Do Squirrels Eat Mealworms? [5 Tips To Stop Them!]

Mealworms are a highly nutritious food for many different species of birds. They’re high in protein and amino acids, so they are beneficial to many insect loving birds that come and visit your feeders. Therefore, many bird enthusiasts will happily purchase mealworms to put out for the various birds that visit their backyard feeders. But, have you ever wondered whether squirrels eat mealworms?

If your mealworms are disappearing faster than you were expecting, it could be the local squirrel population that’s feeding on them. You see, squirrels are actually omnivores and will eat a variety of different foods such as nuts, plants, bird eggs and, of course, mealworms. They’ve even been known to feast on mice. As long as a food source is readily available and won’t cause harm to the squirrel, it will eat it.

Whether the mealworms are fresh or dried, they make a tasty high-protein meal for a squirrel. Especially, one who is breeding, about to give birth or looking after and feeding babies.

What Are Mealworms?

Mealworms are actually the larvae of the flour beetles (Tenebrio molitor). They belong to the same family as the ladybug and the rose chafer. These beetles and their larva can be found almost everywhere in the world.

The mealworms are actually the second life stage of the beetle and are what hatch from the eggs that the adult beetles lay. They can live in this state for anywhere from 6 weeks up to 9 months depending on the climate and the available food sources.

They’re extremely easy to breed and are commonly used in many different kinds of pet food. Especially, food that is designed for birds and reptiles. Mealworms can be purchased from pet food stores either as live larva or as dried ones.

There are even kits available that allow you to breed your own mealworms at home.

Will Squirrels Eat Both Live And Dried Mealworms?

In general, squirrels don’t really care whether the mealworms are fresh and live or whether they’re dried. The squirrels are just not that fussy when it comes to a free meal that’s easy to get to and readily available.

Whether the mealworms are fresh or dry, they still contain a high amount of protein, amino acids and other things that are vital for a healthy diet. In fact, mealworms are as nutritious to squirrels as fish are to humans.

However, bear in mind that dried mealworms aren’t quite as beneficial to birds when compared to live ones. But for many people, buying and storing dried mealworms is much easier than dealing with live ones.

Remember when feeding dry mealworms, that you should have plenty of water available for the birds as they have to re-hydrate the mealworms in their stomach before being able to digest them. That’s why some people will actually soak them in warm water overnight before putting them out for the birds.

How Do You Stop Squirrels From Eating The Mealworms You’ve Put Out For The Birds

Even though squirrels are quite cute and fun to watch flitting around your garden, the reason that you put mealworms out is to attract certain birds to your yard. Therefore, if the squirrels eat all the mealworms, the birds will miss out.

Fortunately, there are number of things that you can do to stop those naughty squirrels from eating all of your mealworms.

1. Lace Them With Chili Or Cayenne Pepper

Chilies contain a compound called capsaicin which is what makes them so hot. Because squirrels are mammals, they can taste the heat in the chilies and they don’t like it at all. Even the smell of the chilies will turn them away. It might take a couple of tries for the squirrels to realize that your mealworms give them a burning sensation in the mouth but eventually, they’ll stay away from them.

The best way to do this is to just sprinkle your mealworms with some chili powder. Don’t worry though because the birds are not affected by capsaicin. Their taste receptors are very different to those in mammals and that’s why many bird food manufacturers add chili to their mixes.

2. Make The Bird Feeders Inaccessible

Another way to stop squirrels from eating your mealworms is to make it so that the squirrels can’t easily access your feeder. You see, squirrels are opportunistic feeders and really don’t want to have to work too hard to access available food. Therefore, if you make it hard for the squirrels to get to the mealworms, they’ll soon give up and find an easier food source.

One way to do this is to add a squirrel baffle both above and below the feeder. Generally, these baffles are mainly suitable for feeders that are mounted on a pole. You can buy feeder poles that already have the baffles on them or you can also buy the baffles separately to attach to a pole that you already have.

The bottom baffle should be placed around four feet above the ground. This ensures that the squirrel is not able to jump over it from the ground and then climb up the pole.

It’s also a good idea to keep your feeder away from nearby trees and shrubs as squirrels are really good jumpers. In fact, they’re able to jump a massive 10 feet horizontally.

3. Purchase A Special Squirrel-Proof Feeder

There are a variety of feeders on the market that are designed to be totally squirrel proof. Many of these have cages with holes that are large enough for small birds but not large enough for a squirrel to fit through.

There are also special feeders that are weight sensitive. These feeders cut off the food supply when a certain weight is detected. Because squirrels weight a great deal more than small birds, these feeder are quite effective at keeping the squirrels out of your mealworms.

4. Consider Feeding The Squirrels Separately

If the squirrels are constantly eating your mealworms, it may mean that there is a lack of other suitable food sources for them. In this case, why not provide them with their own feeder and give them some nutritious food of their own.

Place this feeder far away from the bird feeder and fill it with things like sunflower seeds and corn. Make sure that this feeder is much more accessible than the one with the mealworms. This will keep both the birds and squirrels that visit your yard happy and well fed.

5. Change Out The Mealworms For Something That Squirrels Don’t Like

If you’re constantly having problems with the squirrels eating all the mealworms that you put out for the birds, consider changing out these for some bird foods that squirrels don’t like. These include white proso millet, safflower seeds and nyjer seeds.

Once the squirrels realize that you only add foods that they don’t like to your feeders, they’ll quickly lose interest and go and look for a tastier food source. Once the squirrels have gone away, you can start putting out the mealworms again.

You might have to alternate the mealworms with the other foods a number of times on a regular basis if the squirrels persist in coming back.

Frequently Asked Questions

What animals will eat mealworms?

Besides birds, many different animals will eat mealworms. These include mice, rats, squirrels, raccoons, frogs, snakes and even cockroaches.

What birds will mealworms attract?

Many different species of backyard birds are attracted by mealworms. These include cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, American robins and even woodpeckers.

Do pigeons eat mealworms?

Pigeons and doves prefer to feed on grains and are not that keen on mealworms.

Do mockingbirds eat dried mealworms?

Mockingbirds love feasting on mealworms whether they’re fresh or dried. They also enjoy seeds and suet.

Do hummingbirds eat mealworms?

Although hummingbirds eat a variety of different insects, they are not really fond of mealworms.

Do you need a special feeder for mealworms?

Mealworms can be offered in a variety of different feeders that you would normally use for bird seed. Just remember though, that the feeder should be squirrel-proof if you want to feed the birds and not the squirrels.

Final Thoughts

You might be surprised to learn that squirrels do eat mealworms, In fact, they absolutely love them because they’re high source of protein especially for breeding squirrels. And, the squirrels aren’t too fussy if the mealworms are live or if they’re dried. They’ll make a beeline for your bird feeders as soon as you put those mealworms out.

There are many ways that you can keep the squirrels out of the mealworms so that the birds are left with some to feast on. These include squirrel-proof feeders, pole baffles or sprinkling the mealworms with chili powder or cayenne pepper.

Or, you could offer the squirrels their own feeder and fill it with all the things that they love such as sunflower seeds and corn. This will keep the squirrels happy and well-fed and they’ll leave the mealworms for the birds instead.

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