MEALWORMS AND MOM

Once upon a time about 45 years ago, Owen wanted geckos. They were popular with kids his age. You could buy a couple of them at the pet store for a couple of dollars. The real money was spent buying the terrarium, food, and all the other things you needed to set up a place for tiny baby geckoes to live.

I told him I had nothing against geckoes, but we had cats and they were serious hunters. I was pretty sure those little geckoes would ultimately get eaten by one or more Siamese cats. He was sure he could protect them.

Bluebirds eat ONLY insects. No seeds.

I bought three little green geckoes and a terrarium. Lights. A cover for the terrarium which was supposed to keep the cats out and the lizards in. Sand. Rocks. A little cave-like rocky thing in which they could hide. It turned out they needed to eat live food. Meal worms. It was about a dollar for enough mealworms to feed the tiny geckoes for weeks. The container was plastic and had a cap. You had to put the container in the refrigerator. It wasn’t a very secure container, but I put it on a shelf where I thought it might stay undisturbed until I needed it.

Robins are also insectivores only.

Sometime shortly thereafter, my mother dropped by to visit. In those days, we all lived — us, my brother and his family, and my parents — a couple of miles apart. It wasn’t unusual to just drop by if you were in the area. My mother went to the fridge to get something to drink and discovered…

Worms.

Live, crawling, mealworms. The cup had fallen over and there were worms in my fridge. No matter how hard I tried to explain to Mom that these were actually supposed to be food for the geckoes, she remained unconvinced. For the rest of my life, my mother was sure I had worms in my refrigerator.

Although they eat seeds, these little Chickadees are happiest eating mealworms.

Shortly thereafter, the cats figured out how to get the top off the terrarium and ate the geckoes. We didn’t replace them.

I have always disliked insects and been terrified of spiders. Over the years, I’ve managed to overcome most of the terror. As long as it’s not poisonous or one of those gigantic wolf spiders who have serious biting power. I’ve even gotten to a point whereby I accept the presence of huge spiders as long as they stay in the woods and not my house. I manage to resist the temptation to run screaming to anyone who looks less afraid than I feel.

Photo: Owen Kraus – These huge Pileated Woodpeckers are exclusively insectivores. Smaller woodpeckers eat insects and seeds, though they are happiest debugging an old tree.

I can buy bags of dried mealworms to feed the birds. They need the protein and at least they are already dead. So imagine my surprise when we were about to put fresh seed in the bins and I realized that there were things crawling around on the lids. “Those look like mealworms,” I said to Owen.

He looked. “Yup. Mealworms. Definitely.”

I shrugged. “They probably came in that last big bag of seed,” I said. Mostly I was trying to figure out how to clean those big bins which would not fit in the sink. “Pity, ” I commented, “we can’t just feed them to the birds. I’m sure they would think this was a luxury dinner.”

We couldn’t put the fresh seed into the containers without cleaning them out, so I finally took them out to the deck and hosed them down, then left them there to dry out over night. As far as I know, it’s not supposed to rain tonight, though these days, you never know. Moreover, who’s to say the new bag of seed doesn’t have its own mealworms? It’s not unusual to get bugs with seeds. The birds don’t care and probably prefer live bugs. Dinner on the hoof.

I realized while I was never going to be fond of creepy crawlies, I had lost (mostly) my crazed fear. Maybe it’s living in the country where there are an astonishing number of insects. Mostly, we try to keep them out of our foundation (NO termites, please) and food because we aren’t birds. We prefer our food dead, cooked, and bug-free.

No matter how it happened, I seem to have come a very long way without realizing it. As long as I don’t have to contend with scorpions.



Categories: Anecdote, Birds, Blackstone Valley, bluebirds, Chickadee, Photography, Wildlife, Woodpeckers

Tags: , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. well scorpions wouldn’t go down well with me either. Worms in bird seeds – I wouldn’t be happy but on the other hand, why not?! In the fridge, not really please.
    When I was a child, we collected banana boxes for the next move. Amongst the plastic sheets, I found a maybe 6cm large scorpion. I was terrified but but the box over it and called my mum (as well all the 10’000 children from our neighbourhood).
    We weren’t allowed to play with banana boxes ever after.

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    • In Israel, there were a lot of scorpions. They live in the deserts here, too. The biggest black ones are the least poisonous and the small, very fast yellow and brown ones can actually kill you. When Owen was a kid, he and his friends used to go out in boots and squash them. Kids are different. They thought it was fun (ew!). I probably would have fainted had I known.

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  2. Oh my gosh ! Creepy crawlies in the fridge ? Your mother was still better, at least she didn’t run out of the house because that would be precisely my reaction if I would’ve at her place. Birds are very beautiful. The similar one in brown black is visiting our garden now a days. Yesterday I spotted her but unfortunately had left my phone back at home. I will try to catch her again tomorrow but it’s getting warmer here since it has stopped raining. Strange weather games this year.

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    • Very strange weather indeed. Warm, wet, and windy. It has rained almost every day for months and everything out there is mud. It was supposed to get cold, but it didn’t. It’s still warm. Good thing I took so many pictures in years when we had a real autumn!

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      • Yes, those gorgeous ones which you had clicked long back during one of your long road trips. How much I had enjoyed the virtual tour through your lens but I m sorry I forgot the name of the place. All I remember that it was a hell long trip and you guys had gone really really far on an isolated and most beautiful valley. Particularly one where your car was the only one for miles and miles. Absolutely no one. You had captioned. Marilyn, You can repost few from that collection one of these days for past squares. It had everything from sky, bright, trees, light, perspective…..all themes. If u can’t even then it’s ok. I shall find it in archives. Much love.

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        • It sounds like Arizona. Or that really LONG trip from northern Maine to southern Vermont. There are tons of north-south roads, but no major east-west road and I don’t know why. So that trip from Maine to Vermont took almost 7 hours. It would have been faster to go home and drive BACK to Vermont than to take the slow local roads. On the other hand, those were beautiful roads — and it was autumn, so even more beautiful.

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