Behold the mighty mealworm!
'Tenebrio molitor' aka Mealworms aka Darkling Beetles present a very unique opportunity to the permaculturist entrepreneur and homesteader.
The bugs are favored by birds (including chickens, of course), fish, and reptiles alike as a wonderfully wiggly protein-rich tasty snack.
Furthermore, there is a growing market for insects as a crunchy noodly people-food even, for those whose stomachs can actually stomach the thought of eating bugs.
Insects' high feed conversion ratio make them attractive from an environmental and cost perspective.
The Mealworms have yet another super power however, in their ability to consume styrofoam.
So in addition to concepts such as those proposed by "StyrofoamMom"
the beetles present a recycling and waste disposal solution or opportunity which helps to actually "obtain a yield."
Yes, you read that correctly, these critters actually eat polystyrene.
In late March 2015, my dearest green-thumbed mother, also backyard bird enthusiastic, purchased 1000 mealworms for ~$10, including a bird feeder, through a promotional deal through Wild Birds Unlimited. She took them out of that refrigerator and into her home and heart, as well as into the local birds' beaks and bellies.
After a quick trip to Bug Lots...*correction, BIG LOTS discount store...for a small (less than 12" by 6") set of 3 stacking transparent plastic bins, I was able to make a home for these wiggly pioneers.
*Simple frass bug bin:*
-Take a series of plastic stacking bins.
-Cut out the bottom of most of one or more of the bins.
-Cut a scrap of window screening to size.
-Apply hot glue to the window screen/box bottom edges.
Note: Frass is mealworm beetle or larvae poop, a good garden fertilizer. Science is incomplete regarding HBCD ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hexabromocyclododecane
) toxicity. From what I've gathered about him, Paul hates toxicky things, and would probably recommend never using mealworm frass or bugs as edibles. For more on that discussion and others, check out posts over here ( https://permies.com/t/40/50485/Mealworms-Eating-Styrofoam#1164735
*Feeding and care:*
-Ensure the bugs have oxygen via mesh screen, but cannot crawl out of their bug bins.
-The larvae and beetles primary food is originally oatmeal bran.
-Moisture and nutrients are obtained by the bugs via discarded veggies or fruit scraps (carrot, potato peel, etc)
-Styrofoam trash can be added in increasing amounts, and will be consumed entirely with no (visible) trace other than normal frass.
-Life stages include
2. Tiny tiny larvae ---> Larger wormy mealworm larvae.
3. Cacoon-like white Pupae.
4. Lively Darkling beetle. --> mating, repeat...
-Frass is sifted out and used as fertilizer or discarded.
Pupae can be separated and placed in the upper bins to hatch new beetles.
-Worms can be fed to critters, or freeze dried, or added to new oatmeal bran filled cups to propagate.
Over the years, my mom's pet bugs and beetles have eaten untold (though small) amounts of styrofoam, including trash removed from local wetlands and river waterways.
As of September, 2020, these bugs have reproduced through countless life cycles, with minimal support. They have been forgotten about on vacations, and yet they persist, +5years later, consuming styrofoam every year.
*Possibilities for Permies*
-Waste removal: How much styrofoam (volume-wise) will they eat?
-What mass of bugs can be produced per what unit of bin volume and feed mass?
-What volume of frass is produced?
-How to neutralize styrofoam at a larger scale?
-How to propogate and make more with the least effort?