Durham Bat Group: Feeding bats

IMPORTANT: Only registered experts and bat workers are allowed to keep bats in captivity.

Do you suffer from stinky mealworms?

Do your bats turn their noses up at their dinner?

Here's how to avoid the problem.

Mealworms are beetle larvae which have evolved to feed on dry cereal products. Their main enemy is moisture or anything which can lead to them getting soggy. And like most other creatures, they prefer not to wallow in their own waste products.

Noel says "I have a specially modified Tupperware container for keeping mealworms. It has a big array of 2mm holes in the lid 20mm centres. I just turn the pot upside down over the sink and shake to sieve out the frass. It is so easy and convenient, I can afford to do it every time I feed the bats. Mealworms arrive from the suppliers in bran and its a good idea to sieve out the frass immediately they arrive. "

Keeping mealworms

Mealworms can be fed on any DRY cereal.

You can use breakfast cereals or bread but my own favourite is dried oats. This has a high protein content which I believe translates to a higher-protein diet for the bats. If you do use bread, it must be dried to a crust before you give it to the worms.

Its really not a good idea to add slices of carrot or fruit or anything else wet.

If you think that the worms (or indirectly the bats) need it, you can use a mineral supplement such as those used by reptile keepers which is sprinkled on the worms as they feed. Alternatively, apple and carrot can be sliced and desiccated and the bone dry slices added as a top dressing to the cereal. The last problem that you can have with mealworms is metabolic moisture.

Temperature and ventilation are important.

Mealworms get the water they need from the breakdown of the carbohydrates and fats in their food. If the temperature is high, they eat a lot, grow quickly and produce a lot of water by metabolism. Unless this can evaporate away, the mealworms can get soggy and unpleasant. The answer is good ventilation (the other reason for the big array of holes in my mealworm tub lid) and to keep the tub in a cooler place.

Mealworms thrive at anything from larder temperature up to warm room temperature (10C to 25C). If they get too hot or too cold, they will die.

 

Reliable suppliers of mealworms are:

Livefoods Direct 01909 518888 www.livefoodsdirect.com

Wiggly Wigglers 01981 500391 www.wigglywigglers.co.uk

Pet shops which deal in reptiles often have them as do shops which sell bait to fishermen.

Noel always has a pot on the go if you need a few in an emergency. If you find yourself caring for bats on a regular basis, you can get a standing order delivery. The surplus will keep your Robins, Dunnocks and Blackbirds very happy.

The British wildlife helpline gives more detail on feeding strategies for bats of all ages and conditions.