• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Mike Haasl
  • paul wheaton
stewards:
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Dave Burton
  • Joseph Lofthouse
master gardeners:
  • jordan barton
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Ash Jackson
  • Kate Downham
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Behold the mighty mealworm!  
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mealworm

'Tenebrio molitor' aka Mealworms aka Darkling Beetles present a very unique opportunity to the permaculturist entrepreneur and homesteader.

The bugs are favored by birds (including chickens, of course), fish, and reptiles alike as a wonderfully wiggly protein-rich tasty snack.  

Furthermore, there is a growing market for insects as a crunchy noodly people-food even, for those whose stomachs can actually stomach the thought of eating bugs.

Insects' high feed conversion ratio make them attractive from an environmental and cost perspective.

The Mealworms have yet another super power however, in their ability to consume styrofoam.
So in addition to concepts such as those proposed by "StyrofoamMom"
( https://m.facebook.com/styromommovie/?__xts__%5B0%5D )
the beetles present a recycling and waste disposal solution or opportunity which helps to actually "obtain a yield."

Yes, you read that correctly, these critters actually eat polystyrene.
https://news.stanford.edu/pr/2015/pr-worms-digest-plastics-092915.html


In late March 2015, my dearest green-thumbed mother, also backyard bird enthusiastic, purchased 1000 mealworms for ~$10, including a bird feeder, through a promotional deal through Wild Birds Unlimited.  She took them out of that refrigerator and into her home and heart, as well as into the local birds' beaks and bellies.

After a quick trip to Bug Lots...*correction, BIG LOTS discount store...for a small (less than 12" by 6") set of 3 stacking transparent plastic bins, I was able to make a home for these wiggly pioneers.  

*Simple frass bug bin:*
-Take a series of plastic stacking bins.
-Cut out the bottom of most of one or more of the bins.
-Cut a scrap of window screening to size.
-Apply hot glue to the window screen/box bottom edges.

Note: Frass is mealworm beetle or larvae poop, a good garden fertilizer.  Science is incomplete regarding HBCD ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hexabromocyclododecane ) toxicity. From what I've gathered about him, Paul hates toxicky things, and would probably recommend never using mealworm frass or bugs as edibles. For more on that discussion and others, check out posts over here ( https://permies.com/t/40/50485/Mealworms-Eating-Styrofoam#1164735 )

*Feeding and care:*
-Ensure the bugs have oxygen via mesh screen, but cannot crawl out of their bug bins.
-The larvae and beetles primary food is originally oatmeal bran.
-Moisture and nutrients are obtained by the bugs via discarded veggies or fruit scraps (carrot, potato peel, etc)
-Styrofoam trash can be added in increasing amounts, and will be consumed entirely with no (visible) trace other than normal frass.
-Life stages include
1. Egg.
2. Tiny tiny larvae ---> Larger wormy mealworm larvae.
3. Cacoon-like white Pupae.
4. Lively Darkling beetle. --> mating, repeat...
-Frass is sifted out and used as fertilizer or discarded.  
Pupae can be separated and placed in the upper bins to hatch new beetles.
-Worms can be fed to critters, or freeze dried, or added to new oatmeal bran filled cups to propagate.

Over the years, my mom's pet bugs and beetles have eaten untold (though small) amounts of styrofoam, including trash removed from local wetlands and river waterways.  

As of September, 2020, these bugs have reproduced through countless life cycles, with minimal support.  They have been forgotten about on vacations, and yet they persist, +5years later, consuming styrofoam every year.  


*Possibilities for Permies*
-Waste removal: How much styrofoam (volume-wise) will they eat?
-Production analysis:
  -What mass of bugs can be produced per what unit of bin volume and feed mass?
  -What volume of frass is produced?
-Scalability:
  -How to neutralize styrofoam at a larger scale?
  -How to propogate and make more with the least effort?
COMMENTS:
 
Posts: 62
17
forest garden fungi trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Now for some pictures of mealworms munching styrofoam, oatmeal, and food scraps.
1601490244326_image1.JPG
[Thumbnail for 1601490244326_image1.JPG]
1601490223790_image2.JPG
[Thumbnail for 1601490223790_image2.JPG]
image2.JPG
[Thumbnail for image2.JPG]
1601490180904_image1.JPG
[Thumbnail for 1601490180904_image1.JPG]
image1.JPG
[Thumbnail for image1.JPG]
 
gardener
Posts: 3112
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
340
forest garden trees urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Love this idea!
I considered mealworms, but they are evidently  fussier than I want to deal with.
I "keep" a worm bin,  which is to say,  I  dump stuff in it and occasionally check to see who's winning,  red Wriggler Worms or the Black Solider Flys.
I have considered adding mealworms and just letting them sort it out.

I'm concerned about what makes it through their guts unchanged, but I'm sure the information in the links addresses that.

