How to Breed Mealworms: Life Cycle and Care

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.

To breed mealworms, prepare a substrate then keep at room temperature. Add 200-300 mealworms which will turn into purpae after a few weeks depending on their age when bought. After that, black beetles will emerge from the purpae to mate and lay eggs then restart the mealworm life cycle.

Mealworms are tasty, nutritious, and quite expensive treats for most pets and human beings. 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 an inexpensive setup that will provide an infinite food supply for your pet.

How to Breed Mealworms: Life Cycle and Care

Mealworm Life Cycle

The mealworms’ lifecycle occurs in four distinct stages namely 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. With the 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 that 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 without challenge. 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:

The Container

Finding a container is the first step in building a mealworm farm. Plastic storage tote, old aquarium, or other containers of 12 by 24 by 12 inches 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.

The Substrate

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. It is not advisable to use flour, other fine-milled grains, or cracked wheat 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 eight inches

There are several substrates available depending on your preference and their availability. The primary substrates to choose among include:

  • Wheat Bran: Wheat bran is a widespread inexpensive substrate choice available in 50 pounds bag at the feed store. It is lightweight and does not compact, enhancing 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 that makes 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 in some cases added to the feed grains to harm 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 degrees Fahrenheit. For reproduction, a temperature between 65-100 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended. However, temperatures above 86 degrees and 62 degrees 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 molds. 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

All the life cycle stages should be enhanced within your setting when breeding mealworms. Here is how to ideally induce the breeding setup for mealworms:


Mealworms are available at local and online pet stores. It is vital to find a reliable certified mealworm supplier, 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. 

Mealworm Pupa

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 two to four weeks, determined by environmental conditions. 

For enhanced growth at this stage, a temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit 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. It takes up to 10 weeks for a breeding cycle to complete. The mealworms beetles live for a period of between 3 and 12 months. 

Mealworm Eggs

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

Baby mealworms emerge when eggs hatch into larvae. They appear as segmented bodies with milky white with 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 degrees Fahrenheit for fast growth.

How To Maintain a Mealworm Colony?

It is essential to practice reasonable measures that keep the colony going for enhanced mealworm colony growth. Here are the main ways to maintain a thriving mealworm colony:

  • Regular Changing of Vegetables and FruitsThe 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.
  • Air Supply: For enhanced growth, your colony needs proper air circulation. Always ensure adequate air circulation by making more holes in your plastic containers.
  • Temperature Moderation: Always ensure you maintain the correct temperature at every cycle stage. Too low temperatures will limit the colony’s growth hence a high, moderate 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 petMealworms fed
Birds Mealworms are a nutritious supplement diet for your birds. 100 mealworms per day are enough for about 50 birds once birds know where to find them. You can easily feed your birds with mealworms by mixing them with the primary feeds to ensure no mealworms are lost. 
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.
FishThe 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 feeds 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 and 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 easy task that requires planning, the right equipment, and proper care. The project is less expensive 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.


University of Missouri. Manual for Rearing Crickets, Flies and Mealworms.

The Ohio State University. Rearing Mealworms.

Arizona State University. How Beetles Reproduce.

Leave a Comment