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Mealworm Composting  RSS feed

 
Todd Nease
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Anybody think of using mealworms as composters? I have been drying out organic breads and grinding in a food processor to use as much of their bedding, then I add any number of veggies. Potato is ideal for them. And very wet fruit should be avoided. But the great thing is that the frass {Poop} makes for excellent compost tea. And the worms are great for chickens/you to eat. They really taste good, and contain all essential amino acids necessary for human survival, and are low cal, omega 3 & six.

I am doing a lot of experiments to see if I can come up with some more alternative things to use as bedding, other than the traditional grain, or by using dried and ground grain from a local brewery. I am wondering if any one else is growing them, and have tried some different things.
 
Blake Wheeler
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Never considered mealworms. How quick do they produce frass?

Here's an alternative idea however....roaches, specifically dubia roaches. They're a South American roach. The idea probably is distasteful to many, but they have massive potential, which I'll explain. I'm actually raising them to feed to my pets, a leopard gecko and tarantula, In an effort to break away from crickets, because well, crickets smell horrible.

The roaches themselves cannot climb smooth surfaces, so little to no risk of escape, produce no smell, produce TONS of droppings, reproduce like roaches lol, eat anything you give them (I use chicken feed), and the adult roach lives for 6 months. The only downside that I can really think of is you have to heat their container which means they don't typically survive or thrive at household temps without a heating pad, which can also be an advantage if you're worried about escapees.

So instead of the mealworms which turn into useless beetles fairly quickly, and have a more limited diet you can use roaches which are more stable long term, produce frass and offspring at a greater rate, and are also highly nutritious (for you to if that's your thing), more so than mealworms. Where the roaches really shine in a composting role is for potatoes, carrots, and other root crops that tend to compost slow or my worms have a hard time eating. The roaches plow through them, and they seem to have an appreciation of anything colored orange lol.

Added bonus, reptiles owners pay a premium for Dubia roaches as they're a better food source than what's offered at pet stores. So if you end up with surplus that you don't feed to the chickens you can sell them for profit. For example, the mixed size lot of 100 I bought to start my colony was $40 and that seems to be a consistent price. Given how long it takes to produce 100 roaches, and how easy/cheap it is its an impressive return. Best part is you'll end up with a surplus of males (only need a 1 to 6 ratio) to use however you want.
 
Todd Nease
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Blake Wheeler wrote:Never considered mealworms. How quick do they produce frass?


I suppose It really depends on the amount of mealworms per container. If it is thriving I would say it takes about 6 months to convert a tub of food/bedding {which I am experimenting with using compostables as both.} into a bunch of frass. But the stuff is golden, and with two bins I produced about 9 full large coffee cans of frass. And that will make a lot of superior compost tea. It has some advantages over worm castings. I will look for some links that can explain why better than I. But basically a compound in it tells the plant that it is under attack and to boost its immune system, and it does so. It also helps fight off bad microbes that compete with the root to rob nutrients, and it works through that whole process as a natural bug repellent.

I have about a 20 bins going this year, to barter worms with chicken people for eggs.

I have been pondering the roaches idea too. I think the species you mentioned is what I may go with. I am getting into bug eating, and they are a good choice for that too. But I want to find some folk who want to buy some for pet feed before I commit. But later this year I may do so. Do you have any idea how fast they will consume food waste?
 
William Bronson
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Years ago I read about a process that would grind mixed waste, feed it to roaches and then blend the roaches into liquid fertilizer.

I wonder if they would eat paper,leaves, and woody waste?
 
Blake Wheeler
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Location: Kentucky 6b
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Todd, from what I've seen they eat fresh things quickly. Naturally it all depends on the amount of roaches in the colony, but table scraps disappear overnight or in a day usually. I haven't tested the idea much, as I usually just feed cheapo chicken pellets (balanced diet, helps with gut-loading for the herps), the table scraps of compostables go to the worms or the heap. Really just trying several different methods to find what works best for me.

William, I'm not completely sure. Leaves may work, if still green, but I highly doubt paper or woody scraps would be eaten. I have no proof per say, but I just get this hunch it wouldn't work, I could be wrong however. Crazy idea, but couldn't the wood based material be fed to a fungi that's then fed to something else? Mushroom compost, and excrement all in one swoop lol. A bit multi stepped and labor intensive though.
 
Todd Nease
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Blake - do you have any idea what kind of escape artists they are? Mealworms are a low level threat...lol. I am wondering if they would infest if they got loose. We have many types of roaches where I live but most are field roaches, and do not infest the house. I would really like to try to do some of the type you suggested, but I cannot if there is an infestation threat.

