The mealy worm, also called “mealworm” or “meal worm,” is a type of bait for fish, reptiles, and birds. The mealy worm is the most popular type of bait worm, along with another worm, appropriately referred to as the “bait worm.” The mealy worm is the larva of the mealworm beetle, which is a species of the darkling beetle. Because of their high protein content, mealy worms are mostly used as a food source, but they can also be used for composting. The market for meal worms is so demanding that they can be purchased at just about any pet store. Believe it or not, the market for mealy worms/bait worms in the U.S. is just as big as the market in most other parts of the world. It is estimated that in the state of Maine alone, more than 200 tons of mealy worms/bait worms are produced each year and in the UK, more than 700 tons are produced each year for both commercial and personal use. Japan, on the other hand, actually imports more than 600 tons each year from around the world. The mealy worm/bait worm market overall is estimated in the billions and billions of dollars each year. Mealy worms come in large containers filled with bran or oatmeal. Bait worms are typically used for fish bait, but they can also be used for personal use compost and/or in farming or commercial compost.
The most popular type of mealy worm/bait worm is an earthworm called the “night crawler.” Night crawlers are typically found on the top of soil at night, hence the name “night crawler.” They are also called “dew worms” because their numbers tend to increase when the ground is moist. Night crawlers are quite large in size. They can measure up to ten inches in length and up to 0.39 inches in diameter. The night crawler, whose scientific name is Lumbricus terrestris, has a unique dark colored “head” with a light colored flattened tail. At first glance you won’t notice it, but the night crawlers body is covered with “setae,” which are tiny bristles that help the worm move through the dirt and it also helps the worm anchor its body when it comes time to protect itself against predators.
The night crawler has a protein packed segmented body. Each segment is filled with fluid and the segments surround the worm’s digestive tract. The digestive tract is the same length as the worm, whatever size he may be. The night crawler has a brain and hearts, but it has no eyes, ears, or lungs. They absorb oxygen through their smooth and slimy skin, which is always moist, and they “hear” through their ability to feel vibrations on the ground. Although they do not have eyes, night crawlers are very sensitive to light. If they remain in the light for too long, the results can be fatal. The same is true if the worm’s body dries out. In the sunlight, it is highly possible that the worm’s skin can dry out, so if they are not buried deep within the earth or the lower layers of top soil, during the day, they can be found under rocks or bricks or underneath leaves or debris.
Whether you are purchasing worms to use as bait or for compost or farming, you can purchase mealy worms from just about anywhere. You can purchase them at pet stores, both large and small, from live bait and fish stores, and through literally hundreds of sellers and retailers online. Mealy worms are relatively cheap too. You can expect to spend anywhere from $35-$50 for 500 live night crawlers in person or shipped to your door.
All About Worms is always free, always reader-supported. Your tips via CashApp, Venmo, or Paypal are appreciated! Receipts will come from ISIPP Publishing.