Tag Archives: mealworms

Third Generation Of Mealworms And A Little Update

Yep, the little farm is going quite well, in my opinion. Other than when the screen busted out of my top drawer, that is.

I guess I should get some more hot glue sticks

I think I had weighed it down too much, because I kept adding to it, and not thinking about the strain on the screen and glue. When large worms, pupae, and beetles started showing up in the drawer below, I reached in and saw the problem. Now everything is in the large bottom drawer, at least until I fix this up.

Nobody’s getting out of there until I let them

Good thing I bought the sieve set.

This isn’t the exact same as the one we bought, but they don’t seem to have it any more. It was about $10 cheaper than this one, and free shipping, so you should shop around to see what you can find. The nice thing is that we use it to sift the worm castings for the red worms as well. It works fantastic for that.

Anyhow, I also wanted to mention our project worms.

You may or may not have heard that mealworms can safely digest styrofoam, and turn it into soil-safe frass(poop). The only problem is that nobody has tested the actual worms to see if they are toxic. Well, they might have, but because they didn’t like their findings, maybe they didn’t publish them.

I’m just kidding. I shouldn’t accuse science of wrong doing, just because I suspect it. I just don’t understand why you would test the frass to make sure that it’s not toxic, but wouldn’t test a handful of the worms while you are at it.

I mean, you have the equipment right there. Literally. You just tested the worm poop with it.

Anyhow, that just means that I will have to keep this farm segregated from the other.

We don’t want the chickens to be eating potentially toxic food, and we sure don’t want to sell toxic worms to our customers.

Yeah, you heard me. We have three customers that occasionally buy some worms for their pets. We’re not going to get rich off of it, but I am socking each $3 away until I can buy this with it.

Eventually I want to go to this one, but at close to $700, it will be a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While we can’t go to full on homesteading right away, we are trying to acquire the skills and tools we will need for when we do get there. To finance the purchases, we aren’t using our wages from our regular jobs, but I took a very part-time maintenance job that bought us the distiller and we have the eggs bartered away until this summer, but after that we will be able to put the money from a couple dozen a week into the fund. We will also probably break even soon from the soap business, but I think that anything we make from that will go back into upgrading our equipment to some more efficient systems.

Soon we will be getting a pressure canner, but we are still researching which way to go with that. Apparently the Presto 23 quart is not as high quality as the All American 21 1/2 quart, but there is much less maintenance, and it’s less than half the price. Many people have had their Presto for over twenty years, so we figured that the savings are worth the risk. I don’t see them at thrift stores very often, but I don’t know if it would be worth chancing a used one that you don’t it’s history.

We are also looking at food dehydrators as well, so if anyone has a recommendation for anything, we are always happy for any information we can get. Amazon reviews are okay, but actually hearing, firsthand, of other people’s experience is the best way to gauge quality and usefulness.

A Couple Of Updates

It’s been pretty busy here this summer with the chickens, worms, mealworms, soap, and both of us working full time, so it’s been hard to get in here to post anything.

I guess I can start with the surprise apricot trees.

It's possible that these trees are frauds
It’s possible that these trees are frauds

We were told that the three fruit trees in the yard were supposed to be ornamental pear trees or something like that, but last summer one produced some measly plums, and this year the other two produced two different breeds of apricot.

Needless to say we were surprised and excited. We have been picking up grounders for jams, sauces, and liquor, because the trees are quite shaded and the only fruit ripening was twenty feet in the air and out of reach for our little stepladder. This fall they will be getting a pretty severe hack job to get them to a manageable level, but until then we will try to make the best use of their bounty.

We have also registered Dirty Bird Soap with the province, and will be applying for a business license with the district this week.

This means that we are really loving it, and plan to keep at it as long as we can be creative and viable. It’s not something that we are planning on getting rich with, but when we are retired and self sustaining, it will definitely help us out with not having to work as a Walmart greeter to make ends meet.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it would mean that we would have to be close to a Walmart, and who wants that in their life?

These will be getting cut shortly and getting themselves prepared for your armpits
These will be getting cut shortly and getting themselves prepared for your armpits

After a great couple of Saturdays at the Hudson’s Hope Farmer’s Market, we had to spend this weekend making seven batches to play catch up with. We have run out of a couple and almost ran out of a few more.

This isn’t a complaint, it’s excitement that you feel coming through these words. We get pretty stoked up about how our creations are received, so we were pretty much vibrating as we churned out the loaves this weekend.

