If you have been leaving out mealworm to feed the birds in your garden and have been noticing it getting over fast, you might be wondering if some other animal such as a squirrel is eating it up. But do squirrels eat mealworms? Keep reading to find out.
What Are Mealworms?
Mealworms are the larvae that grow to be mealworm beetles. Mealworm is the common name for the beetle species known as Tenebrio molitor. Mealworms are very commonly found in different kinds of climates and they breed very rapidly.
Mealworms are an extremely high source of protein and are hence used in many different forms of pet food.
They form a typical pet food for pet birds and reptiles and many people also use it in their bird feeders to feed wild birds in their vicinity.
If you are using mealworms to feed birds and leaving it out where squirrels can access them, you might be worried about whether squirrels eat mealworms.
Do Squirrels Eat Mealworms?
Yes, squirrels do eat mealworms. Contrary to popular belief, squirrels are omnivores and not herbivores.
Besides eating nuts and plant foods, squirrels eat other animals whenever required. In fact, squirrels will mostly eat anything they can get their hands on, especially if they are hungry.
For instance, squirrels often hunt smaller mice or steal small eggs of birds around them. As long as obtaining the food does not pose a physical threat to a squirrel, it will eat that food.
Mealworms are very high in protein and squirrels are especially attracted to them.
When the squirrel is growing, breeding, about to give birth or tending to a baby squirrel, it is likely to eat substances like mealworms that will provide it with protein.
In any case, squirrels will eat any food that can serve as a source of protein if it is available. Squirrels will eat both fresh and dry mealworms depending on what you are putting out or more readily available.
As a result, squirrels do eat mealworms often by stealing them from bird feeders or where you are feeding your pet birds. If you leave the mealworms out for your bird to eat, the chances are that the squirrels around the area are eating at least some part of the mealworm.
How Do I Keep Squirrels from Eating My Mealworms?
Now that you know that squirrels do eat mealworms that you put out for birds in your bird feeder, you must be wondering how to keep squirrels from eating your mealworms. Here are some ways you can do so.
Make the Bird Feeder Inaccessible to Squirrels
Squirrels eat the mealworms you put out because they are probably very accessible to the squirrels. There are various ways in which you can easily take the bird feeder far out of the reach of the squirrels in your garden.
A straightforward way to do so is to put the bird feeder on a pole that the squirrel cannot climb. The rod is made inaccessible by using a fixture that makes the surface difficult to climb. This is known as a baffle.
You can either buy poles with baffles already made on them or buy the baffle separately and attach it to the bird feeder pole you have.
To make the bird feeder inaccessible to squirrels, one crucial thing to keep in mind is that they have a considerable jumping range. They can jump about four feet high vertically and about ten feet horizontally.
As a result, make sure to place your bird feeder at least ten feet away from trees and other surfaces from which the squirrel can jump onto it.
Also, ensure to place the baffle on the pole above four feet from the ground so that the squirrel cannot jump over it and climb the pole.
Use a Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder
There are many bird feeders designed to keep squirrels out. Some bird feeders are sensitive to weight and the food supply is cut off when a particular weight is put on the bird feeder.
This weight is usually enough to accommodate birds but not enough for squirrels. As a result, squirrels will not be able to reach the food.
Some bird feeders are also surrounded by a cage that is too small for squirrels to reach through. Some bird feeders also have a spinner powered by batteries which throw off any squirrel that gets on it.
Use Hot Peppers
One way to discourage squirrels from eating mealworms from the bird feeder is to mix any form of hot and spicy food into it, such as cayenne pepper, chillis or hot peppers.
Peppers contain a chemical known as capsaicin. Capsaicin is contained in the fruits of the genus Capsicum. The chemical can be found in the tissue of the fruit that holds the seeds, the internal membranes and the other fleshy parts of the fruit.
Capsaicin is a neuropeptide that transmits certain signals to the nervous system. When we eat a pepper from the genus Capsicum, the capsaicin sends signals to our brain. This leads to a burning sensation in any part of the body that the capsaicin has come in contact with.
This is what makes us feel that peppers or chilies are ‘hot’ or ‘spicy’. However, capsaicin only affects mammals as other animals do not have the same nervous reaction to this chemical.
Hence, peppers or hot spices are an excellent way to discourage squirrels from eating the mealworms without disturbing the birds who feed on them.
The squirrel will feel the short-term effects of the pepper, like we do. However, it will not cause any harm or injury to the squirrel.
The squirrel might not understand the problem and might return a few more times but consistently experiencing the same unpleasant sensation from the mealworm will teach the squirrel not to eat from there in the future.
Feed the Squirrel Separately
If squirrels are eating mealworms from the feeder, the chances are that they are looking for sources of protein or food in general. There might be a lack of other foods in the area.
Though it may seem counter-productive, one excellent way to keep squirrels from eating mealworms is to feed the squirrel separately.
To discourage the squirrel from eating mealworms, put out large quantities of other foods in an area that will be easily accessible for the squirrel.
If the squirrel can find enough food at an easily reachable spot, it is unlikely to look for mealworms from the bird feeder.
This strategy only works if the mealworms are comparatively more difficult to reach for the squirrel.
What Bird Food Do Squirrels Not Eat?
If you have tried all the different methods and are not being able to keep the squirrels in your garden from eating the mealworms you are putting out for birds, you might want to consider switching out your bird food for other foods that squirrels don’t like to eat.
Squirrels are not very picky when it comes to eating and tend to eat a wide variety of foods, especially nuts and seeds. For example, they love to eat sunflower seeds, corn, fruits and so on.
However, there are still some foods that you can offer to birds that squirrels won’t be interested in. Some of these are safflower seed, nyjer seed and white proso millet.
Squirrels are not particularly interested in these foods. The chances are that when the squirrel sees these foods in the bird feeder, it will go ahead and continue to search for other foods to eat.
What Other Animals That Eat Mealworms?
There is a chance that though you were looking for an answer to the question “Do squirrels eat mealworms?”, whether other animals are eating the mealworms you have put out for your birds.
Squirrels are not the only animals that can eat mealworms besides birds. The mealworm you have put out could also be eaten by rodents like rats and mice. Small animals similar to squirrels like raccoons could also be eating the mealworms.
Besides these animals, frogs and snakes can also be eating mealworms. Even cockroaches can eat mealworms!
You can use similar techniques to keep many of these animals from eating the mealworms. For instance, rats, mice and rodents can be kept away with spicy foods and peppers, like squirrels, since they are also affected by capsaicin.
Mealworms are a very versatile food eaten by pet birds, reptiles and even human beings. Mealworms are affordable, readily available and very high in protein content.
However, if you are feeding mealworms to birds in your garden, they might be at risk of getting eaten by squirrels since squirrels also eat mealworms.
There are various simple ways to discourage squirrels from eating the mealworms from the bird feeder, such as making the bird feeder inaccessible, using a squirrel-proof bird feeder, mixing spicy foods in the mealworms and offering food separately to the squirrels.
Other animals like rats, mice, snakes, raccoons, frogs and so on also eat mealworms.
Fly high friends!