As pet lovers, we always aim to keep them healthy and happy. Some pets, such as bearded dragons, lizards, and geckos, require a high protein intake for survival. Others, such as ducks and chickens, need the high proteins during stressful times and occasional treats readily found in mealworms. Mealworms can be easily bred to benefit the various pets in your care.
To breed mealworms, prepare a substrate, then keep it at room temperature. Add 200-300 mealworms which will turn into pupae after a few weeks, depending on their age when bought. After that, black beetles will emerge from the pupae to mate and lay eggs, then restart the mealworm life cycle.
Mealworms are tasty, nutritious, and expensive treats for most pets and humans. Instead, learning to breed mealworms successfully can be a great move for anyone incurring huge costs buying mealworms for their pets. The mealworm breeding farm setup is inexpensive, providing an infinite food supply for your pet.
Mealworm Life Cycle
The mealworms’ lifecycle occurs in four distinct stages: the egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Food availability and temperature conditions affect the time taken to complete these stages. The mealworm’s life cycle begins in the early summer or late spring when beetles seek particular dark areas to lay eggs.
Female beetles lay an average of 250 bean-shaped white eggs. Under appropriate conditions, eggs hatch into milky white slender larvae with segmented bodies that turn yellow-brown after a few days.
Mealworms remain in the larval stage until lower temperatures are met, when they transform into pupae to hibernate. Pupae are yellow-colored and they darken as they age into adults.
Adult beetles emerge from the pupa state as soon as summer appears. Adult mealworm beetles are slow-moving and can fly quickly, traveling to new areas. The mealworms’ life cycle time is an average of 4 to 12 months to complete.
How to Prepare Mealworm Breeding Environment
Preparing a mealworm DIY project is very easy. You only need to create the following conditions:
Finding a container is the first step in building a mealworm farm. Plastic storage totes, old aquariums, or other containers 12 by 24 by 12 inches in depth are recommended. The container should be clean and dry and have a lid or a screen mesh to enhance air circulation.
It should be stored in a dark or low-light area of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. During winter months, heat mats resembling those of reptiles should be used.
Wheat bran or oatmeal substrate is required for a mealworm colony to survive. It is commonly referred to as bedding, where mealworms feed on them and lay their eggs there. Using flour, other fine-milled grains, or cracked wheat is not advisable since mealworms can’t live here.
Substrate should be added to your container or tray at a height of between 2 and 8 inches and should not exceed 8 inches.
There are several substrates available depending on your preference and their availability. The primary substrates to choose from include:
- Wheat Bran: Wheat bran is a widespread inexpensive substrate choice available in 50-pound bags at the feed store. It is lightweight and does not compact, enhancing the movement and harvesting of mealworms.
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal is also an excellent breeding substrate for mealworms. Plain (unflavored) oatmeal is the best for breeding. Oatmeal is more expensive than wheat bran and has a denser layer, making harvesting mealworms challenging.
When choosing a substrate, focus on the following aspects:
- Organic: When possible, always choose organic wheat bran or oatmeal. Inorganic options have high amounts of pesticides that have adverse effects on the mealworm colony.
- Diatomaceous Earth (DE): DE is sometimes added to the feed grains, but it harms insects. Always ensure that your substrate choice does not have Diatomaceous Earth. This can be achieved by checking the labels.
Always ask the seller about these qualities of the substrate before making a purchase.
Temperature and Moisture Levels
Mealworms grow in ideal temperatures of between 77-88°F. For reproduction, a temperature between 65-100°F is recommended. However, temperatures above 86°F and below 62°F harm their growth.
A water source is also needed for the mealworms to survive. However, adding excess moisture to the substrate or using watery fruits could cause mold. Therefore, adding a piece of carrot or a potato slice is recommended as the best water source for mealworms. The slice used should be changed weekly to ensure the colony has enough moisture.
How to Breed Mealworms
When breeding mealworms, all the life cycle stages should be enhanced within your setting. Here is how to ideally induce the breeding setup for mealworms:
Mealworms are available at local and online pet stores. Finding a reliable certified mealworm supplier is vital, mainly for breeding purposes. Like other insects, mealworms’ diet varies.
The highly recommended mealworms for breeding are Rainbow mealworms, Walden Worm Farm, Wonder Worm Woman, and Rocky Mountain Ranch mealworms.
The number of mealworms to buy for your breeding varies depending on the number of pets you aim to feed. For immediate feeding, 5,000 mealworms are suitable to begin with. Mealworms take a few months to reproduce; hence the colony can get depleted. If you are ready to wait for a few months for infant mealworms, 150 mealworms are a good start.
