ac­tu­ally the lar­val form of the meal­worm bee­tle. They are clean, easy to work with, an ex­cel­lent source of nu­tri­ents, and an aid to birds through cold win­ter weather and spring re­pro­duc­tion.

“The con­nec­tion that is cre­ated be­tween peo­ple and na­ture from feed­ing birds—that is undis­putable,” said Emma

Greig, the pro­ject leader of Pro­ject Feed­er­watch, a win­ter­long sur­vey of feeder birds. Emma of­fers th­ese easy tips to in­crease your chances of en­tic­ing new species:

Live or Dried?

You de­cide. There are pros and cons to each method. Live meal­worms are most ap­peal­ing to birds, though they come at a price and re­quire work to main­tain. Dried meal­worms are low-cost and con­ve­nient, yet may not be as ef­fec­tive at catch­ing birds’ eyes.

Safe Stor­age

Once you buy a live batch, place them in a shal­low plas­tic con­tainer with a 2- to 5-gal­lon ca­pac­ity. Cover with a screen or per­fo­rated lid for air cir­cu­la­tion. Toss in a few ap­ples for mois­ture, some loose bran and oat­meal. Meal­worms are only as nu­tri­tious as the food they eat, so feed the lar­vae well for one to two days be­fore shar­ing them with birds. Place the con­tainer in the re­frig­er­a­tor to slow their growth, and keep them in the lar­val form that birds love.

The Right Place­ment

Rather than scat­ter­ing meal­worms on the ground, place them on a plat­form feeder or rimmed dish to keep them con­tained. That way, you’re less likely to have the mis­chievous meal­worms crawl away to safety. The feed­ers should be lo­cated near veg­e­ta­tion and away from win­dows.

Serv­ing Size

Ex­pect to go through about 100 meal­worms per day once birds know where to find them. Th­ese pro­tein-filled snacks are only a sup­ple­ment to their di­ets, so serv­ing more or less is OK.

Cost Con­trol

There are mul­ti­ple ways to cut costs and make meal­worm feed­ing man­age­able. Con­sider mak­ing your own feeder or sim­ply re­cy­cle old kitchen pans or dishes. For long-term sav­ings, buy live lar­vae in bulk from lo­cal or on­line bird food sup­pli­ers. Or raise them your­self for a per­pet­ual source.

“If folks have the pa­tience for it, I think it’s prob­a­bly a great way to main­tain a nice col­lec­tion of healthy, nu­tri­tious meal­worms,” Emma said. Look for easy-to­fol­low guides on­line.

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