Are you looking to expand your food production and are interested in livestock?
Perhaps you have chickens, fish, or other animals and are looking to grow your own nutritious feed for them?
Or maybe you have children and want to get them involved in raising animals?
Then microlivestock might be for you! It is the raising of small animals, such as insects and worms, and our favorite is the mealworm. Why? Because their care if very simple, they do well indoors, require only a small space, do not smell or fly, and are high in protein (a 2:1 ratio of protein to fat).
Mealworms are the larval form of the darkling beetle (Tenebrio molitor). Their lifecycle is simply - tiny eggs, larva, pupae, then adults. Within a few months you can easily have your own breeding colony! Interested? Here is mealworm care 101:
- Housing: Require a well ventilated container such as a yogurt tub, small bin, etc)
- Substrate: They live in their own food! Place a few centimeters of fine grains (wheat germ, bran, corn meal, oatmeal, hemp seeds, etc). You can add variety with chicken feed, hemp seeds, etc.
- Water: A nutritious way to provide water is by providing fruits and vegetables (potatoes, apples, carrots, greens, etc). A yogurt lid with wet non bleached paper towels on the surface of the subtrate can work too. Be cautious of the substrate going moldy, so ensure you remove wet items after a couple days!
- Egg laying substrate: This can be the bottom of the container, dried fruits and vegetables, paper towel or old paper towel tubes.
- Temperature: Mealworms grow and breed at room temperature. Placing your mealworms in the fridge is a great way to store them, but ensure to give them a day or two of room temperature and good food to bulk up before feeding them!
- Other mealworms: To breed you need more than one... Mealworms are easy breeders, they do not need any special care as long as there are several and they are kept at room temperature.
Ready to get started? You can find mealworms at various petstores in the city... be warned though you might yourself confused as they may have small and big mealworms available. The big mealworms are called Kingworms - these are mealworms that received juvenile hormone to delay their pupation, resulting in giant mealworms - they are the same species.
The last benefit of growing your own microlivestock is they yield other nutrients in the form of their waste - called frass. This can be easily sifted out of your colony and applied to a needy plant around your home!
Mealworms are an easy way to get started - and there are many other microlivestock opportunities out there. These include superworms (a larger beetle species), flightless fruit flies, waxworms (a moth that feeds on honey, pollen, and beeswax), crickets (careful - these can be noisy escape artists!), black soldier flies, and small fish such as guppies.
Lastly - we talk about insects as food for other animals - but in many cultures insects are food for people too. Check out this interesting resource looking at insects as food: Insects Are Food
Best of luck with your microlivestock adventures!