The breeding season (April to July) is a great time to feed mealworms, wax worms and other live foods to your garden birds if you don't already do so!
Of the many varieties of garden bird whose numbers are in decline in the UK, it is the insectivores who have been the worst hit. The lack of mature, native trees in our gardens and ever-decreasing areas of natural woodland means that wild birds cannot find the insects they need to feed their young, resulting in fewer eggs and fewer fledgelings. This makes live foods a more conscientious choice, particularly during periods of colder weather (when insects will hide away in warm places) and especially when you consider that the birds' activity rate during the breeding season can be 100 times greater than during the winter months.
Live mealworms and wax worms are easily digestible with a high moisture content - essential for fledgelings who cannot leave the nest to drink. Other sources of moisture for them include unripe seeds, earthworms and caterpillars, but there is growing evidence to show that the peak time for earthworms and caterpillars is possibly earlier than the peak fledgeling explosion, so live mealworms and wax worms are a great option to bridge that gap.
Buy Live Mealworms & Wax Worms for Birds >
Feeding birds mealworms
It has been proven that feeding live foods can have a significant positive effect on the number of chicks reared by their parents. Waxworms and mealworms are also rich in essential protein (50.4%), very safe to feed due to their vegetarian diet (no spread of nasty diseases), and much easier to store and use than you might think.
If the worms come supplied in a tub, it should already have a ventilated lid and some bran inside to keep them going, so you can just keep them cool until you're ready to use them (ideal storage temperature: 8 to 10 °C). They can go in the fridge, but this can make them a bit dormant and less wriggly - and it's the wriggling that attracts the bird's keen eye. Temperatures below 5 °C will kill the worms, while temperatures above 22 degrees will make them pupate very quickly.
They do not need light - in fact, dark is good - and if you notice their food has depleted, you can add a bit of carrot, apple, oats or potato peelings. Waxworms and mealworms can be kept this way for several months at the correct temperature.
Bulk bags of live worms are more economical but need to be unpacked on arrival. They can be stored in a large open plastic container such as a cat litter tray or similar, at a maximum depth of 1 inch. There is no need for a lid as long as the sides are deep and clean and the container is placed somewhere where it won't be knocked over!
Want to know more about how to feed live mealworms to birds? Here is a very informative Q&A with our founder and resident vet, Lesley:
Q. Which birds eat live worms?
A. The insect and invertebrate eaters: robins, sparrows, tits, starlings, blackbirds, wrens and thrushes.
Q. What are mealworms?
A. They are the larvae of the flour beetle (Tenebrio Molitor), a native British insect that eats flour, meal, grain and other related crops. They are vegetarian, which is important because when fresh, they don't smell!
Q. Where do your live mealworms come from?
A. Our live mealworms are grown in the UK for us and are British bred! There are many companies importing mealworms from Europe; ours will be fresher as they won't have travelled far.
Q. If I order live worms, what can I expect to receive?
A. Live mealworms are delivered by Royal Mail. They will arrive in a cardboard box, and within the box will be either some plastic tubs or larger quantities within a white polypropylene bag with a cable-tied top. Please don't worry if the plastic tubs don't have air holes punched in them - the lids are made of breathable material so the mealworms will be fine.
Q. Do the mealworms smell?
A. No! There is no smell given off by mealworms if they are kept in the correct conditions. There will be some bran or clean newspaper in with them when they arrive. For those that are in tubs, you don't need to do anything. If you have bought a larger sack of them, we would suggest transferring them into a shallow, smooth-sided tray or tub.
Q. How long will the worms last?
A. Being larvae, their longevity is dependent on the conditions and temperature they are stored at. The cooler they are, the longer they will last. If you find that there is a lot of black poo appearing, the chances are it is too warm for them or they are too deep in their container.
Q. If I order them today, when will I receive them?
A. All live foods are sent by Royal Mail. They, therefore, take 3-5 working days and will arrive separately from the rest of your Really Wild Bird Food order (which should arrive next working day). Orders received before 12.00 on Monday to Thursday will be dispatched on the same day. Orders received on a Friday to Sunday will be dispatched on the following Monday. We are ultra-careful around bank holidays (especially during the warm summer months) in case they get held up in a warm sorting office somewhere, speeding up their metamorphosis. Please order a few days earlier around a bank holiday.
Q. I would like to receive a regular weekly order - can you do this?
A. Of course! We have many customers who request scheduled live mealworm deliveries, either on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. Please contact us with your request.
Q. What sort of feeder should I offer live mealworms in?
A. They need to be contained in a smooth steep-sided container (otherwise you will find they wriggle up and out and will be gone in a flash!) - ideally something with a roof or overhang to protect them from the rain and sun, and drainage holes if there is no roof. Windows feeders lend themselves to mealworms, and it's fab to get a really close-up view of your robin and other smalls birds visiting. Caged feeders are also useful since they limit access to the bigger birds which can devour a whole pot in an instant!
Would you like to purchase some live or dried mealworms for your feathered friends? Here at Really Wild Bird Food, we offer a variety of mealworms and wax worms for you to choose from! Click the link below to shop:
Live wax worms and live/dried mealworms for birds