The top shelf is Wildfire. So far it's our best seller, so we made two.
The top shelf is Wildfire. So far it’s our best seller, so we made two.

Notice how light our canning shelves are looking? That’s getting remedied right shortly, because we hit up the Okanagan fruit lady for twenty pounds each of peaches, roma tomatoes, and black plums.

Here’s what most of the peaches look like now.

There was a bit of shrinkage
There was a bit of shrinkage

We’ll finish the tomato sauce tomorrow, and the plums should be ready in a few days, so that will give us a couple of nights for soaping, gardening, and maybe even eating a couple of meals this week.

That’s pretty decent, if you ask me.

All in all it was an exhausting weekend of soap, rendering beeswax, canning and trying to manage the rest of life, but as I sit here in this filthy kitchen, typing out this post and staring at what will garnish a lot of bowls of ice cream this winter, I can’t help but to smile and dream of when I can be this kind of rushed every day.

When you have the right partner in crime, every day is an adventure.

Happy Canada Day! I know it's a bit late, but this is where we were.
Happy Canada Day! I know it’s a bit late, but this is where we were.

Have a great rest of your summer,

Chris

P.S. Look how big the baby mealworms are getting.

For reference, the outline is a slice of potato.
For reference, the outline is a slice of potato.

Ladies And Gentlemen…The Beetles!

I'm easily excited.
I’m easily excited.

Now, you may notice a big difference between these two Darkling beetles. Colour is probably  the main one.

They are white when they turn from pupa to beetle, and will darken over time.

You may also notice that the darker one has dust all over it’s back. That,s because it’s crippled and I am constantly having to flip it back onto it’s feet so it can drag it’s club foot and busted up wing around the enclosure.

That was the first beetle, and it came from a pupa that was in a container from the pet store. It was very small, but it was my first one, so I didn’t know any better. I just kept it, and figured that it would breed with the other small ones that came from the store.

They all dried up to husks.

Not Nemo though.

I named him/her that, because of the lucky wing/fin. I know it is on the wrong side, but it’s still pretty lucky. I have kept the little waif alive by turning it over and making sure it’s near the easy to digest food and the moisture source. I also introduced it to the fine looking specimen beside it.

I hope they get along. I would hate to think of Nemo struggling through life, all gimbled up, and then dying with no real friends. Who wants to be teased and picked on by all of the strong, healthy beetles, after already dealing with several physical deformities? Nobody, that’s who. Well, I’m not going to let that happen in my mealworm farm. Not ever.

I’m only kidding. They are going to breed and then die, or in Nemo’s case, just die. I can’t imagine he’ll make it another day, and if he does, who wants to mate with a small, weakened, husk of a beetle? I’m pretty sure that only the strong survive in the insect kingdom.

I probably should have let him stay on his back and not interfered with nature, but I’m pretty sure I put nature in a tailspin when I started this “farm”. I am breeding another living thing for profit, and when/if I get the chickens, as a source of protein for my eventual breakfast orbs.

I don’t think that I could have let the wee beggar die on it’s back. I don’t think I could let anything die like that. I doubt that these beetles have the capacity for anything, except for eating, breeding, and dying, but I could be very wrong. If I am, I hope he sees that I tried to help and doesn’t bite me in my sleep.

I hope I’m not though, because I would feel pretty bad to know that all they wanted to do is find a loaf of French bread and contemplate the meaning of life with some other snooty intellectuals and maybe ruminate on what it means to be a beetle in today’s bleak world of insect farms and protein smoothies.

Either way, I hope I can get $3.50 for a fifty pack of the dumb ones. I might throw in some French bread and sell the ones that are eating it for $4. You know, because they are better than the others. Hey, give me $8 and I’ll throw in a bar of soap. 😉

Oh yeah, check out dirtybirdsoaps.ca if you get a chance. If you have tried any of our bars, and you see them on the site, please leave a review for us. It would mean a lot. Probably.

Okay, I admit that I don’t know much about the commerce part of the site. We would still appreciate the review though.

Chris

On Your Marks, Get Set, PUPATE!

So I have been pretty obsessed with my mealworm farm since I started it. I just love hanging out with the worms for what seems like hours. It is relaxing to watch them do their little mealworm thing.

So far I have $68 invested in them, and hours of time, including the plethora of YouTube videos out there on the subject, so I am paying a lot of attention to them to see if they are progressing at all, and so far in the last few days, there have been several morphs into pupae.

