Thursday, May 12, 2016

Meal Worm Farm

The box arrived.

Unfortunately, it wasn't a pretty site.

This is what greeted me at the post office.

The top was smashed in with big gaps at the edges - despite the words 'live insects' being written all around it with arrows to the 'air holes'.

As I signed out my package, I noticed a beetle trying to make his escape from the splintered corners of the cardboard box.

See those big gaps?
That's where the beetle was crawling out.

My heart sank.

I feared all the beetles had escaped, resulting in the money we spent to get a 'good sampling' of all stages of development being for naught.  The terms of purchase clearly stated 'as is' upon arrival.

We plopped the box inside a bag to try to prevent more from escaping.

Upon arriving home, I carefully opened the box.......

......finding a small, slightly misshapen, glad plastic container filled with beetles....... a smaller container filled w/100 pupae...... and a cloth bag chock full of mealworms of varying sizes.


Crisis averted.

Techno and Elijah were off to shooting sports where Techno would then head to the grocery to buy some old fashioned oatmeal.

Despite the fact I ALWAYS have at least 2 big containers of said breakfast food on hand, the house was......


NO oatmeal.  Well, that's not entirely true. I did have some gluten free oatmeal, but that stuff is pricey and I wasn't about to feed it to the beetles and mealworms.  Ha.

While awaiting the arrival of the critters nourishment, I began preparing the 3 drawer bin unit that would be our meal worm's home.  Initially I simply took the drawers out and washed them.  Trying to be sure no other buggies' eggs were nesting inside that could result in our whole farm becoming extinct.  Cutting out the bottom of the top drawer and hot glueing screen in it's place was the next priority. Securing it along the sides with -- you guessed it -- duct tape.  Have you gotten the sense I like duct tape?  Plus now it comes in all those pretty colors and designs. What's not to love about it? After completing this I grabbed Techno's drill and made 'air holes' along the sides and back of all three drawers.  High up on the sides to prevent any last minute escape plans.  One advantage of using these bins with tall walls, was the beetles can not climb up the slippery sides.  Hence less chance of them abandoning ship.  The worms will burrow down into and writhe amongst the top of the oatmeal, so the probability of them wriggling out is also quite low.   The bottom drawer will house the pupae as they await transformation into more beetles.

Once the boys arrived back with the oatmeal, we began 'assembling' the layers of the mealworm farm.

Top layer - oatmeal to cover the screen; some cardboard egg carton pieces; some shredded paper towels that were with the beetles during transport; and a few veggie scraps for moisture.  Then we put the beetles into their new home.

Lots and lots of darkling beetles to lay eggs to hatch into meal worms.
Voila!  The start of our colony.

The middle drawer was also filled with oatmeal and some veggie scraps for snacks and moisture.  This is where the little wormies themselves will live.  We plopped them from the cloth bag directly into the mess of oats.

The meal worms took no time burrowing down into the depths of the oatmeal.
The middle and bottom drawer will be 'rotated' as the mealies pupate.  Once a large group of the worms are turning into pupae we can swap the drawers -- allowing for more worms to be hatched in the middle drawer with less worry that the beetles will emerge and begin eating their young.  For now, the bottom drawer houses all the already pupated larvae.

100 plus pupae as many of the mealworms had pupated in transit, apparently.
Come to find out, darkling beetles are cannibals and will in fact eat their young - the little meal worms.

Who knew, right?

Some of the bigger meal worms.
These would be perfect for the hens.

As the pupae turn to beetles we simply scoop them out and place them back in the top bin to start the process of laying eggs all. over. again.

Celery and carrots add moisture

As the beetles on top die, we simply remove them.  Every once in a while their 'poo' needs to be cleaned out as well.  The best way to do that is simply taking the bin outside and 'blowing off' the dead stuff and excrement.  Same thing for the molted exoskeleton remains of the mealworms as they shed their skin during growth spurts.

Fun huh?  I think I'll leave THAT solely up to the kiddos.  Builds character.

Wonder how many beetles we'll get out of these?

Here's hoping growing our meal worm farm is as easy as setting it up has been.

I'm not usually a huge fan of bugs and maggot like worms, but for some strange reason, these little guys are actually.... dare I say it?   Kinda cute.
The meal worm farm in all it's glory.

Stay tuned for future updates on their progess and various stages of development.

 A couple 4H projects in the making.

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