Funny thing is chickens love to eat styrofoam and meal worms, now we can change one into the other!
 
pollinator
Posts: 2085
Location: 4b
498
dog forest garden trees bee building
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I raise thousands of meal worms, and I would really like to see some info on what the meal worms "do" with the styrofoam.  What are they breaking it down into?  Here is a quote from the study:  "In the lab, 100 mealworms ate between 34 and 39 milligrams of Styrofoam – about the weight of a small pill  – per day. The worms converted about half of the Styrofoam into carbon dioxide, as they would with any food source.  Within 24 hours, they excreted the bulk of the remaining plastic as biodegraded fragments that look similar to tiny rabbit droppings. Mealworms fed a steady diet of Styrofoam were as healthy as those eating a normal diet, Wu said, and their waste appeared to be safe to use as soil for crops."

Half was converted to carbon dioxide.  What was the other half converted into?  They are excreted as "biodegraded fragments".  How do they know?  Have they seem the degradation of the substances?  Their waste "appeared to be safe" isn't convincing enough for me to use it.  Regardless it is interesting and I'll follow it.

 
George Yacus
Posts: 62
17
forest garden fungi trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That's great to hear about your production volume!

My family's ongoing experiment is obviously *way* smaller... smaller than a shoebox even.  

But it's been going on 5 years, and that presents opportunities from a genetic perspective, I hope.  With perhaps a conservative 19 week life cycle per generation (based off estimates listed at https://mealwormcare.org/life-cycle/  ) that's potentially well over 20 generations.

About the poop.

For those unfamiliar with the substance, the frass is light, airy, brown dusty poop and exoskeleton remains.  It is easily visible in the pictures. It's probably so fluffy, that if you were to sneeze near it, it would likely go *poof* in the air.  Supposedly it is a good fertilizer.

However, obviously if one doesn't think it's safe or healthy to use, then don't partake in the styrofoam cycling experiment.

What we can *personally* say from direct observation, is that the shear volume reduction and color transformation is impressive.

What was once a big brick of white styrofoam trash taken floating from a river (or a takeout container from wherever, etc etc), now just looks like dirt.
 
Trace Oswald
pollinator
Posts: 2085
Location: 4b
498
dog forest garden trees bee building
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

George Yacus wrote:That's great to hear about your production volume!

My family's ongoing experiment is obviously *way* smaller... smaller than a shoebox even.  

But it's been going on 5 years, and that presents opportunities from a genetic perspective, I hope.  With perhaps a conservative 19 week life cycle per generation (based off estimates listed at https://mealwormcare.org/life-cycle/  ) that's potentially well over 20 generations.

About the poop.

For those unfamiliar with the substance, the frass is light, airy, brown dusty poop and exoskeleton remains.  It is easily visible in the pictures. It's probably so fluffy, that if you were to sneeze near it, it would likely go *poof* in the air.  Supposedly it is a good fertilizer.

However, obviously if one doesn't think it's safe or healthy to use, then don't partake in the styrofoam cycling experiment.

What we can *personally* say from direct observation, is that the shear volume reduction and color transformation is impressive.

What was once a big brick of white styrofoam trash taken floating from a river (or a takeout container from wherever, etc etc), now just looks like dirt.



George, my problem with it is very simple.  I just want someone to show that the meal worms are doing something short of just taking styrofoam and grinding it into dust.  If I were to take styrofoam, somehow turn it from white to tan, as passing it through a meal worm's system does, grind it into miniscule particles, and mix it into my soil, I don't know how to tell what effect I would have on that soil, or indeed, how long it would take for any effect to show up.  My concern is that the meal worms may be doing just that, and they do indeed make it so it "just looks like dirt".  I hope I'm wrong and this is a way to get rid styrofoam in a healthy, ecological manner. That would be a huge boost to cleaning up one of the messes we have made.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1342
Location: Denmark 57N
380
fungi foraging trees cooking food preservation
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Trace Oswald wrote:
George, my problem with it is very simple.  I just want someone to show that the meal worms are doing something short of just taking styrofoam and grinding it into dust.  If I were to take styrofoam, somehow turn it from white to tan, as passing it through a meal worm's system does, grind it into miniscule particles, and mix it into my soil, I don't know how to tell what effect I would have on that soil, or indeed, how long it would take for any effect to show up.  My concern is that the meal worms may be doing just that, and they do indeed make it so it "just looks like dirt".  I hope I'm wrong and this is a way to get rid styrofoam in a healthy, ecological manner. That would be a huge boost to cleaning up one of the messes we have made.



Since they are producing Co2 from it and in some cases living off it exclusively they have to be using it rather than just physically grinding it up. The question would be how much of it is being used and how much is passing though as micro plastics Styrofoam itself is pretty innocuous as far as ingredients go it's only expanded polystyrene which is (C8H8)n
 
I'm THIS CLOSE to ruling the world! Right after reading this tiny ad:
BWB second printing, pre-order dealio (poor man's poll)
https://permies.com/t/147624/BWB-printing-pre-order-dealio
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic