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Someone posted in the Birding in Massachusetts facebook group and shared a link that described how feeding meal worms to your birds, dried ones, was BAD... just bad.
It goes into a lot of detail. I honestly like some of what they had to say... talked about how we can lure birds into an otherwise not so bird friendly habitat... and how we really need to just make the yard more bird friendly with plants and bugs, etc... Good stuff.
But, I typically see everyone talking about using dried meal worms to bring bluebirds in... and before this, I'd never seen anyone say it was bad.
So I'm looking for some thoughts... educated thoughts most of all but, general thoughts are welcome too.
This is the link to the article...
http://www.nativebirdcare.org/blog/dried-mealworms-please-dont?fbclid=IwAR1P37PTz8a9nq0WxCC-VARaz_pyrMCohAAKp_-Ze1q-tvB0hjZ6CQBHShA

I'd like to learn more... I told someone on facebook that when I "learn" something new, I like to make sure that what I'm learning is accurate. I don't personally put dried meal worms out but want to be educated in this just in case I ever do or if I feel the desire to talk to others about it 🙂

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I’ve never fed mealworms, but Cornell, the Audubon society, and the national blue bird society never mention that dried mealworms are harmful. Though they do seem to push for live mealworms over dried ones and do mention that they should be given only rarely, especially to breeding birds. 

The national Audubon society sells dried mealworms so... I would think it’s ok to do so in moderation. 

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I buy one bag a year, if that often, usually in the spring.  I put out a bit less than 1/4 cup at a time.  They get some attention from Eastern Bluebirds but it's the Carolina Wrens that go nuts over them.

I have both of those species in my yard year-round, had them before I started putting out mealworms, and have them in the years I don't bother.  The dried critters are not attracting them any more or less than the suet, peanuts, etc.  If 'attracting to an unfriendly environment' was a concern, why single out mealworms from all the other feeder foods?

On the other hand, they're pricey and don't bring anything new to the yard, so I wasn't going to be using them anymore anyway.

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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I tried them but my bluebirds like my suet better than the dried meal worms so I stopped buying them.   I suppose the one case where they could be beneficial is if you have bluebirds that struggle to find enough insects for their babies?  I'm not sure how you are supposed to ascertain that your bluebird parents are struggling to find enough insects?

 

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Too lazy to go back and find the direct quote but, someone messaged Mass Audubon who said Tufts Wildlife something or other says that dried meal worms are ok sometimes... comparing them to potato chips. Not an all the time snack.

This has me thinking, given the responses and how often they're used, that this ought to be studied even more...  hmmm

lots of other thoughts but I'm tired.

 

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I have the same experience with mealworms.  The Carolina Wrens partake of them the most followed by the titmice. And these are birds that like my yard year round regardless of whether I'm putting out food or not. 

 
Let me offer this perspective.   Having observed the wrens and titmice regularly grazing on all the different things I put out every time they visit I have to trust that they naturally will tend to vary their diet.  I think any possible downside would only occur if you were feeding too much dried mealworms (or anything else, for that matter) to captive birds.
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  • 2 weeks later...

I read that dried mealworms lack calcium.  They are fine as long as the birds are getting variety so they get calcium from other sources.  Cornell's feederwatch webpage includes mealworms as a suggested type of food, so I figure they are OK.

Similar to Charlie, I put out about 1/4 cup in the morning.  I stand out on my porch for a few minutes to give my resident Eastern Bluebirds and Carolina Wrens first shot at them.  Once I go inside, starlings clean up whatever is left.

During breeding season, I will usually put out dried mealworms a second time in the evening for my nesting bluebirds.  I figure the normal foraging they do during the day provides the variety.  When there are no mealworms out, bluebirds often will eat my sunflower seeds, especially in winter.  In summer they are way more likely to go after bugs in the grass vs. sunflower seeds.  I use sunflower hearts to avoid the mess from shells, so the bluebirds are able to eat them.  My nesting pair successfully fledged 9 chicks last year, so it seems to be working fine.

Of course, it is hard to know if the mealworms are attracting the bluebirds, but I believe they do.  This is a picture from a couple of winters ago... I had just put dried mealworms out.  My breeders always go to the mealworm feeder as soon as I put them out.

 

1109279058_EasternBluebird-backyard-WestChesterPA-12-27-18large.thumb.jpg.97982f05efad9c2cf131ddc4b53becf4.jpg

Edited by Jim W
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I had a group of 5 visiting regularly that I assumed was a family (this was before I put up my house).  Normally they would chase other bluebirds off.  However, on this day, they all seemed to get along.  Not sure why that was... I've never had a group this large since.

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I've never had much luck with dried mealworms, the birds just don't seem to care.  Live ones get lots of attention though.  In the over all scheme of things I can think of alot worse things to feed then dried worms, even if they aren't the most nutritious thing ever.  

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  • 2 months later...

We feed dried worms and like others Eastern Bluebird partake. We have also noticed that the Carolina Wrens love them. Northern Mockingbirds come around for some too. I have observed our nesting Bluebirds taking advantage of the dried worms as they feed their young (they are on their 2nd brood this season) but also feeding bugs they catch themselves. Their 1st brood still come around and appear to be very healthy. All this said is it me or did the price jump substantially on dried worms recently?

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I have been hesitant to use the live mealworms as I fear some of the commercially-available ones may be non-native invasive species.  As I've mentioned before on other threads, we have a 3-bin composting station in our backyard that the birds (especially the fore- and oft-mentioned Carolina Wrens) find irresistible. 🙂   I will add that a  neighbor has "trained" the neighborhood Eastern Bluebirds to come to mealworms when she rings a bell.  This is apparently a common activity among those who feed backyard birds, but something I would feel uncomfortable doing, mostly because it seems a more drastic alteration of natural behavior than merely setting out food for the birds to find and take at will.   

Edited by floraphile
clarification
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2 hours ago, Clip said:

We feed dried worms and like others Eastern Bluebird partake. We have also noticed that the Carolina Wrens love them. Northern Mockingbirds come around for some too. I have observed our nesting Bluebirds taking advantage of the dried worms as they feed their young (they are on their 2nd brood this season) but also feeding bugs they catch themselves. Their 1st brood still come around and appear to be very healthy. All this said is it me or did the price jump substantially on dried worms recently?

I think COVID has affected everything as far as cost.   Hopefully, that situation will soon improve.

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3 hours ago, floraphile said:

I think COVID has affected everything as far as cost.   Hopefully, that situation will soon improve.

I don't know it seems there are other forces at work that will likely drive the prices higher still. Lumber prices are just one current indicator. I know this if the price stays our backyard birds will have to rely on their own hunting skills.

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