Mar 13, 2017 | Featured Web Article

Add Mealworms to Your Buffet to Attract New Bird Species!

Mealworms aren't just for bluebirds! A summer tanager partakes of an offering from a backyard feeding station.
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When the cold weather and dreary days seem to be dragging on, a change in routine can renew your energy. Why not make a change that rejuvenates your backyard birds as well?

Mealworms aren't just for bluebirds! Putting out mealworms in addition to your regular offerings can attract cardinals, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, sparrows, woodpeckers, mockingbirds, wrens—even the occasional warbler, oriole, vireo, and tanager. Insects are often overlooked in traditional bird feed choices, but once insect-eating birds discover that you offer them, they will flock to you for this part of their diet.

Mealworms are the larvae of the beetle Tenebrio molitor. One way to get mealworms is to purchase them freeze-dried. However, buying and feeding live worms will result in the happiest birds. You can buy live mealworms in various sized containers at your local Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop. Offering them is easy, and your birds will thank you for it.

When you get your mealworms, take them out of the packaging and place into a smooth-sided container with sides at least one inch higher than the worms—a plastic shoebox works well. They can't climb very high, so don't worry about escapees.

To feed your worms the fiber they need, put old-fashioned rolled oats into their container. Do not use quick oats; the bran has been removed. Also, as a source of moisture, add a couple chunks of carrots or apples into the mix.

When you get the mealworms home, store them at 40 to 50 degrees. Mealworms naturally stay in their larval stage for 10 weeks. If you keep them in your refrigerator, they will last for several months in a dormant state if properly cared for. Leave the top of their container uncovered, or poke or cut holes in it, because fresh air is a must. Every two to three weeks, bring the worms out of the 'fridge and let them sit at room temperature for a few hours to let them come out of their dormant state to eat.

When you feed mealworms to your birds, offer a small amount to start—about a dozen worms in a heavy dish that has sides to maintain them. A bluebird feeder or a glass or plastic tray feeder works well. A lightweight serving dish that could tip over when birds land won't be welcoming. To help birds find the worms, place the dish near your regular bird feeders, and serve them at the same time as you normally fill your feeders. Soon, birds will be watching for you to put more out every day. Once birds are regularly eating your mealworms, offer a small handful or two per day.

Watch for a different mix of birds at your mealworm feeder, and pay attention as birds become accustomed to their new food source. Adding mealworms to your bird feeding routine is sure to be a hit with your backyard birds!



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  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019
  • This is exactly my experience. The local feed store had some on sale so I thought I'd try some. Actually I was shocked at how it is avoided, and I've been feeding birds for more than 40 years. I suppose I've never had it out as the ONLY food source, but when I put it out along with the blackoil, peanuts, cracked corn and suet cakes, absolutely nothing would touch it. Even when I dumped some on the ground the rabbits wouldn't eat it, nor would the squirrels. Eventually some turkeys and deer ate some--when they could find nothing else underneath the other feeders. But even they left plenty on the ground which they NEVER do with cracked corn, sunflower, etc.Every person should try some if they're inclined and decide for themselves since every situation may be a bit different, but for me/my species, safflower is a big no.
    by Colin Croft, Sun, 03 Mar 2019
  • I have questions about the Zick Dough? It says not to use in cold weather. It is still in the 40s here. Too soon? How long should I expect a supply to last? And, use a tray feeder? Thanks.
    by martindf, Sun, 25 Nov 2018
  • Glad I found this. I'm a snowbird and was worried about all the birds that come to feed at my birdfeeder. I have Cardinals, sparrows, doves, Blue Jays, chickadees. I hope they'll find food elsewhere while I'm gone.
    by Donna, Sat, 03 Nov 2018