If we’re being honest, most people find mealworms a little off-putting. Yet feeding birds mealworms can be a great way to attract additional types of birds to your feeders—most birds adore them. Here is a quick guide to get you started with offering mealworms at your bird feeders.
What are Mealworms?
Mealworms are the flightless larvae of the darkling beetle. You can serve mealworms to birds in their live or dried form. They can be an excellent source of protein for birds, and can help attract birds to your feeders that might not normally frequent them.
What Birds Eat Mealworms?
Mealworms will attract a variety of birds including chickadees, titmice, wren and nuthatches, but bluebirds are often the main reason people serve up mealworms. Mealworms are the only commercially available product that bluebirds will eat at feeders.
If you have never seen bluebirds in your yard, mealworms alone may not be enough to get them there. But if they are around, mealworms may help encourage them to nest in a nearby box. Bluebirds can be very territorial and may try to defend the feeder from other birds.
See also: 10 Best Foods for Bird Feeding
How do You Store Mealworms?
Dried mealworms are easy to store. They’re usually sold in a resealable bag that can be stored anywhere that’s relatively cool and dry.
Because live mealworms are quickly gobbled up, you will only want to put out a few at a time (once or twice a day) and store the rest. If you do not wish to raise them, you can store them in the refrigerator in a container with a ventilated lid.
Raising mealworms is simple if you take the steps to keep them contained, fed and moist.
First, prepare a bucket for the mealworms. You will need one large enough that there is a few inches between the top of the mealworms and the rim of the bucket so that they do not escape. Place two to three inches of wheat bran or dry oatmeal in the bottom of the bucket. You can also mix in some dried skim milk or powdered bird food. Add a few chunks of apples, potatoes or cabbage on top.
Remove the mealworms from the packaging and add them to the bucket. Cover the bucket with a window screen or a lid with small ventilation holes and store in a safe place, ideally around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
For more detailed information about how to raise and maintain a mealworm colony, check out this comprehensive guide on Sialis.org, a website about bluebirds.
What Bird Feeders are Best for Mealworms?
To serve mealworms to bluebirds, window feeders may be the best choice. The small feeders suction on to your window and allow you to place a few mealworms on at a time. If there are any holes at the bottom of your feeder, plug them up so the mealworms do not squeeze through. Alternatively, you can place the mealworms in a small glass dish inside the feeder to help minimize the risk of escape.
Platform feeders are also great for offering mealworms. Remember not to place too many out at a time or you will find yourself spending a lot of money on mealworms. If you are feeding nesting birds, however, make sure the food supply is consistent.
See also: Top 3 Worst Bird Feeding Mistakes
Where do I get Mealworms?
You can order mealworms in bulk online, or purchase them from a pet food supply store.
What if I Think Raising Mealworms is Really, Really Gross?
Don’t worry—there are plenty of other foods you can offer to attract interesting birds to your yards without using fresh mealworms.
And don’t forget dried mealworms. Bluebirds will probably turn their beaks up at these if other food sources are available, but may be more inclined to try them in winter when options are limited. Other birds will be less picky. You also can rehydrate them in water or oil, but that may also rehydrate the ick factor.