Last Updated on January 19, 2021 by Nancie
Sometimes a feeder works great right out of the box. But sometimes you need to make adjustments. I use Erva’s Starling Proof Mealworm Feeder to offer dried mealworms to Eastern Bluebirds and Carolina Wrens. I like this bluebird feeder very much, but I think it is designed for live mealworms rather than dried. You might not think that would make a difference but it does. I needed to make a change to use Erva’s mealworm feeder with dried mealworms. (Don’t worry, it’s easy.)
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Without alteration, this bluebird feeder keeps European Starlings about 90% out of dried mealworms. When used as-is, the bluebirds and wrens get the majority, which is hugely better than anything else I tried for offering dried mealworms previously. But, wanting to more completely block out starlings, I’ve tweaked the feeder . . . using a carryout container! This made all the difference.
Mealworms Around The Edges
Erva’s bluebird feeder is a solid feeder. Its cage design keeps starlings from accessing the little glass bowl in the middle where the mealworms are placed. If I was offering live mealworms, I feel fairly confident that this would indeed work, because starlings can’t reach mealworms confined to the bowl. The glass surface should keep live mealworms from climbing out.
The problem is that I am offering dried mealworms in Erva’s bluebird feeder and the bluebirds and wrens make a mess with them. They pull them out of the bowl and fling them around as they choose mealworms. After a few visits, the floor of the cage tends to be littered with dried mealworms and there is more on the floor than in the bowl. Starlings take advantage of this by hanging on the side, sticking their head in and grabbing the odds and ends of mealworms around the edges.
Closing Off Some of The Cage
You might wonder, as I did, if you could cut off access to the cage floor by covering the bottom row of the mesh cage with something. I tried this, using layers of my favorite exterior grade super strong Scotch Super 88 black vinyl electrical tape. Didn’t work. Starlings simply reach in through the next row up.
Creating a Saucer
My next attempt to fix this was to use a clear round take-out container cover to try and contain the scattered mealworms, attaching it between the glass bowl and the feeder floor using the same screw that secures the bowl’s holder. It was a bit like a saucer with a tea cup.
This did help keep more of the mealworms in toward the feeder’s center and out of reach. But because the lid was fairly shallow, quite a lot of them could still slip to the outer edges where starlings could get them.
Swapping Out the Bowl
My last attempt works better. This time, I used the deeper bottom of the takeout container and removed the glass bowl and its metal holder entirely. Instead, I carefully cut a very small hole in the center of the takeout container bottom. I kept the nut and screw that come with the feeder to hold the metal bowl holder in place, and used it to instead screw the takeout container to the floor of the feeder.
The temptation of course is to now put MORE mealworms into this larger container, but that would defeat the purpose. The idea here is to put just a couple handfuls of dried mealworms into the wider deeper container so their level within the container is much lower and they are more likely to stay within the takeout container.
My Bluebird Feeder Tweak Worked!
Bluebirds and wrens seem to have no problem with my modification. The takeout container I used is 7 1/4” in diameter (or 6” inside the rim) and is 1 3/4” deep. It is one of the fairly common heavy black ones and not flimsy. It is solid enough that it can stand up to a bird sitting on the edge. (Occasionally they instead choose to sit inside the container.)
The birds zip in and eat mealworms as usual. The result though, is consistently fewer mealworms along the edges where starlings can grab them. There are almost no mealworms on the floor now so there is not much for a starling to eat. Between this and the weather getting warmer, the starling crowd seems to have moved on at last.
If you are looking for a bluebird feeder to use with dried mealworms, check out my review of Erva’s Bluebird Mealworm Feeder. If you need more tips on starling problems, see my post on: Strategies to Keep Starlings Off Feeders.
Find the Erva Starling Proof Mealworm Feeder on Amazon.
PS: I’ve started tossing a few peanuts in with the dried mealworms. These don’t bother the bluebirds and it gives smaller birds, like Tufted Titmouse and Carolina Wren, a chance at peanuts the larger birds usually don’t share.
More Posts About Bluebirds
Attracting Eastern Bluebirds: A Bird Watcher’s Journal.
Also See: Which Feeders Attract Which Birds?
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5 thoughts on “Erva’s Bluebird Feeder & Dried Mealworms”
Hi you lovely animal lovers ❤️
I’ve read that you have to soak dried mealworms in hot water for an hour or so before offering to birds. Apparently the chicks in the nest rely on succulent food because they don’t drink water, and may die of dehydration. I’m soaking mine now
I have heard of soaking dried mealworms but more as an optional thing to make them more attractive to birds. I’m not a vet nor have any skills/knowledge of hand-feeding baby birds. But when adult bluebirds come to my yard to eat dried mealworms, they often visit the birdbath afterwards to wash it down. Baby birds in the nest wouldn’t have that option of course. But would Mom or Dad bluebird bring something to their babies that they couldn’t successfully eat? I’m not sure.
