As you can see from the pic above, it’s time to clean out the Mealworm Palace. The fine powdery stuff in the pic is called ‘frass’ and it’s what we call the leftovers after insects (in this case Mealworms) have eaten. It also includes other waste materials that we won’t go into here.
Any large sieve will do.
Being a fine powder and, by volume, denser than bran, frass work its way to the bottom of the trays through the actions of Mealworms constantly moving and stirring the bed. That makes it fairly easy to separate with any reasonable sieve. The frass will fall through, leaving the bran in the seive. To clean the trays, work in an open area (it can be a dusty job). Then you take scoops full of lived-in bran and shake them through the sieve. This will help you to separate out the bigger Mealworms and remove dry, shriveled vegetable leftovers, dead Mealworms, foreign critters and the dry husks from molting.
These dry, papery husks are lighter than the bran and accumulate on top of it. I tend to blow them off into the garden – it’s easier than picking them off by hand. You’ll have a few left, but as molting is an ongoing process, there will always be some around anyway. You’ve just got to rid the trays of excess.
You’ll also find cotton, fluffy egg masses. Mealworm eggs like to stick together in clumps that also stick together into egg masses. As you find these, gently remove them and put them into the larvae trays where they can hatch.
There’ll be the occasional beetle too. Somehow, there’s always a couple who make it out of their tray and into another. Put them back in their appropriate tray with a stern warning. Something like ‘Next time I find you out of your tray it’s off to the chooks for you’! Or something like that.
Happy, frass-free Mealworms
Lots of happy beetles.
You can clean the beetle tray (the top tray in the Mealworm Palace) in the same way. You’ll probably find a few Mealworms and some fluffy egg masses that didn’t work their way through the mesh and into the tray below. Gently move them to the appropriate tray.
Alien looking pupae.
If you’re Palace has been running for a while, you may find some alien looking pupae in the bran. Gently remove these and place them into the bottom tray where they can pupate in peace and hatch into beetles, ready to repeat the cycle.
That’s a lot of frass!
At the end of it all you will end up with a pile of frass, discarded beetle bits, husks and dry vegetable pieces. This pile is still of interest to us as it will contain eggs and tiny, just hatched, Mealworms that are too small for us to see easily. If you haven’t seen it, take a look at the video in the first Mealworm Madnessvideo in this series. That will show you what I mean.
If you don’t have enough Mealworms, you can put this frass pile into another container with some fresh vegetable pieces and put it somewhere quiet. The eggs will hatch and the Mealworms will grow into a size where you can pick them out and put them into the other larvae trays.
If you have enough, or, like us, a surplus of Mealworms, feed them the frass pile to your chickens. They will really enjoy picking out the Mealworms that were too small for us to deal with. They will love you for it!
Your chooks will love you.