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Preparing and keeping casters as live feeds.

We have put this together after requests from previous customers.

This advice applies to the 3 main casters available with some differences, these will be pointed out as necessary, the 3 casters are the large Blue Bottle, smaller Green Bottle  and the small House fly.

When maggots are required to turn to casters they should be sieved off the sawdust and put into fine and already damp sawdust or peat, do not just add water to maggots already in sawdust or you may find the wet maggots are able to escape an open container, These should be kept at room temperature, it is a good idea to take off the casters every day or so, this is done by placing them on the sieve allowing the maggots to wriggle through, the casters that are retrieved should have any rubbish removed and the clean casters put back into damp sawdust, to slow the development keep them chilled, if flies are needed then keep some at room temperature, you will notice that the casters will continue to darken, when they are almost black they are close to hatching and should be moved into an enclosed container or you may find you have a room full of flies. The flies will hatch best when the casters are kept in damp sawdust.

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Preparing maggots for casters and fly hatching

We have put this together after requests from previous customers.

This advice applies to the 3 main maggots available with some differences, these will be pointed out as necessary, the 3 maggots are the large Blue Bottle, smaller Green Bottle (Pinkies) and the small House fly (squat).

The first thing to do is to clean up the maggots, if they are purchased from us this will already have been done, if bought from a fishing tackle shop they are likely to be pretty grubby, probably a bit smelly and put in sawdust, if this is the case carry out the following;

The maggots must be sieved off the dirty sawdust (you can often buy sieves or riddles from a tackle shop) or if you have a sieve the mesh needs to be about 3mm, once the sawdust is removed, leave the maggots on the sieve and allow to wriggle through into a suitable container placed underneath,  do this at room temperature, this will remove any dead maggots, cast off skins and general debris, you may have to do this a couple of times, once you have the cleaned maggots put them into fresh, fine sawdust, this process should be carried out every 3 or 4 days.

When you first acquire the maggots, if they are fresh, you will notice a black mark in the middle, this is the stomach and if black contains its last meal! If feeding your creature the maggots it is best to keep them for as long as it takes for the “food spot” to disappear, the reason being that this food is not very wholesome and is best not fed to your creature, not always the case but better to be safe than sorry! If keeping the maggots to turn to casters the food spot will naturally be used up.

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Chilly Mealworms?

Posted on the forum in Feb 2009, ianandjoy want to know is it cruel to chill mealworms?

“I have up until now kept my medium sized mealworms on the top shelf of the fridge supplied with porridge oats to supplement their bran. They appear to have kept OK for 2-3 weeks but I must admit to not knowing what a poorly worm looks or behaves like.
The current recommendation to not keep them in the fridge – are they more likely to go into the beetle phase being out of the fridge and is it cruel to chill them?
I have fed them apple and banana and they are eating these, so I am expecting to see more beetles in future.
Ian”

Many customers tend to keep their mealworms in a fridge but usually this is a bit too chilly, they tend to go dormant and this slows their feeding down, like all living creatures, lack of food leads to losing condition, however, as you say, the warmer you keep them the quicker they will turn to pupae and then beetles, the pupae are almost immobile and look like little aliens but birds will still feed on them quite happily.

We find the ideal temperature to keep them is around 10degC so possibly the top part of a warmer fridge may be fine or at this time of year a garage or somewhere similar, freezing temperatures will definitely harm them. If they are feeding ok they will continue to shed light brown dried skin as they grow and you will see white, fairly soft mealworms in the container that have recently shed their skin, they will also consume more food.

The dry, dusty material that collects should be sieved off every now and then. Apple and Banana, particularly Banana skin is a great source of food and moisture but don’t put too much on causing the dry food to become damp and mouldy creating problems.
A poorly worm just dies off, dries and turns black and its not cruel to chill them as they would experience colder temperatures in the “wild” Hope this helps.

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Do blackbirds have long memories?

