Day 1: Dried Mealworms

Instead of waiting it out until I had more time to commit, I decided to go ahead and start farming as soon as possible, so I ordered my supplies and they have been arriving steadily over the last week. I went with the setup I described in my first blog post to see how that works out before I think about scaling up at all. And then today, the mealworms arrived!

You may be wondering why this “day 1” post involves “dried mealworms”. Well, it turns out that a one kilogram order was a bit too much for the batch that I want to turn into beetles to seed subsequent generations – half of that would have been fine, but I ended up putting around two-thirds of the kilogram into the first tray, just in case fewer survive pupation than I expect will. The image below shows what the setup looks like and the list numbers refer to the numbered panels in the image.

[1] This is the 6-drawer tower setup I’m using (I’ll add an updated equipment list to the bottom of this post). I filled the bottom drawer with around a kilo of chicken layer pellets which I ground up to a fine(ish) powder in a blender beforehand. I decided that I will only use this as feed/bedding for this first parent generation of mealworms until they turn into beetles. I feel more comfortable using organic wheatbran for feed once I’m dealing with the new generation so that I know exactly what they’ve been eating from the moment they hatch, before I make them into dinner.

Process for getting dried mealworms

The bags you can see in the higher drawers contain 1 kilo of this organic wheatbran each, purchased fairly cheaply from Health Supplies.

[2] One kilogram of live mealworms fills one of these 40x40cm drawers up to about an inch thick – many more than I envisaged starting with for my initial beetle population.

[3] In this panel you’re looking at about a third of the number I ended up putting in there, mainly for insurance purposes (and a lack of freezer space).

[4] Addition of a few slices of organic apple. They immediately began to sense the apple and started to swarm over it and tuck in. I don’t expect there will be much left of these to change out for new slices in a day or two, but I’ll keep an eye on them for mould anyway.

[5] Of the kilogram delivered, about a third was stored in a couple of those containers you get with Chinese takeaway and put in the freezer to “ethically euthanise”. I read that it only takes about 20 minutes to do the trick, but 5-10% of them came back to life after about 2 hours in the freezer, so I suggest leaving them in there overnight just to be sure.

frying dried mealworms

I did end up frying a few up with some herbs and spices, just out of curiosity, but since I don’t know exactly where they’ve been, I made sure I cooked them (a little too) thoroughly and left the kitchen smelling a little like an indoor braai! This photo was taken at the point I should have served them up. Regardless, the five or so that I fished out from the charred masses tasted a lot like… peanuts! I’m not kidding – they tell you that they taste “nutty” and they are not wrong. Quite nice actually, and I can definitely see the potential for coming up with some decent recipes! Anyway… Day 1: SUCCESS!

Organic Wheatbran 1kg

by Buy Whole Foods Online Ltd.

Price: £2.67


by -

Price: £9.50

Dried Mealworms Taste-test!

One week on and after a thorough rinse and drain of the remaining frozen stock, I found that the best way to get those crispy dried mealworms was to pre-heat the oven to 200°C (~400°F) and blast them for 5 minutes before opening the oven to let out the water vapour, then dropping the temperature down to 80°C (~180°F) and leaving them for 1-2 hours (checking regularly). They should then be crispy and fragile enough to grind down in a blender. The cooked smell is just like nut loaf! I ended up adding most of the powder you can see to the right (~100g) to pasta, cous cous, or my personal favourite, apple, banana and blueberry fruit salad with yoghurt, cinnamon and honey – yum!

roasted and dried mealworms
Mealworms into the oven
Sieving mealworm powder
Sieving out the larger mealworm bits