Saturday, July 29, 2017

Growing out of room!

Relocating the mealworm farm from the utility room to the basement closet, The Worman Cave, is necessary to have the space to expand my insect farm to include superworms.

Growing out of this 52" space in the utility room!
July 28-29, 2017:
The first step was emptying the basement closet of all the junk!  The second step was to finish the installation of the ceiling, which was only partially completed 20+ years ago.  Continuing with thin plywood and 1" x 2" molding [not pictured] we saved by using scrap woods from other projects.

Here are the BEFORE (left) and AFTER (right) pictures of The Worman Cave:

A coat of gray oil-based paint on the floor and this section of half-wall.
July 30-August 2-3, 2017:
White latex Kilz was painted on the remaining half-wall section.
Inside the interior closet of The Worman Room, 
a ceiling was installed and the air duct covered with a wood box.
Two coats of white latex on the walls, ceiling, and floor changed
this creepy, dark space into a bright and pleasant space for storage.
August 4, 2017:

The 57"L table/shelf, painted black, was installed at a height to prevent stooping over when working with the insects.  The stud wall was covered with a piece of remnant carpet which had been rolled up and stored in the corner of this closet for years!  No plans to cover the stud wall that is open.

August 5, 2017 - Making curtains from a twin size sheet.

The storage shelves (above, left) are now hidden behind a curtain panel (above, right) hung from a regular closet pole.

A metal conduit fits in the hem of the panel and gives two options in draping, either a straight hang (above) or pushed back on the half wall to give a little elbow room (left)!

This corner is the perfect size for four 3-drawer units and has convenient access inside the closet door.  Many board games and children's puzzles filled the 3 shelves, not the red baskets, and a curtain panelwas hung from a tension rod to hide them from view.

As there is no natural light in The Worman Cave, a clip LED light (upper left corner) was added.
There are days when more light is needed for these ole eyes than the overhead light.

Created a little more elbow room on the work table by putting the Pupae Hotels
on shelves made from scrap 2x4s.  The open studs were perfect for inset storage.
August-October, 2017:
Expanding the worm farm by adding superworms, I acquired a few more drawer units for that purpose.  (More details on this on the blog page, Superworm Farm.)

November-December, 2017 / January-February, 2018:

Additions to the Pupae Hotel area, red and green drawers,,
plus another 3-tier drawer unit on top of the work shelf.

This area is now dedicated to superworms, with a 5-drawer unit for pupae and larvae housing,
as well as four, brown 3-drawer units for isolation.
Join my Facebook group, Mealworm and Superworm Farming

See this page for my journal/experience raising superworms:

See this page for my journal/experience raising mealworms:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Facebook Pages, Orders, Sales, Help

Chick-a-Doodles now has a Facebook page:

Find information on mealworm and superworm sales, delivery and shipping, and other farm-related news and items as they happen. 

AND, a new Facebook group page:  
Mealworm and Superworm Farming

No matter your experience in farming mealworms and superworms, you are invited to join this group for help or to be a help to others.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

How I Sift and Sort the Worm Farms

Tools I use in the Mealworm Farm to sift frass (mealworm poop) and/or sort sizes or stages are:  (1) Sift/Sort Drawer or metal colander; (2)  Fine mesh Kitchen Strainer; (3) Plastic colander with narrow slits. 

For this page's purpose, when I refer to sifting, I mean sifting larvae from frass and other waste.  I use the same tools to separate (sort) the larvae by sizes.  Sorting is not an exact science in my farm, nor does it need to be for my purposes.  

Sift/Sort Drawer:
For separating medium-large and large mealworms from frass and spent bran, I use a DIY drawer with a bottom of plastic canvas, 7-mesh or 7 holes per inch (49 per square inch).  I often pour the contents of an entire drawer or container onto this mesh and let it self-sift to a catch tray or drawer below, meaning the squirming action of the larvae cause the frass and spent bran to fall through. If I am in a rush, I will shake it by hand.  During this shaking or sifting process, smaller sizes of larvae will either fall or bore through the mesh.  Any larvae left on the screen are either put on new substrate to grow out, are used, or are sold.  This is Step 1 - Result - Large and medium-large larvae on top of the mesh. 

I cam use this metal colander when I have a small amount of medium large-large mealworms to sift.  The metal colander's holes are about the size of the drawer above, though more widely spaced.  This colander works very well for medium-large to large larvae when frass only needs to be removed, but large flakes of wheat bran can remain.  This metal colander does not replace the Sift/Sort Drawer, which is more efficient for sorting and sifting.
Fine Mesh Kitchen Strainer:
I have two strainers I use for separating very small larvae from frass.  These are common household strainers.  One has slightly bigger holes than the other, so, I will use it when I want further separation of small and tiny larvae.

