My latest Bird Watcher column for The Record and other USA Today Newspapers in New Jersey is more about mealworms -- featuring advice from birders and other readers.
The column features a potentially terrific mealworm shot by Barbara Dilger. Too bad that Carolina Wren raided the buffet and photo-bombed the picture.
You can read the column here:
By Jim Wright
Last month, I wrote about mealworms, a popular bird food that's sold dried or still crawling – and asked readers how to serve them.
I can’t remember a column eliciting such a wide range of comments.
“I’ve never had birds take any interest in dried mealworms,” wrote Caitlin O'Connor.
Susan Sloan, on the other hand, buys two 22-pound bags of dried mealworms at a time from a place in Texas.
“I justify the cost by telling myself I don’t smoke, drink beer or soft drinks, or spend anything to keep-up-with-the-Joneses,” She wrote. “It pleases me to have many bird species swoop around the yard within minutes of my morning distribution of mealworms. I also mix mealworms in with hulled sunflower -- no mess ever -- to put in feeders.”
John Canoles said he feeds dried mealworms to bluebirds and Carolina wrens in the winter. Jane Aguilu noted: “I could swear my wintering hermit thrush would watch for me to appear with the worms, as he would show up immediately after I spread them on the ground.”
Those bluebirds and wrens are true mealworm connoisseurs, but the so-called nuisance birds and other birds enjoy them in a variety of feeders.
Mary Ellen Mearns puts dried mealworms in a metal mesh feeder and attracts blue jays, grackles, and woodpeckers.
Amy Griffin wrote, “The Carolina wrens love the mealworms, but so do grackles and starlings.”
Karen Chatten concurred. “I bought one bag of dried mealworms and put a handful out each day in a cup attached to my feeder station," she wrote. "The usual starlings gobbled them all down before any other birds could get any, so I didn’t continue. I've heard fresh mealworms are nice toasted in a frying pan, having a nutty flavor, but have not tried them myself.”
Martin Prince found a dual use for the live ones: “For many years when my wife and I were living in Closter, we had a small fishpond with a waterfall in our backyard. I would order mealworms and feed them to both the fish and the birds. Never had any complaints, except from my wife.”
I couldn’t find many other takers for live mealworms, although Thomas Jaeger wrote that he likes to buy suet with mealworms in it: “The birds go crazy for them, and they’re the most cost-effective because you need to keep dried mealworms out of the rain. I have no clue on managing the live ones.”
If you think buying dried mealworms in 22-pound bags was a lot, consider The Raptor Trust. The wild-bird rehabilitation center in Morris County goes through 27,000 mealworms a week in the summer when there’s a multitude of orphaned baby birds to feed.
Over the course of a year, The Raptor Trust serves more than a half-million mealworms to its avian patients – part of its $12,500 annual insect budget. Who knew?
The Bird Watcher column appears every other Thursday. Email Jim at [email protected].