This weeks reader question is What is the easiest way to clean a mealworm colony? If you don't have a mealworm colony yet then click over to this post on how to start a mealworm colony. It goes into detail about the worms and how you can get started.
When it comes to mealworm colony care, learning to clean a mealworm colony is one of the best things you can do. This method is really simple and will keep your mealworms healthy and happy. I have never gotten mealworm colony mites in my mealworm bins, so doing this regularly will keep you from having to deal with that. If you have mealworm colony mites then use these steps to get rid of them.
I think the easiest way to clean a mealworm colony is to rotate the colony between a couple of bins. If you want to you can even use a series of bins or a rubbermaid drawer system. A drawer system is nice because you can keep more worms in a smaller space (utilize vertical space) and you can separate it out by growth stages if you want. But, drawers or just a couple of bins will work just fine!
Mealworms are an easy to take care of and actually have a few different purposes. Really the hardest thing is learning how to clean a mealworm colony. Other than that you just have to make sure they have a little food and they take care of themselves.
- Backyard chickens love mealworms and it is a small protein boost. Chickens can eat too many mealworms (especially if you have bantam hens) so make sure you use it as a treat.
- Mealworms can be used for lizards and turtles (pets for example) so having your own colony will save you a lot of money. Raising mealworms is pretty cheap once you have your setup. I have even seen a few opportunistic young people make some extra money selling mealworms from their colony or red wiggler worms from their vermicomposting bin.
- Mealworms are a great (healthy) treat for birds. Wool Wine House Bluebird Trail even says they make a great treat when you have snow. If you want to attract birds to your homestead then a few mealworms will go a long way.
- This is usually a side benefit, not a reason to start a mealworm colony (although a small colony with less than 10 worms might be easy to do for this purpose), but it does make a great learning experiment for kids. Seeing the mealworms go from larvae to beetles is a great learning experience for kids. If you have a microscope then you can even put some bedding under the scope and find some eggs for an added learning treat.
Clean a Mealworm Colony: Step One
First, set up your second container by adding two to three inches of new bedding material to your clean container or drawer. You can use wheat, chicken feed, brewer's yeast, or a bunch of other options.
Clean a Mealworm Colony: Step Two
Second, filter the worms out of the first container. I think a soil sieve makes this easy (click here to see a soil sieve set), but you can also make yourself one using a wood frame and hardware cloth. The size of sieve that you want depends on the bedding you use (you want the bedding to fall through and the worms to stay). The sieve set has three sizes so you should be fine. If you use hardware cloth then you will want to look for 1/4″ or 1/8″ depending on your bedding.
Clean a Mealworm Colony: Step Three
The third step is to wait for the new adults. If you throw away the container at this point then you will lose some small worms (and also some eggs if you had adults in your old container).
You do not have to separate the adults from the eggs, but it will increase your mealworm output. For more details on why and how that is head on over to this page on separating mealworms from the beetles.
- If you did not have adults in the bin then put it aside and put it through the sieve again in two weeks. That gives the small mealworms long enough time to grow large enough to get caught by the sieve the second time.
- If you do have adults in the bin then put it aside and put it through the sieve again in four weeks. That gives the eggs time to hatch as well as giving the mealworms enough time to grow.
Clean a Mealworm Colony: Final Thoughts
This is where a drawer system can come in handy. You can rotate into a new drawer every two weeks to get maximum mealworm output. I talk about how you can cut out the bottom of the drawers to make a “self filtering” mealworm colony (you can find a lot of instructions online for this) in my how to start a mealworm colony post. But, as I said there, this has a few downsides that do not seem to be brought up in those youtube videos. Mainly, the mesh gets messy and hard to clean and it does not always do the best job of filtering out the eggs. I think if you are looking for the easiest way to clean a mealworm colony then keeping the bottom of the drawer or bin solid plastic is the way to go.
That said, you will get mealworms by just keeping them in the same container and cleaning them every 2-4 weeks, but you will not get as many simply because the adults will eat some of the eggs if they are left in the same bin as them
Don't forget that you can use the mealworm frass as a fertilizer for your garden or compost! Don't you love multipurpose homestead items!