When bluebirds nested in our nest box, I watched them going back and forth hunting for caterpillars, etc to feed to their young. I suspect that the dried mealworms they took were, at least at first, eaten by mom and dad bluebird. I would think all that hunting would be tiring and the mealworms I offer would give them a quick boost. But I can’t swear that they didn’t actually feed some to the nestlings. (I don’t have a camera in the box to be able to see that.)
I have watched bluebird parents bring groups of older fledglings to the dried mealworm feeder. At first they settled the fledglings in a nearby tree and flew back and forth to feed them. Then they settled them on the outside of the feeder itself. Eventually the fledglings started going in and out of the feeder to eat. Of course by that time the fledglings could also stop off at the birdbath to wash it down too.
In my yard, the bluebirds are only interested in the dried mealworms during cold winter months and in the spring. During the summer and early fall, I don’t see them come to my feeders. I suspect that during that period they can find live food of their own that is much more tasty. If I were offering live mealworms, maybe they’d come by all year around but I haven’t done the live ones.
I would be interested to hear how your soaked mealworms do? When the dried mealworms I put out get wet from rain, they kind of break down into little segments. I actually usually toss them out when that happens but thinking about it, I do wonder what the bluebirds think about the wet mealworm bits when that happens. Hmmm.
Thanks for your comment and insights.
I noticed in one of your photos that the feeder is sitting on a table. Would this feeder work as a table feeder if I remove the bottom screw and the medal holder? I was hoping to replace the current bowl that the feeder comes with, with my own larger glass bowl that would not need to be screwed in? Most of the photos I’ve seen of this feeder, it’s either hanging or mounted to a pole. Thanks so much for your reply.
Hmmm. That’s an interesting question. I haven’t actually tried this, so I’m speculating here.
As you can see in the pictures, the feeder comes with a fairly bulky screw in the bottom that holds the small glass bowl that comes with the feeder. With this screw in place, the feeder would likely tilt a bit when seated on a table. (It’s not likely it would stay balanced on the screw when in use.) But obviously, if you remove the screw, then it ought to sit a bit more level. Still, the bottom of the feeder isn’t completely flat. But I’m guessing it would probably be flat enough.
One potential problem might be that on a table, you might get squirrels or other critters trying to get into it. And starlings can get pretty aggressive about trying to get into a feeder, especially when it is full of mealworms which they LOVE. They still shouldn’t be able to get into the cage, but depending on the weight of the replacement bowl, they might be able to move the feeder around in the process. It seems possible it could get knocked off a table. . . Or not.
You might try it and if you do find that the feeder gets moved, you could use the screw hole and (probably) a different screw to attach it to something like a heavy piece of wood to give it more weight to stay in place. That might also be helpful if you find the feeder tilting a bit on a flat surface. An alternative might be to use the hole to attach it to a mounting plate on a metal pole or to a fence post instead of a table.
It also seems possible that a persistent squirrel might be able to lift the lid of the feeder up. (Because it is designed to be hung and not sit on a table, the lid is usually locked down by the hangers.) To thwart that, you might need to use wire or some type of tie to lock the top down while in use. Obviously to refill the feeder, you would need to be able to “unlock” it temporarily. Again, you might try it first and then make changes if you find it is needed.
Anyway, I do think you could make it work, although it is possible you might need to make some adjustments.
Good luck! If you try it, I’d love to hear how it goes.
PS: Talking with my husband about this: He adds that if you *did* want to hang it, it is technically possible to drill a hole in glass. You’d need the right drill bit, use lots of water and go really slowly to keep it from cracking. Alternatively, you might glue it to the bottom using an adhesive that works for glass and metal. The downside of gluing it would be that you couldn’t take the bowl out for cleaning. Basically, if you hung it, you’d want the bowl locked down in place because if it shifted close to the cage then starlings and other birds with long beaks could just sit on the cage and eat through it. (I know that isn’t what you were asking and that you are looking at the table option.)
Thank you so very much for your quick response and all of your marvelous ideas! I’m even more excited about the feeder, and I look forward to implementing some of these great ideas. I have a robin who recently found my mealworms, and she’s chasing all my smaller birds away. I’m hoping this feeder will solve this problem. Thanks again for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!!!