Hurry up and be beetles already.
Hurry up and be beetles already.

This is very exciting for me, but not as exciting as what happened tonight.

I got to watch one of the larvae morph, right in front of my eyes. One minute I was holding a mealworm on the broken piece of drink tray, and a few minutes later I was staring at a creepy, white pupa.

I had seen it several times in time lapsed video, but this was the first time I got a chance to witness it. It was so special to me, that I am going to name him/her Katniss. I can’t wait to watch them grow up and lay/fertilize 350-500 eggs and then die a husk of the beetle they once were.

Then, as a memorial gesture, I will sell their babies to someone with a lizard or bird to complete the circle of life.

I should be able to make $20- $30 back off of them, and I’ll keep a few for the impeccable bloodline to keep on going. I sure wouldn’t want to be the reason for the lineage to be stopped.

That’s my great post for this week. Sorry it’s so boring, but I have been busy with the Dirty Bird Soap Empire Facebook page and website. Not to mention making a lot of soap, getting it ready for market, and slamming the van door on my finger. Thanks codeine!

It looks a lot better than it did a few days ago.
It looks a lot better than it did a few days ago.

That was one of those things that you regret immediately and also days later. If you are ever thinking about slamming a door on your finger, I would advise against it.

Chris

I’m Getting Out Of Control

Yeah, in the worm department.

A couple of years ago, during a visit home, my cousin Ryan was telling me all about mealworms. He was telling me how they are the protein of the future, easy to raise, and very tasty and nutritious.

I immediately discounted this. I have eaten a few seasoned and roasted mealworms before, and I sure don’t want to make a meal out of them.

He explained that they were extremely easy to raise and breed, and that they take a phenomenal percentage less water per ounce of protein than beef or pork.

I told him that as long as there was enough water to get steak, I wouldn’t worry too much about low water protein and then we had a hearty laugh, as we are wont to do while having a social ale or two.

Then, the other day I was reading about mealworms as chicken food on a homesteading forum. I thought about how easy my cousin said they were to raise and then promptly forgot about it. I already have a bunch of worms, what do I need more for?

Until two days later, when I saw on a local buy and sell page that a woman was looking for mealworms to feed her gecko. I said to myself:

“You should get some mealworms and breed them too. There might be some people around that would buy them from you, and you will be able to feed them to your chickens when you get them.”

I then replied, “I will look into it, and I’ll let you know.”

Before I looked into it, another local lady said that a few people would be happy to have a local supplier, so that pushed me towards purchasing my breeding stock today. Some of them seemed a little bit dead, but apparently they get like that after a while in the fridge.

(Update – Nope, they’re dead. I don’t think that they would still be laying in the same, motionless position after a day.)

I took them home, ground up some Red River Cereal and some rolled oats, and dumped them in a bin with some cabbage, a broken grape, and some cardboard shreds. I separated everything to see what they like best. I’m going to get some laying mash as well, because I’m told that stuff is like gold for them, as long as it isn’t medicated.

I'd breed in there. If I was a worm, I mean. And didn't have asthma.
I’d breed in there. If I was a worm, I mean. And didn’t have asthma.

Apparently that’s all you have to do. I hope.

I will keep checking on them, but I guess it will be a while before they turn into pupa and then beetles, so I think I have a bit of time to perfect the setup. Most of the “real” farmers use one of these four drawer plastic container systems that you could steal from a friends garage or get on Amazon if you wanted to help a guy out. (wink wink)

I kid, but not really. I actually was looking at some of these ten drawer ones and was dreaming of when I would have them full of worms and styrofoam.

Yeah, you heard right. Apparently mealworms can safely survive on a diet of pure styrofoam and convert it into usable soil. It has something to do with the enzymes in their gut, so scientists are trying to figure out how to use them to combat the 33000000 tons of styrofoam in US landfills each year. I don’t know how much us Canadians go through, but it sure looks like a lot as well.

You know, because you wouldn’t want to quit making styrofoam and just throwing it away. That’s just crazy.

Where we live, styrofoam is not recyclable, so I’m hoping to eventually be able to process it with mealworms. I will keep those ones separate from the feed and sale ones, but any excess could be tossed in a bin full of styrofoam and we could at least see for ourselves whether it’s a load of bull or not.

I hope it’s not, because we can’t keep going the way we are right now. Our planet and our bodies can’t take all of this pollution, so anything we can do to help will matter in the future.

Chris