Tufted Titmouse taking mealworms from APS Side Dish Feeder
Q. Why should I feed mealworms to the birds?
A. Many birds eat insects naturally, so feeding mealworms to the birds seems like a natural thing to do. And while doing so, you'll be able to observe fun and interesting bird behaviors!
Q. What are mealworms?
A. Mealworms are the larvae of the beetle Tenebrio molitor. This larvae stage typically lasts for 10 weeks.
Q. What birds eat mealworms?
A. Some people think that if you don't have bluebirds, there's no reason to feed mealworms. But even if you don't have the right habitat for bluebirds, many other birds will enjoy them, including some of our most beloved feeder birds.
We've had chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice eat mealworms from the feeders at our house. Other birds that eat mealworms regularly include wrens, orioles, robins, woodpeckers, and some warblers, like the Pine Warbler pictured right.
Q. How do I serve mealworms to the birds?
A. Put mealworms in a feeder visible and accessible to the birds. For birds that are not routinely at your feeder (orioles, bluebirds, robins), put the feeder near where you have seen them feeding or perching. Common feeder birds will eat mealworms right at their regular feeding station.
Because mealworms can crawl, it is best to place them in a feeder where they cannot crawl out: a cup-type feeder with smooth sides that are more than 1" high. A tray or platform feeder can also be used, but make sure it has sides so the mealworms don't crawl out.
Q. Do roasted or dried mealworms work as well as live mealworms?
A. Frankly, no. I won't say that birds will never eat dead, dried-out mealworms, but I can say that fresh, live mealworms will ALWAYS be preferred over dried or roasted or canned mealworms.
Q. What fun behavior can I look for if I feed mealworms to the birds?
A. Look for parent birds taking a mouthful of mealworms back to the nest or nest box to feed to their nestlings. After the young leave the nest, watch for parent birds feeding mealworms to their fledglings, as they cry and wing quiver in a tree. Watch juvenile birds approach a mealworm feeder on their own, helping themselves to the food for the first few times in their life!
Bluebirds will become accustomed to you feeding mealworms and will wait nearby as you fill the feeder, and swoop in as soon as you've left.
Q. How do you keep mealworms?
A. We sell mealworms in a plastic container with holes in the cover and filled with wheat bran which they eat. They can be kept for weeks at 40 - 50 degrees F in the refrigerator. Lower temperatures can kill them. They be slow moving when they are in the fridge.
About every two weeks or so, pull the container out of the fridge, add a few small chunks of carrot, which they will consume as a source of moisture. At the end of the day, remove any remaining carrot, replace the cover, and put them back in the fridge.
When buying mealworms, make it your last stop on the way home. Leaving mealworms in a warm or hot car for hours can kill them.
You can get a lot of enjoyment from watching birds eat mealworms, and the mealworms are quite a treat for the birds!
Based on material provided by WBU, Inc.
Mealworm and warbler images from WBU Inc. Image Library.