Tablecraft 84 8" Fine Tin Double Mesh Strainer

Plastic colander with narrow slits:
To sift and sort beetles, dead and alive, I use this slotted colander.  [It is also good to sift superworm larvae or large mealworm larvae, exceeding 1" or fat.]  I sift the entire drawer of beetles in substrate and put the dead and living beetles in a separate container (a kitty litter pan).  Then pouring the beetles on and off egg crate; the living beetles will hold on to the egg crate and can be shaken off into a new drawer of bran. [Pupae are removed to their own container.]  Once separated, the dead beetles are put in a sealed container to gradually feed off to the chickens.]

How and when I use sorting tools:  
Although I don't have a schedule for sifting or sorting; I go by perceived size.  [A] When a drawer of (mealworms) larvae reach 1/2"-3/4" with a deep frass build up of approx. 2"; [B] When a drawer of larvae reach 3/4 to 1" long and begin to pupate at a rate of ten or more per day; [C] When the Catch or Frass Tray contains smaller sizes, which need further separating from frass. 

The mealworms, once divided by size and rid of frass, are put in a new drawer or container of fresh wheat bran and moisture to grow another four weeks, approximately.  The frass and tiny larvae are also placed in a new drawer or container, topped with new wheat bran and moisture, then set aside for another four weeks.  

In Sifting, Timing is Everything  
This process is best timed when several drawers or containers need sifting at once.  I can then set up an assembly line, outside if weather permits.  A dusty job, a medical face mask is recommended.  

I delay the sifting process as long as I can, by adding a layer of wheat bran on top of the substrate (bedding and food).  I let the frass build up to a minimum of 1.5 inches and the larvae are at least 1/2 inches.  

To sift beetles, I only use the slotted colander.  Some people sift beetles every two weeks, then put them on new bran.  Doing this on that schedule would keep the mealworms in that "nursery" at a more consistent size.  I tend to wait 4 weeks, but, in doing so, my nursery has mixed sizes.

Read more on this blog about my worm farm on the pages, Mealworm Farm, or Superworm Farm.  Visit my Facebook page @chickadoodlestn 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

It's a lovely potted plant, at least!

I dug this Mystery Plant up in the herb bed, as the garden spot was being prepared for the location of our new Chicken Coop / Hen House.
Close up of the above
I put the Mystery Plant in the chicken run, and, they wouldn't touch it.
I soon decided the plant  was unappealing at best and toxic at worst!
I sent photos of the Mystery Plant to a herbalist, who identified it as Wormwood, as I suspected. Smart chickens...wormwood should only be used dried!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Something Old, New or Combined!

Image result for Blog changes

Recent additions or changes to the farm and blog pages.  
[Current date:  4/5/17]

New Pages:
Chicken Coop / Hen House
Grazing Frames
Lawn Clippings:  Silage for Chickens

Combined Multiple Pages Into One Page:
My Girls and First Eggs
Chicken Tractors
Chicken Friendly or Toxic Plants or Chemicals

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Self Sort and Sift Drawer

The practical, hobby Mealworm Farm is ever stream-lining.  My system of only 9 drawers required creativity to get the most out of the limited space available; that being two, plastic canvas bottomed drawers, namely, the Beetle Drawer and the Self Sift/Sort Drawer.
The Beetle Drawer contains the breeding beetles, of course.  Underneath their canvas-bottomed drawer is the solid-bottomed, Nursery Drawer, which is left in place for a period of 4 weeks and marked in numerical order or by date.  The large space of time the Nursery Drawer is left under the beetles make a noticeable size difference as the larvae mature at different rates throughout the drawer.
As the mature larvae in the oldest dated drawer begin to pupate rapidly, I pour the entire contents of that drawer into the Self Sort/Sift Drawer.  Smaller worms, substrate and frass fall through this drawer into a Grow Out Container (or extra drawer if available), while the larger worms left on the canvas are readied for use or to sell.
Approximately four to six weeks later, to coincide with the next mature drawer ready to process, the Grow Out Container/ Drawer is again poured into the Self Sort/Sift Drawer.  Again, smaller worms fall through, larger worms are used or sold.
Shifting and sorting of drawers may sound complicated, but, for the most part it is just a matter of timing and requires minimal organizational skills.  To see the productivity of such a simple effort is rewarding, enjoyable, and profitable enough for my need.  [For more information, see the page, Mealworm Farm, on my blog!]

Plastic canvas was a sensible choice for two drawers in my system!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Catered Meals for All!

Having acquired this red wagon, serving meals to the girls got a lot easier!  I roll it up to the outdoor water faucet to fill up gallon milk jugs, then down to the front door for feed pick-up.  Then, I roll it all down to the tractors for quick distribution.  No more making trips to and fro for me!
Currently (7/15/16), the chuck wagon has fermented feed for some and mixed dry feed for others.
That little sauce cup in the back contains dead beetles from my mealworm farm.  Think of them as croutons!