Are Superworms Mealworms? (Main Differences)

Superworms and mealworms are so physically similar that most people can’t tell them apart. What makes it even more confusing is the fact that they are used for the same purposes in most cases. However, you can easily tell one worm from the other with a keen eye.

When you combine girth and length, a superworm is five times bigger than a mealworm. The main reason for the size difference is that a super worm’s shell, or chitin, is larger than a mealworm’s. They have less meat as a result, but more fiber, calcium, and fat.

Another key difference is the inability to refrigerate superworms to maintain them in a state similar to hibernation. Superworms also have a head spike they can use to ward off predators and a stronger jaw for biting. 

Overall, there are a few differences between the nutrition provided by mealworms and superworms. Superworms, however, can give slightly greater value.

Superworm and Mealworm

What are superworms?

Superworms are the larvae of the Zophobas Morio darkling beetle. They are a common feeder insect for many medium-sized to big insectivorous and omnivorous amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, and other exotic pets.

What are mealworms?

Mealworms are the larvae of the Tenebrio Molitor darkling beetle. They are a good food source for many medium to tiny insectivorous and omnivorous invertebrates, reptiles (like turtles), amphibians, and other exotic pets. They are also frequently dried and fed to birds.

Superworms vs. mealworms

The main differences and similarities between them include the following:

Nutrient content

Nutrient Superworm Mealworm 
Moisture 57.9%61.9%

Mealworms have low nutrition, unfavorable calcium: phosphorus ratio, and a hard, chitin-rich exoskeleton. They are, therefore, difficult for a reptile to digest if it is not kept at the ideal temperature for basking.

Size and appearance

Once you know what to look for, the appearance of superworms and mealworms differs significantly.

Mealworms are tiny, wormlike larvae with six legs at the front of the body, a smooth, hard, segmented body, and a bright orange color. If hormones are used to postpone pupation, they develop to be about 1-1.25″ long instead of 1.5″ large “giant” mealworms. 

Mealworm beetles are lustrous dark brown or black after they pupate.

Superworms are worm-like larvae with six legs and a segmented body. They have a tan body, a black or dark brown head, and black or dark brown stripes on the tail; however, their colors vary greatly. 

They are around 2″ long, more prominent, thicker, and bigger. Superworm beetles have a thick, rigid carapace and a matte dark brown or black appearance after they pupate.

Care and Storage

Care requirements for mealworms and superworms are relatively similar:

  • You can temporarily keep them in a tub if all you want to do is feed them shortly. Superworms will perish in the cold, but mealworms can be stored on the top shelf of your refrigerator door. You will require more permanent housing if you intend to retain either for a long time.
  • The worms can be kept in a critter keeper or a plastic container. Add some pieces of wholesome vegetables as a source of water and additional vitamins to the container’s bottom layer of edible substrates. For gut loading, include a small lid or paper plate with the food.

The lifespan of superworms and mealworms is one distinction in terms of care:

  • Mealworms often live for 3 to 4 weeks when cared for appropriately. However, superworms have an average lifespan of 3 months or longer if they have access to food and water. 
  • The worms may pupate into beetles if maintained properly. This can then be fed to your reptile as a source of diversity or kept to breed and create more worms.

Superworms and mealworms need to be cared for similarly, but they should be kept in separate bins.

How to feed them to your pet

Before giving them to your pet, mealworms, and superworms need to be gut loaded. This can be done with healthy fruits and vegetables like carrots, apples, or sweet potatoes for at least 24 hours.

Superworms and mealworms must be covered in a premium calcium powder before feeding. This helps balance their nutritional makeup and wards against diseases like metabolic bone disease. 

Using soft-tipped feeding tongs or an “escape-proof” food bowl, you can feed your pet superworms and mealworms. 

Since there are worries about a superworm chewing its way out of the animal’s stomach, most people remove or crush its head before feeding. However, this is untrue; superworms can be given whole without risk.

You may also give your pet mealworms or superworm beetles an easy method to mix up their diet if you have any on hand. This is the same way to lesser mealworms to your pets.

However, remember that superworm beetles release a foul-smelling pheromone when threatened that some reptiles may find repulsive. 

Which is the better feeder insect?

How appealing the insect will be to your pet is one of the most crucial considerations when choosing the ideal feeder bug. Superworms will make your lizard much more active in displaying behaviors like stalking, chasing, catching, and handling prey.

Superworms are a better option for most energetic adult pets who require as much stimulation and excitement as possible. 

Superworms enjoy digging in the bedding, and some pets will remain active for hours, searching for hidden insects.

Mealworms can be a simple item for young animals, elderly animals, and animals that won’t eat other insects. While not entirely balanced, their mineral content can be boosted with calcium powder. 

You can easily handle the worms, which is helpful if you’re trying to train your leopard gecko or bearded dragon.

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