Fully grown mealworms turn into pupa. The pupa resembles white-colored mummies or aliens. These pupae do not move, drink, or eat. The pupal state remains for 2 to 4 weeks, determined by environmental conditions.
For enhanced growth at this stage, a temperature of 72°F should be maintained with moderate moisture of 62% humidity. After the pupa stage, white or yellowish beetles are formed.
Mealworm Beetle (Adult)
A newly hatched mealworm beetle will sit still unfolding and drying its wings. Adult beetles change from white to brown and then black within 2-7 days. Sexually mature mealworms are when mealworms are brown and start looking for a mate.
Female mealworms can lay a maximum of 300 fertile eggs at once. A breeding cycle takes up to 10 weeks. The mealworm beetles live for a period of between 3 and 12 months.
Female mealworms lay up to 300 white, bean-shaped eggs at once. Proper care for the eggs is maintained by keeping the container free from water, switching dried-out or molded pieces of vegetables, and controlling a moderate temperature that is not lower than 62 or more than 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
The mealworms’ eggs take an average of 7-10 days to hatch under appropriate conditions and 4-8 weeks in non-optimal conditions (low temperatures).
Baby mealworms emerge when eggs hatch into larvae. They appear as segmented bodies with milky white slender bodies that turn yellow-brown within a few days. Many mealworms are kept in large plastic containers with air holes at the top.
Always ensure you cover the mealworms with a thick layer of substrate that is changed weekly to provide an adequate food supply. Also, ensure a moderate temperature of 72°F for fast growth.
How to Maintain a Mealworm Colony?
To maintain a thriving mealworm colony, practice the following:
Regular changing of vegetables and fruits
The fruits and vegetables used as a source of moisture in the colony will often dry, leaving the territory without humidity. It is recommended to change the vegetables any time they dry, mainly every week.
Changing the bedding
Substrates, also referred to as beddings, supply the colony with food. It is advisable to change the bedding for your colony every week.
For enhanced growth, your colony needs proper air circulation. Always ensure adequate air circulation by making more holes in your plastic containers.
Always ensure you maintain the correct temperature at every cycle stage. Too low temperatures will limit the colony’s growth; hence moderate to high temperature is recommended.
These conditions require constantly checking on the mealworms to ensure they aren’t dying from poor living conditions.
How to Feed Mealworms to Pets
Mealworms are a nutritious food for various pets like bearded dragons. The table below summarizes how you can feed multiple pets with your ready mealworms from your project:
|Type of pet||Mealworms fed|
|Birds||Mealworms are good fat, protein, and calcium supplement for reptiles. Reptile pets such as bearded dragons highly prefer mealworms as a delicacy. Limiting the mealworm intake to such pets is advisable as they will supply excess fat that leads to obesity and other disorders. Feeding a reptile with a maximum of 3 mealworms a week is advisable for excellent results. They are mainly provided by mixing them with the main meal and other vegetables.|
|Reptiles||Mealworms are good fat, protein, and calcium supplement for reptiles. Reptile pets such as bearded dragons highly prefer mealworms as a delicacy. It is advisable to limit the mealworm intake to such pets as they will supply excess fat that leads to obesity and other disorders. Feeding a reptile with a maximum of 3 mealworms a week is advisable for excellent results. They are mainly provided by mixing them with the main meal and other vegetables.|
|Fish||The high nutrient composition of mealworms makes them a perfect dish for fish. Mealworms are safe to be eaten and edible by almost all fish species. Fish also eat dried mealworms. However, the amount of mealworm intake in fish should be controlled and should only compose 3% of the fish meal.|
Mealworms, like many other feeder worms, can be used to feed most reptiles, be they bearded dragons, chameleons, or geckos. Chameleons eat both mealworms and superworms, and so do bearded dragons and most gecko breeds.
Get Started for Mealworm Breeding Now
As you have seen, mealworm breeding is a fascinating and easy task that requires planning, the right equipment, and proper care. The project is inexpensive and helps us save on getting mealworms for our pets. Get started for mealworm breeding using our helpful guidelines from the article and enjoy the countless benefits of breeding mealworms.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I breed my own mealworms?
Prepare a plastic tin then keep it at room temeprature. Add a sunstrate then introduce 200 to 300 mealworms into the tin. After a few weeks, the mealworms will turn into pupae, then adult beetles that lay eggs and the circle starts again.
How long does it take for mealworms to reproduce?
Mealworms take 3 to 4 months to mature and reproduce.
What do baby mealworms eat?
Baby mealworms will burrow and eat just about anything, althoguh they prefer vegetables, grains, and organic material (fresh or decaying).
University of Missouri. Manual for Rearing Crickets, Flies and Mealworms.
The Ohio State University. Rearing Mealworms.
Arizona State University. How Beetles Reproduce.