A nice story posted by gbw in April 2009…

“For a number of years families of blackbirds have used the same nest in the garden. Each year I have fed them mealworms from when the young appear to the point where they have fledged. At the beginning of the season I keep the amounts relatively low and build up as the spring and summer warm up and the parent birds show signs of exhaustion as the drier, harder ground makes finding food more difficult. The norm seems to be 4 clutches of four young.
I put the food out in a plastic tray which I tie to the back rail of the garden bench and very quickly the female blackbird becomes quite tame and will tolerate me being close. I generally make sure she gets used to me because of the garden noise (mower, moving bins and so on) could be quite stressful and I wouldn’t want her to abandon the nest. She quickly realises when food is going out and is at the bench before I get there.
I was very suprised this year when I found the female waiting on the back rail of the bench when I was attaching the tray for the first time. Not only does this suggest that it is the same female from last year, but that she remembers the feeding routine and was able to anticipate it before I even came out with the white plastic pot! Good to see she survived the winter, and has what seems to be an outstanding memory.
This first batch has only been three young and they fledged this morning. Bad news for our two cats and italian spinone – they are going to be kept in for a few days until the young move away from the garden. The dog is more risk than the cats – she can sense the young and find them in the bushes.”

Hello gbw

I think you are right about Blackbirds and their memories, we have a female bird that returns every year and we know it’s the same bird as she has a displaced wing feather which is the same every year, my office door is open to the area where the birds feed and a couple of years ago she started coming into the office looking for food and she was then given her own tray of mealworms, this year, having not really seen her since last year, she was back stamping round the office DEMANDING her tray which was, of coarse, immediately put out so she clearly remembers the routine!

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Composting worms a danger to UK’s indigenous species?

A question posed by  customer has lead me to clarify an issue which may be of concern to many people.

Posted by Doggymix in March 2010, and still relevant today, the question was regarding the introduction of foreign species;

“A friend recently told me that Tiger worms and other composting worms can cause problems for the UK’s indigenous common garden species. Is that correct? I see you clarify exactly what a Tiger worm is but are the worms you guys advise indigenous to the UK? I’m just about to set up my wormery and could do with being able to tackle such questions at the allotment!”

You may think that the following post is what you would expect from the company selling the worms but I assure you this is correct!

I was surprised to read about your friends comments, all the worms sold by Worms Direct and all other companies in the UK (that I am aware of) are all indiginous species and have lived together since time began! Tiger worms are indiginous, Dendrobaena are indiginous, Lumbricus terrestris are indiginous and all can be found living together all over the northern hemisphere! I suspect that your friends identification of worms has got muddled somewhere along the way or the information she/he has is incorrect, this does highlight the dangers of repeating incorrect information, anyhow – no problems.
If you or your friend need further clarification, please come back but preferably with latin names of the worms in question as it is usually using common names that causes confusion. I hope this has answered your question and put your mind at rest,

Regards, Nigel.

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Crisis as Our Songbirds Disappear From Farmland

BIRDSONG may soon be lost for ever from the sound of the countryside, a shock report revealed last night.
Populations of farmland birds have plummeted to their lowest levels for over 40 years and breeding pairs are 52 per cent fewer than in 1966.
The crisis, which particularly affects species such as skylarks, grey partridges and lapwings, is likely to get worse, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds warned.

Havens

The decline, charted by the Department for the Environment, has occurred despite grants for farmers to work the land in a more environmentally friendly manner.
The figures do not include the removal earlier this year of fields set aside and left to run wild, which had provided safe havens for many birds.
Between 1970 and 2006 the number of corn buntings declined by 89 per cent and turtle doves by 86 per cent.
RSPB agricultural policy officer Gareth Morgan said:
“The further drop in the numbers of some farmland birds is deeply troubling.
“This is a credit crunch for birds. We know that the general intensification of farming, driven by the Common Agricultural Policy, has accounted for the majority of the decline in farmland birds, but with good conservation support now available for farmers this year’s results are still dismaying.” His colleague, Grahame Madge, said the decline was already changing the sound of rural spring when birds such as skylarks and turtle doves sing to attract mates. “The orchestra is definitely getting quieter.
In some areas the variety of birds is nowhere near as good as it was in 1970.” The National Farmers’ Union vice-president, Paul Temple, said last night that it was “much too simplistic” to lay the blame for decreasing bird numbers at the door of farmland management.
He added: “Other elements, such as climate change, encroaching urbanisation and increased traffic, will all be contributory factors, ”
By John Ingham Environment Editor

Thanks to the Daily Express