Mealworms are small insects with substantially big reputations. Not only are they sold
as popular street foods in countries such as Hong Kong and China, but they have
merged with beloved ingredients such as chocolate and peanut butter to become
expensive delicacies in the United States, Denmark, and the Netherlands. They are
making such a revolution in the health food market, that some even predict most
families will have their own mealworm grower in the near future.1
These worms, which are technically not really worms, but the larvae manifestations of
darkling beetles, are far from unfamiliar in the pet world. Geckos, lizard, snakes, toads
and some of the larger fish species are all known to love their mealworm nibbles.
Here are just a few of the significant benefits of mealworms:
- They are remarkably high in protein, fiber, mineral and vitamin content – especially vitamin-B12 – and are therefore an effective way to increase the nutrient content of any meal.
- They are relatively inexpensive, especially in comparison to meat.
- They are surprisingly easy to breed yourself: they take up little space, can be fed from your garbage bin, and are tough and disease resistant.
- Environmentalists are excited about what prospects mealworms hold for the future: they can feed almost anything, feed off almost anything, and are even able to break down certain plastics and polystyrene into organic matter.
But, are these squirmy little morsels of superfood safe to feed to your cockatiel? Out in the wild, reptiles live on diets consisting mostly of insects. Cockatiels, on the other hand prefer a more plant-based diet. Being one of the smaller parrot species indigenous to Australia, they typically forage for fruits, berries, vegetables and small seeds. However, they do tend to help themselves to the occasional insect, provided they are not too big.
In captivity, cockatiels are often fed small amounts of lean meat such as turkey or chicken – some even recommend this, as it helps to maintain healthy iodine levels. Since mealworms are nutritious, non-aggressive, clean and readily available, they are therefore a great choice for supplementing your cockatiel’s diet!
Tips for adding mealworms to your cockatiel’s diet:
Use Mealworms As Part Of A Balanced Diet
Variety remains key when it comes to feeding your cockatiel. Mealworms should be
provided in small amounts and form only one component of a well-balanced diet. If
your bird becomes obsessed with it, or starts eating only the mealworms, remove them
from its menu for a few days and return them in small amounts.
The Fresher, The Better
When buying mealworms, try to opt for the live or frozen variety. Only purchase dried
mealworms from trusted brands and sellers and make sure to check the product for an
expiration date. Tinned mealworms – which are flash cooked – are also available.
These are mostly intended for reptiles, and often contain preservatives, salt or other
additives, so make sure to check the label before purchasing them. Snacks or pellets
containing mealworms are also on the market, but – once again – check the ingredient
list carefully as these are seldom produced with parrots in mind.
Serve Them Safely
Food is always served best in the manner that nature does. Thus, cockatiels might
enjoy “foraging” for their live mealworms or even playing with them. If you find
feeding live food to your bird somewhat distressing, do not panic. Mealworms can be
prepared by drying, steaming or lightly boiling or roasting them. Serving them raw is
also fine – if you do not have the heart to kill them in a hands-on manner, you can
freeze and thaw them.
Adding flavoring is not essential, but if you do, make sure to add only parrot-safe
ingredients; a sprinkle of cinnamon or lemon juice is a good choice. Never fry your
cockatiel’s mealworms – or any of its food, for that matter – in oil!
Live mealworms rarely carry diseases, but they can spoil just as easily as other meats
when dead or cooked, so make sure to remove uneaten mealworms after about four
hours – or sooner, under high environmental temperatures
Take Advantage Of The Benefits Of Mealworms.
Breeding your own mealworms is easy and will ensure you always have fresh stock.
They can feed off almost anything, which means there will be less kitchen scraps going
to waste! Environmentalists even recommend adding mealworms to your own diet:
they have already earned the label “superfood” in the nutritional world and their
impact on the environment is far less taxing than that of cows and other cattle, despite
being fairly equal in nutrient content. Unlike parrots, mealworms are not picky or
sensitive eaters; they will be more than happy to eat your cockatiel’s left-over fruit and
vegetable chop, so it is really a win-win situation!
Mealworms raised in pet shops are often fed a hormone that prevents the larvae to
transform into beetles.6 You will probably recognize these worms in the shop, as they
grow unusually large! It is therefore recommended to only eat the ones you breed
yourself, especially if you follow an organic lifestyle.
If you have a cockatiel of your own – or any parrot – you will know that they can be
extremely fussy eaters and sometimes show little interest in new foods. Parrot owners
admit that mealworms are not an easy introduction into your feathered companion’s
diet, especially when served live. But, when considering the benefits of mealworms, it
is worth it to keep trying. Prepare it in different ways, combine it with different foods,
or let your bird watch other parrots or yourself eat them. Cockatiels are known to be
toddler-like. What they ignore today they might splatter all over their perch tomorrow!
Be creative; if you can convince them to play with it, they probably try eating it at some
Mealworms can be quite an exciting addition to your cockatiel’s diet – and your own!
They certainly might take some getting used to, but when considering the long-term
benefits, they are definitely worthy of experimentation!