Can I Give My 2 1/2 Month Old Baby Food Raising Mealworms: A Beginner’s Journey

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Raising Mealworms: A Beginner’s Journey

If you’re completely new to the idea of ​​raising and eating insects, the general consensus is that mealworms are the way to go. They are high in protein and relatively low in fat, reproduce very quickly and in large numbers. Adult females typically produce hundreds of eggs at a time and the same adults can then be used to reseed new egg stocks every two weeks for the next 1-2 months, until their reproductive output becomes too weak. Another advantage of using mealworms as your insect of choice is that they can be stored in the refrigerator for months if needed, provided they are taken out to be fed once a week.

Life cycle

Before going any further, it is important that you understand the life cycle of mealworms. Mealworms aren’t worms at all – they belong to the order Coleoptera, which makes them a beetle. The mealworms themselves are actually the larval form of the mealworm. Beetle species make up 40% of all insects on the planet, and mealworms are the most commonly kept by humans, primarily for animal feed.

After breeding, adult female beetles lay their small eggs in the ground. These come with a sticky outer coating to collect soil particles so they are hidden from predators. Once they hatch into their mealworm larval form, baby mealworms begin to eat and grow – that’s pretty much all they’re programmed to do. Mealworms, unlike the larval forms of some insects such as butterfly caterpillars, have hard exoskeletons, which means they must periodically shed them to continue growing. The mealworms will continue their successive molts to grow from the size of a grain of sand to over an inch long.

Once they reach larval maturity, they will begin to pupate and enter their third pupal form, in which their encased bodies turn to mush so that they can re-assimilate into their adult structural form. The time it takes to undergo this metamorphosis varies with environmental conditions – high humidity and medium temperature are ideal. The adult will eventually emerge small, soft and white from the pupa and over the course of a week or so it will eat and grow as its exoskeleton hardens and turns black. A week or two later, the adult will reach sexual maturity and begin to breed, completing its life cycle.

Small mealworm farm

After doing a considerable amount of research into the practicalities of setting up a small mealworm farm back home in the UK, I kept coming across the popular idea that “separation is the key”, keeping adults, larvae and eggs away from each other. Productivity is the reason for this as the larvae and adults will eat the eggs and the adults will also scavenge for the young larvae which will eventually reduce the overall yield.

The set up

So now the process. I have used a number of sample models to formulate the most effective ways to run a mealworm farm. To start, you’ll need something to hold your mealworms. I recommend a six-drawer plastic filing cabinet. Each drawer will be used to house mealworms at different stages of development. Some people line these drawers with duct tape to keep the interior dark, as beetles in particular prefer this. Others also drill a few holes in the plastic for ventilation, but many believe that regularly opening the drawers to change food sources provides adequate ventilation. The drawers I use are deep enough and not completely sealed so their inhabitants won’t starve without these holes.

You will then need a good amount of chicken feed pellets for their litter and the bulk of their diet – some people use oats and others use wheat bran, but it seems the pellets Ground chicken feed is less likely to develop mold, especially important to watch out for when using potato slices as a source of moisture and food. You can go old fashioned with your pellets and grind them with a pestle and mortar or you can get one of these mini blenders to speed up the process.

breeding begins

Once you have all the setup in place, contact your local pet store and purchase your first batch of mealworms. A few hundred will be enough to start (if you follow this method on a small scale). Just before they arrive, grind up enough chicken pellets to evenly cover the bottom of your lowest tray to just over an inch thick. Add your mealworms and a few sources of moisture (I use apple slices and a whole carrot) and you start the waiting game. At this point it’s up to you whether to save the pupae as they form, as some mealworms suck the pupae dry. Either way, you’ll end up having a nice collection of reddish-brown beetles yourself. Let them ripen for about a week until they turn black.

Now is the time for your first beetle transfer. Grind your pellets, fill the next tray in the sequence as you did before, and place it on a table next to the beetle tray. A pro tip for transferring your beetles is to add a slice of fresh apple and wait for them to flock to it, allowing you to simply pick up the slice and shake it into the new tray. You can also filter the entire contents of the tray on a tray, through a sieve or a plastic colander. The beetles should be all that’s left in the sieve, so just put them with the rest in the new tray and put the tray back in the cupboard.

No more waiting… but you can rinse the old tray in the meantime, and remember that the beetles need to replenish their food more often as you’ll notice they go through it much faster than the worms flour (which also eat litter). The rule of thumb is every day or two for beetles and a little less often for mealworms, but just keep an eye out for mold along the way.

After a few weeks, it’s safe to say that your beetles will have bred and laid their eggs, but you should keep an eye out for the tiny, emerging mealworms in case the process goes faster than expected – the the beetles will eat them as soon as they see them. When the time is right, repeat the apple slice transfer method to move the beetles up one level. You can always strain them again, which is faster, but you’ll need to make sure your sieve has holes large enough for your tiny larvae to fit through. Some believe that this is not good for the larvae at this size, nor for the eggs. If you use the sieve, make sure the litter goes back into the same tray (not the bin) because, of course, there are precious eggs inside. Top up with more freshly ground pellets if needed.

All you have to do now is repeat the same steps, moving the beetles up one level every two weeks until they reach the top. When they do, start over from the second lowest board. Just keep the bottom tray out of the cycle, in which you can put all the rescued pupae. When these then become mature beetles, simply add them to the beetle tray so they can start breeding. Whenever your mealworm offspring in a given tray reach a decent size, opt for the filter method and discard the old bedding. Your mealworms can then be stored in the freezer or fed to your chickens, whatever your desired outcome. Don’t forget to wash them before cooking them if you are going to eat them!

Happy farming!

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