Business Opportunity? Start a mealworm business

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I was at a Petsmart over the weekend with my daughters, so they could ooh and ah at some cats and kittens and look at the displays of fish, when I noticed a tiny little sign next to an empty terrarium, mentioning that there is a national mealworm shortage.

I had no idea. Seems with all of the houses foreclosing, the economy tanking and a new president coming in, the media has missed the mealworm shortage.

That said, it is a little troubling on levels beyond the business implications if you consider that we have a national honeybee shortage and a possible acorn shortage, and if you let your mind wander, you can really wonder what's happening to the world. But I digress.

Apparently, nobody seems to know why there's a mealworm shortage, or at least that's the consensus in the birding blogosphere. Birding enthusiasts, or birders,as they call themselves, are pretty concerned, since mealworms are often used as food in bird feeders. Pet owners also typically give mealworms to reptiles, not to mention caged birds. Mealworms are high in protein, so it's a great arrangement for everyone, except the mealworm.

You can buy them at pet stores, fishing and tackle shops and on the Internet. I have no idea how rich you can actually get selling mealworms, but the startup capital seems modest (you can learn more about raising mealworms at this ehow.com tutorial), and as noted, we have a shortage, which has been going on at least since the late spring and early summer of 2008, judging from all of the birding blogs I've looked through, like this brief post from BirdChick.com, whose motto is "to show the world that you can be a birder without being a geek."

So we don't have enough mealworms in supply, and there is a demand. If you go into the mealworm business, and you ask really nicely, maybe you can even get Petsmart as a client.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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