 
Blake Wheeler
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If you house them right they won't escape. By this I mean, they cannot, unlike most roaches, climb smooth surfaces. I keep mine in a storage container I bought at Walmart for $5. To give you ideas in dimensions it's probably around 15 gallon, around 18 inches high. Obviously being terrestrial floor space is more important but I wanted the height to keep them from escaping. Throw in some egg carton for them to hide on and under, a few terra cotta saucers to hold food and water, and a heat pad under the container and you're good (I use those miracle gro water crystals for the water). Be careful of using aquariums, they can't climb glass but they may be able to grip the silicone sealant in the corners where the sides join, plus they like the dark so its a poor choice anyway.

Also, the temperature of the average house, and humidity is too low for the roaches to survive should an accident occur and they get loose. This of course assumes you don't live in a tropical, humid environment. Most of the U.S. probably everywhere but southern Florida would never have to worry about an infestation. Really the only way they'll ever get out of my setup would be for the box itself to tip over by some odd chance

Should also mention, since we're talking about frass, let it build up in the container for a considerable time. The females actually lay their eggs in clutter, and I'd almost bet the young when tiny probably get their food from the small leftovers, frass, and insect parts.
 
elle sagenev
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I raise mealworms for my chickens but have also used their castings in the garden.

They need to be kept warm to be optimal at what they do. I'd say that is the biggest downside. I keep mine in my house. I had them in our unheated basement but when I went down to check them they weren't really moving at all. They kind of hibernate when they get cold. So they are back in the house and back to eating a ton of crap.
mealworms.jpg
[Thumbnail for mealworms.jpg]
 
elle sagenev
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Blake Wheeler wrote:Todd, from what I've seen they eat fresh things quickly. Naturally it all depends on the amount of roaches in the colony, but table scraps disappear overnight or in a day usually. I haven't tested the idea much, as I usually just feed cheapo chicken pellets (balanced diet, helps with gut-loading for the herps), the table scraps of compostables go to the worms or the heap. Really just trying several different methods to find what works best for me.

William, I'm not completely sure. Leaves may work, if still green, but I highly doubt paper or woody scraps would be eaten. I have no proof per say, but I just get this hunch it wouldn't work, I could be wrong however. Crazy idea, but couldn't the wood based material be fed to a fungi that's then fed to something else? Mushroom compost, and excrement all in one swoop lol. A bit multi stepped and labor intensive though.

Are we talking about Mealworms for the paper and woody part?? They will eat holes in cardboard tubes and egg cartons. It takes them a VERY long time though. They prefer fresh stuff as they do get their water from what they eat.
 
Todd Nease
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elle sagenev wrote:
Are we talking about Mealworms for the paper and woody part?? They will eat holes in cardboard tubes and egg cartons. It takes them a VERY long time though. They prefer fresh stuff as they do get their water from what they eat.


Yeah, I am coming to the conclusion that these guys will eat about anything. I just did a second live meat experiment in my beetles only box. This time I tried dried fish, and they will likely finish the piece tonight or tomorrow. In contrast, I have put carrots of the same size, which they surely do love, and they have been working on them for about a week. Where as in that same time they devoured a huge piece of turkey jerky, and a smaller piece of the fish jerky. What they do not like is preservatives of any kind. Nor does my doggie who I make the untreated jerky for... makes me wonder why I eat the stuff. lol.

I have been doing a lot of mealworm research. The conclusion I come to is that as a species {Humans} we know very little. But I have found reports of where they were found in the "wild" infesting peoples grain sacks, vegies, and dried meats stores. From what I have seen from my own experiments they very much love the meat. And I am probably 10 generations into growing my own colonies.

I think on the paper topic, they would eat it, particularly newspaper or cardboard, if it were ground down enough. I am going to do an experiment where I obtain organic veggie material from a local co-op, then I am going to dry the vegies to a crispy dry, and food process it into a near powder and try to use that in place of buying wheat bran. If it works well I will reduce the cost of raising them to zero. I feel confident it will be a success, as long as I get the plant matter dry as can be that I am going to grind.

If anything I am betting it will just drive them to eat more of the fresh vegies I add that are wet. Which is what I would want them to anyway, to consume them before any moulding occurs.

Right now my first experiment has been going for about six weeks. This is a box that I removed hundreds of beetles from to try to produce a lot of uniform sized worms. the worms are about a cementer plus now. Yet the only food I have given other than the wheat bran is 2 potatoes cut into fourths. I let it grow a new skin, then I crack it open to let them at the good stuff.
 
Todd Nease
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Blake - is 80% ok? with some added humidity I can swing this temp without a heating pad. I am in California, and my apartment is south facing. I have been growing peppers all winter in my window. My place was incidentally designed like a greenhouse. It is always about 80 degrees minimum in here, but over summer I think It will be more like 90 degrees.
 
elle sagenev
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Todd Nease wrote:
elle sagenev wrote:
Are we talking about Mealworms for the paper and woody part?? They will eat holes in cardboard tubes and egg cartons. It takes them a VERY long time though. They prefer fresh stuff as they do get their water from what they eat.


