Well we’ve been living off-grid at the yurt for nearly 8 months now. It has been a chillingly cold winter thus far and predictions indicate it will only get colder and snowier. We are fairing well, but our ducks and particularly chickens are requiring some extra sustenance. They LOVE mealworms. Mealworms are pricey — averaging $8 for a small 7oz. container. This puts them in the category of rare treat rather than daily high-protein provision. So, I’m raising my own. It should take about two months to get the population running strongly, and then our chickens, roosters, and ducks will be munching on crunchy goodness to their heart’s (and belly’s) delight.
After a bit of research I’ve decided to go with a 3-tier storage system to reduce the amount of time that I’ll need to spend culling and sorting them during their life cycles: egg, to larva (mealworms), to pupa, to beetle. To start the process I ordered 500 mealworms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. They arrived at my local post office this morning, alive and slowly squirming. Their new home is a converted three-drawer Sterlite container unit that I could part with from our office. Apparently the Darkling Beetle enjoys a darkened environment so I’ve covered the outside of all the drawers with gaffers tape (duct tape would have worked just fine, but I had some gaffers laying around my studio – and the idea is to save money here so I’m trying to up-cycle as much as I can with projects around our homestead). The top drawer has been modified by cutting out the bottom plastic and replacing it with window screen. This is where the beetles will be kept. When they lay their super tiny eggs, most of the eggs will fall through the screen into the draw below. From here I’ll be able to cull out larva (mealworms) to feed to our flocks and save the pupae into the third drawer so that they can develop into beetles!
I’ve lined the drawers with a few inches of quick oats as a substrate/bedding that the larvae and beetles will feed on (wheat germ would work too, but I had oats on-hand). Also to start them off in their new home is a juicy slice of apple so they can obtain water. I’ll be switching to apples after today as their cheaper an less messy. I’ve seen folks use potato slices as well, but word on the block is they mold quickly (not healthy for our growing wiggles!).