Bluebirds Love Mealworms

Eastern BluebirdHere's a secret. Bluebirds love mealworms. They're crazy about them. I was fretting, in spring, about whether the eastern bluebirds would adopt our new birdhouse. The birds landed on the wooden box once or twice and peered into the hole, but they didn't seem to be building there.


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I told myself it was OK if the bluebirds found a better nesting cavity in the woods, but I longed for them to move into the birdhouse, where I could see from the kitchen and the front door. Then I heard that mealworms, which are usually sold as food for pet reptiles, would help persuade bluebirds to stay.


MealwormTwo days later, 1000 mealworms arrived by UPS, in a small, screen-sided cardboard box. The mealworms were loose in there, most of them bunched up around the piece of raw potato included for food and moisture, with instructions to provide them with oatmeal or wheat bran as bedding.


Within an hour


The weather was cold and drizzly. I hadn't seen any bluebirds all day. I picked a dozen of the inch-long mealworms out of the box and carried them by hand to the birdhouse. They were dry and smooth, and although they tickled a bit when they wiggled, they weren't at all nasty to hold.


Female BluebirdWhistling my poor imitation of a bluebird's song, I put the mealworms on top of the birdhouse and retreated to my kitchen. An hour later I noticed a female bluebird standing on the birdhouse roof. She cocked her head to study the pale yellow mealworms, and then she picked one up in her bill and swallowed it. After she'd consumed several, her mate flew in from the nearby trees, landed beside her, and ate some too.


I'd read that it might not be good for bluebirds to give them too many mealworms, so I restrained myself until evening to put out another supply. The female caught on fast. As soon as I opened the door and did my fake bluebird whistle, she came down from a treetop to a branch near the birdhouse, and she landed on it before I got back to my house.


Husband looks in fridge


My husband, Michael, is not enthusiastic about things that wriggle in the kitchen, but he adapted with surprising speed. When he looked in the refrigerator for snacks, he discovered an open bin of oatmeal and mealworms. He stirred the contents with a finger, looking at the larvae of 976 darkling beetles.


"For the bluebirds," I explained. "Don't worry. They can't crawl up the sides of the bin, and besides, they don't move much when they're cold."


I took good care of my mealworms, except for contributing a few of them every day to the bluebirds. On alternate weekends I brought their bin out of the fridge for a day and a night so they could warm up and feed. I put a fresh slice of apple or potato in their bin, and they consumed everything but the peel. When human guests appeared unnerved at the sight of writhing mealworms in a bin on my kitchen sink, I explained that they were my pets.