Yeah, I am coming to the conclusion that these guys will eat about anything. I just did a second live meat experiment in my beetles only box. This time I tried dried fish, and they will likely finish the piece tonight or tomorrow. In contrast, I have put carrots of the same size, which they surely do love, and they have been working on them for about a week. Where as in that same time they devoured a huge piece of turkey jerky, and a smaller piece of the fish jerky. What they do not like is preservatives of any kind. Nor does my doggie who I make the untreated jerky for... makes me wonder why I eat the stuff. lol.

I have been doing a lot of mealworm research. The conclusion I come to is that as a species {Humans} we know very little. But I have found reports of where they were found in the "wild" infesting peoples grain sacks, vegies, and dried meats stores. From what I have seen from my own experiments they very much love the meat. And I am probably 10 generations into growing my own colonies.

I think on the paper topic, they would eat it, particularly newspaper or cardboard, if it were ground down enough. I am going to do an experiment where I obtain organic veggie material from a local co-op, then I am going to dry the vegies to a crispy dry, and food process it into a near powder and try to use that in place of buying wheat bran. If it works well I will reduce the cost of raising them to zero. I feel confident it will be a success, as long as I get the plant matter dry as can be that I am going to grind.

If anything I am betting it will just drive them to eat more of the fresh vegies I add that are wet. Which is what I would want them to anyway, to consume them before any moulding occurs.

Right now my first experiment has been going for about six weeks. This is a box that I removed hundreds of beetles from to try to produce a lot of uniform sized worms. the worms are about a cementer plus now. Yet the only food I have given other than the wheat bran is 2 potatoes cut into fourths. I let it grow a new skin, then I crack it open to let them at the good stuff.


Hmm. interesting. I gave them the paper products as a sort of hang out spot and they do hang out there, a lot. And I've noticed they've eaten holes in it. But I didn't intend for it to be a food source for them. The kids like to give them various things. Eat an apple and go throw them the core, that sort of thing. So I suppose we are using them as a sort of composter and I just never thought of it like that. I've never given them meat though. We have dogs, meat goes to them.
 
Todd Nease
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elle sagenev wrote:I've never given them meat though. We have dogs, meat goes to them.


LOL... it was more of an experiment. My paranoid friend was going off on how one day the government was going to feed us to giant vats of meal worms, instead of cremation or burial. I said I did not think mealworms would eat meat. And then gave them some highly processed pork jerky. Which they did not touch at all. And I left it in for almost 3 weeks. But on a lark, as I noticed my dog did not like fish I preserved with additives, {nothing too weird} I put some of her raw untreated jerky I use for treats to avoid Chinese anything in her diet. And they for sure go for it. They also cannibalize, primarily the pupa get hit. But also they consume the dead beetles, and shed skins. It is interesting to see as the skins in particular can build up to a large amount, and settle to the top. Then one day they are all gone!? I think they conserve calcium this way.

so I had to concede... That maybe he is right...lol
 
elle sagenev
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Todd Nease wrote:
elle sagenev wrote:I've never given them meat though. We have dogs, meat goes to them.


LOL... it was more of an experiment. My paranoid friend was going off on how one day the government was going to feed us to giant vats of meal worms, instead of cremation or burial. I said I did not think mealworms would eat meat. And then gave them some highly processed pork jerky. Which they did not touch at all. And I left it in for almost 3 weeks. But on a lark, as I noticed my dog did not like fish I preserved with additives, {nothing too weird} I put some of her raw untreated jerky I use for treats to avoid Chinese anything in her diet. And they for sure go for it. They also cannibalize, primarily the pupa get hit. But also they consume the dead beetles, and shed skins. It is interesting to see as the skins in particular can build up to a large amount, and settle to the top. Then one day they are all gone!? I think they conserve calcium this way.

so I had to concede... That maybe he is right...lol


Dare I say there are worse ways to leave this planet.

Amusingly we decided ages ago that whenever one of our dogs died we were going to plant a tree on them so they could be useful, even in death. Louie Maple Syrup was the dream (Louie being the dogs name). We may have an odd sense of humor......
 
Todd Nease
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elle sagenev wrote:

Amusingly we decided ages ago that whenever one of our dogs died we were going to plant a tree on them so they could be useful, even in death. Louie Maple Syrup was the dream (Louie being the dogs name). We may have an odd sense of humor......


i'm pretty bad too. I always pint out to people how much my pup looks like a 4 legged chicken.
 
William Bronson
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Todd Nease wrote:
elle sagenev wrote:
Are we talking about Mealworms for the paper and woody part?? They will eat holes in cardboard tubes and egg cartons. It takes them a VERY long time though. They prefer fresh stuff as they do get their water from what they eat.


