In the last edition of Nature's Home magazine, in the section where I get to visit a gardener who is doing amazing things for wildlife, I included a letter from a family who had made a lovely bug house with Hedgehog nestbox incorporated in its base. I thought they had been really creative, and they clearly get a lot of pleasure from the Hedgehogs that come to visit.

However, what I failed to register was where they said that they feed their Hedgehogs on mealworms.

Quite rightly, several people have picked me up on the fact that I should have pointed out that mealworms should not be fed to Hedgehogs.

I don't know how, but it is a fact that had passed me by. Maybe it is because I have no Hedgehogs to feed in my garden, despite all my efforts to make it a great place for any that may come to visit.

It reminds me of when I didn't notice that Virginia Creeper had made it onto Schedule 9 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act as an Invasive Non-native Species. And it took me years to become aware that most flower bulbs are dusted with insecticides, unless you buy organically. Sometimes in life, you miss something important.

But miss it I did, and it is really important to correct it.

The fact is that Hedgehogs LOVE mealworms. BUT that doesn't mean they are good for them!

  • First of all, the Hedgehogs are prone to becoming (effectively) addicted to them.
  • And, secondly, their bodies need calcium to counteract the high phosphorus levels in mealworms. If the rest of their diet doesn't include enough calcium, it gets stripped from their bones and teeth, and can cause serious health problems.

It is possible that in small amounts, mealworms are not a problem. But the safest thing is not to feed mealworms at all.

Wet, meat-based cat and dog food, cat biscuits, and of course proper Hedgehog food mixes are what to go for, such as these here in the RSPB online shop.

And remember - no saucers of milk. Ever!

Of course, having a garden that is rich in natural food for them should be the starting point for a healthy diet. 

If you know of someone who is feeding Hedgehogs, they may well know all these things, but it is always good to check. Who knows - some of this advice may have passed them by, too.

And thank you to those who contacted me to let me know. We plan to print something in the next magazine to ensure that the message is clear.

And we can't finish without a Hedgehog, although sadly it is not one from my garden. It is the only one I've seen alive this year, a long way from home, on the Isle of Man.

Anonymous