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Easy meal worm farming

 
Charli Wilson
Posts: 277
Location: Derbyshire, UK
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So I've been breeding meal worms to feed to my chickens and my neighbours pet reptiles. I find that following the 'standard' instructions takes too much of my time is fiddley.

Standard instructions:
- put meal worms on wheat bran
- as they pupate pick them out put them in a new container
- as they hatch put the beetles in another container, wait a fortnight for them to lay eggs- then harvest the beetles (which involves picking beetles out, putting them in another container, then they go in the freezer until they need feeding to things)
- leave the containers of eggs until meal worms hatch
- repeat!

I seem to spend a long time with a plastic spoon picking out pupae or beetles! And I was trying to think of ways to make it easier. Any things for me to try? How do you work with mealworms?

One idea was for me to find a usefully sized sieve, then to separate beetles from egg and substrate- sieve them out! Substrate goes to await hatching, beetles go to the freezer.
 
casey lem
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Location: under a foil hat
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I agree with your sieve sifting mentality. It's the easiest way to separate the mealworms from the substrate. As long as the substrate is small enough. I find if you leave newspaper or cardboard in w/ the mealworms they tend to congregate there for easy removal, and they tend to pupate there as well. Check out openbugfarm.com as they have loads of info on raising many types of insects.
 
Caroline Rodgers
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You should look at this.  It might help you. 
http://velacreations.com/howto/mealworm-farm/
 
Charli Wilson
Posts: 277
Location: Derbyshire, UK
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Caroline Rodgers wrote:You should look at this.  It might help you. 
http://velacreations.com/howto/mealworm-farm/


That's an awesome link with awesome instructions. Thank you!

My main query now is how to keep them at warm temperatures? They seem to prefer 25C, which you're not that likely to see here in the middle of summer, let alone the rest of the time. Even my house is only heated to 17 degrees (and i'm not sure i'd like mealworms in my house.. I really don't like the smell of them). I can put them in an insulated container and put something like a pet-heating pad in the bottom, but I don't think I can reach 25 degrees in winter without spending more money on electricity than if I just bought mealworms.

But they seem like such a good crop! Eat leftover bits of carrot and bread, frass makes brilliant plant fertiliser and the worms make high-protein chicken treats!
 
Caroline Rodgers
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Temperature will definitely be a problem, but maybe this type of set-up could help?
http://www.openbugfarm.com/forum.html#/discussion/91/my-attempt-guide-at-radiant-heating-with-an-immersion-heater-and-pump/p1
As far as the electricity costs go- sorry, I have no idea. 
Humidity may be an issue as well. 
 
Charli Wilson
Posts: 277
Location: Derbyshire, UK
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That link is an amazing idea! I'd though of putting reptile-style pad heaters in, but not water-driven heating (essentially a fish tank heater, pump and tubing). I have all the stuff in my 'fish tank spares' box that I could set that up without having to buy anything too, so I may experiment with it.

As for electricity costs, on its own this isn't incredibly useful but:
- 55g of mealworms costs £4.00
I have here a 22w reptile heating pad, which would cost me 9.5p per day to run. So as long as I produced 55g of mealworms more than every 42 days I'd be in credit (and I'd be getting free frass).

Now would a 22W heater keep them warm enough? Probably not, it is currently in use in my greenhouse on a thermostat to keep the chill off my citrus plants, it can only raise the ambient temperature by about 4 degrees C in a bubble-wrap box, you could probably double that with more insulation of the box but it is unlikely to keep a whole mealworm tower warm enough (my avergae temperature in winter inside the shed is about 5C, in the house 15C).

The velacreations link reckons you can harvest 500g of mealworms a week, which is £36 worth. For my £36 I could run a hell of a lot of heating pads!

What I'm getting at is.. yes it is probably worth giving this a go. With minimal setup cost (I already have old plastic mushroom trays i can use, and both water and air heaters and polystyrene insulation sheets, etc) I can experiment to see if it it is worthwhile.
 
Caroline Rodgers
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Water has a higher thermal conductivity than air so the heater you use in a greenhouse MAY be sufficient......
I'm a scientist, but this isn't my field.  :shrug:
I'd try it out with what you have first and see how it works.  The insulation is definitely a good idea.
You MAY need to keep a wet sponge somewhere to keep the humidity OK- but I honestly don't know if that would be necessary

ETA- I'd love to hear how this works out!  Please keep us updated.  Good luck!
 
Hibah Bahzad
Posts: 6
Location: Bellingham Washington OR Kuwait City
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I'm having fun with mealworms. I got them last June and had them in garage.
When it got cold I put them in the coat closet. I throw them some carrots or potatos every few days and buy wheat bran for 44 cents a pound at Winco, they will sell me a bulk bag for $14.95. I thought that was not bad. I have one neighbor with chickens and two friends with critters. Sometimes I get free eggs.  I got a plastic colander without sharp edges to sift out the dross. Ideally I would like to keep moving the beetles into separate container and move up. I was using plastic bins and buckets but only having each one with an inch or two of substrate. Try to get rid of large worms before too many pupate but there are times when seems like all worms are too small. I don't mind hand sifting them but I probably should not be breathing dross. It seems to only smell when something is decomposing.
IMG_7248.JPG
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Mealworms set up now
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 839
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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It seems a great idea but when I read the quantities you are producing not so much. We are having 20+ chicken and some ducks. Then no way I want them in the house and eating my pantry!
On the other hand they might feed on old bread and I get plenty of it.
 
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