Yeah, I am coming to the conclusion that these guys will eat about anything. I just did a second live meat experiment in my beetles only box. This time I tried dried fish, and they will likely finish the piece tonight or tomorrow. In contrast, I have put carrots of the same size, which they surely do love, and they have been working on them for about a week. Where as in that same time they devoured a huge piece of turkey jerky, and a smaller piece of the fish jerky. What they do not like is preservatives of any kind. Nor does my doggie who I make the untreated jerky for... makes me wonder why I eat the stuff. lol.

I have been doing a lot of mealworm research. The conclusion I come to is that as a species {Humans} we know very little. But I have found reports of where they were found in the "wild" infesting peoples grain sacks, vegies, and dried meats stores. From what I have seen from my own experiments they very much love the meat. And I am probably 10 generations into growing my own colonies.

I think on the paper topic, they would eat it, particularly newspaper or cardboard, if it were ground down enough. I am going to do an experiment where I obtain organic veggie material from a local co-op, then I am going to dry the vegies to a crispy dry, and food process it into a near powder and try to use that in place of buying wheat bran. If it works well I will reduce the cost of raising them to zero. I feel confident it will be a success, as long as I get the plant matter dry as can be that I am going to grind.

If anything I am betting it will just drive them to eat more of the fresh vegies I add that are wet. Which is what I would want them to anyway, to consume them before any moulding occurs.

Right now my first experiment has been going for about six weeks. This is a box that I removed hundreds of beetles from to try to produce a lot of uniform sized worms. the worms are about a cementer plus now. Yet the only food I have given other than the wheat bran is 2 potatoes cut into fourths. I let it grow a new skin, then I crack it open to let them at the good stuff.


How did the dried veg powder work out?
 
Todd Nease
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How did the dried veg powder work out?

They seem to do well on dried veg.  I am considering coffee.  I have switched worms.  I am now breeding superworms which are similar in design but much larger.  I then plan to use those to catch fish in order to make fish emulation.  The worms differ in that you need to remove the large worms from the colony in order to get them to pupate, but I am thinking it is going to make controlling the process entirely easier.

Also they eat fresh material much faster.  I purchased 500 worms and used about 50 to catch fish, so 450 consumed a large persimmon in less than two days.  That was directly after shipping, but I added a large potato and they really did a number on that quickly as well.  at the moment I have them in a zero grain environment and they seem to be fine.  And very lively.  I am starting to convert some to beetles.

I am going to eat some myself, I did a lot of this during the last experiment with the common meal-worm.  I discovered that the best way to consume them was to harvest them directly after they converted to the pupa phase.  They are much more edible than the common way that people eat the worms {which is equally tasty.}  What I discovered though with eating a meal of the worms is that they have a similar issue as corn does if not properly chewed.  if you get my drift.  Which to me seems not so great.  But eating the pupa is far more digestible, particularly if harvested right after they convert.  I call it land shrimp, as it is very similar to shrimp in texture.  It is somewhere between shrimp and vegetarian meat in texture, and very meat like in taste, quite good.  Also I think the pupa have expelled all internal waste {poop} which I know people try to avoid by purging other critters {snails and such}.

But primarily the idea is to begin composting scraps with them.

My first experiment is going to be to grind up my own home made slow release fertilizer.  I already have quite a bit of powdered eggshells that I have processed, so at the moment I am drying the heck out of some banana peels on the dehydrator.  I was initially going to keep the pieces large but I found that they began to re-hydrate in a way that may become troublesome, and mold.  I may also dehydrate some beans and grains that I goofed up today on my meat dehydrator in a similar way that I have been making my own dog chow.

Lastly, I had a planter that I put a huge load of the frass in.  And I am now calling it the magic pot.  I am growing a Goji in it and a Maringa tree, there is also a garland chrysanthemum and an aloe plant.  {I am experimenting with companion planting in containers.}  This pot is outgrowing everything but there were a few other factors that could have led to this.  I put quite a bit of sphagnum moss  that was whole not ground, and there are European night crawlers breeding in all my pots, but it was the only one that had the moss whole in it.  Also I attempted to plant a prickly pear as deep as I could in the tall 15 gallon pot and it was not successful.   But the dead rotting corpse of it in the pot may have been part of why it grows so well.  And lastly there was a colony of super tiny ants that moved in.  anyway, the frass certainly was not destructive, and nothing burned from its use.  Even heavy use.

But I would not top dress with it.  The frass repels water and cakes quickly into a clay like substance.  it seems to work really well to mix it in with potting mix, or dilute it into other things you may top dress with.  Or make a compost tea.  If you use it fresh for tea it will foam up like nothing else.  If you let the stuff sit for months you will get none of that.
 
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