Superworms, also known as super worms, Zophobas, or Mario worms, are the larvae of the darkling beetle, which are fed to birds, reptiles, and amphibians. They grow to about 2 inches (51mm) in length and have a high food value. Raising superworms is quite easy and doesn’t require any specialized skills.
Superworms have 4 main stages of life namely the egg, larva (worm), pupa, and adult (beetle). Only the beetles can reproduce with the females producing up to 500 eggs per lifetime. To raise superworms, start by buying the superworms then pupating them into adults that will lay eggs.
Superworm life cycle
To raise superworms, you must understand their life cycle and what to do at each stage to facilitate their growth. They have the typical insect life cycle of egg, larva, pupa, and adult (beetle), with each stage looking very different from the others.
|Adult (beetle)||90-120 days|
However, since you start with the superworms themselves when breeding them, the way to start and sustain your superworm farm is as follows:
First, you must buy superworms from your local pet or insect store. Ensure they’re superworms that can breed, not just food for your pets. Thus, they should be healthy enough to morph into pupae and beetles. Buy about 50 superworms for a start.
Superworms grow quite slowly and will take up to 5 months or more to be large enough to turn into pupae and then into beetles. This depends on the temperatures and other conditions you subject them to. 70 to 80°F is the ideal temperature to keep superworms for healthy growth.
To start breeding superworms, choose the biggest and healthiest superworms from the ones you bought, then place each one in a small container without food or water. You can use plastic cosmetic jars, condiment cups, partitioned craft boxes, or plastic film canisters. Place the containers in a dark location with enough ventilation and the right temperature.
If you give them food and water, they’ll take longer to pupate. Also, placing more than one superworm in a container is risky since one can feed on the other.
The worms should turn into a ‘c’ or ‘e’ shape similar to an alien from a Ridley Scott movie as they start the morphing process. The superwoman larva takes 1 to 2 weeks to turn into a pupa. Larvae are likely dead if they become straight, black, or hard. Replace them with healthy larvae.
2. Superworm pupa
The worm will pupate until it has a cream color, with a shorter body and small legs forming on the underside. You’ll know the pupa is turning into a beetle when the legs turn dark in color. The superworm larva takes about 2 weeks to turn into a beetle.
You’ll know it’s becoming a beetle when the legs of the pupa turn black. You can remove the beetles from their individual containers and then use the space created to start pupating another superworm.
3. Superworm beetles
Around the 4th week since you placed your superworms into their containers, the superworms will turn into black superworm beetles like mealworms. Placing them in different containers is better since the beetles can start eating the pupating worms.
For the best results, place the new beetles in a container that’s large enough for them to move around but not climb out. If not, cover it with tiny mesh wire.
A container about the size of a cat litter pan is large enough for the beetles. Add an inch of pre-made gut load, wheat bran, or oat bran to the container. They will eat and lay eggs on this substrate.
You should avoid coarse substrates since they make it hard to find the beetles when it’s time to separate them. Add a solid item such as an egg crate or newspaper in one corner of the container to keep them from burrowing and eating the eggs up. They’ll gather there when not feeding or laying eggs.
Place the beetle into this container when it is ready to hatch from the pupa. After 2 to 4 weeks, place the beetles into a new container with the same conditions. This helps prevent cannibalism between the beetles and the beetles on the eggs and baby beetles in the container.
What do superworm beetles eat?
Superworm beetles eat wheat bran or pre-made gut load and water crystals, fruits, carrots, or potatoes for water. Giving the superworm beetles enough water prevents them from eating eggs, baby superworms, and other beetles.
Change the fruit slices daily while avoiding placing water in the container, as it may make the substrate wet and moldy.
The superworm beetles live up to 5 months in the right conditions. The females can lay up to 500 eggs in their lifetime, which is good since you’ll have lots of superworms in a short time.
4. Superworm eggs
The most delicate stage in breeding superworms is taking care of their eggs. The superworm eggs will hatch in 7-10 days, after which you’ll see tiny superworms in the substrate.
Keep the temperatures around 78°F for the beetles, eggs, and baby worms to be comfortable.
5. Baby superworms
Slowly, you’ll start seeing baby superworms emerge and grow into adults. Superworms eat wheat bran combined with fruit slices for their water supply. You can also feed them on a pre-made gut load before feeding them to your pets.
When the superworms mature (up to 5 months), you can start the breeding process all over again by placing them in individual containers where they’ll form the pupa. The pupa turns into the adult beetle, which lays eggs, and the process starts again.
When raising superworms, you should keep a few things in mind to keep them healthy and ensure a continued superworm farm. They include the following:
- Store superworms at room temperature and never refrigerate superworms since they’ll die off.
- Feed them wheat or oat bran with a water source such as a slice of fruit or water crystals.
- Don’t keep baby superworms or superworm eggs with adults and beetles since they’ll eat the young ones and eggs.
- Superworms can go without food for up to 2 weeks, but more than that, will be starving them.
Contrary to popular belief, superworms won’t eat your pet from the inside. This wrong notion might have had from the fact that superworms are scavengers that feed on dead animals.
Cornell University. Raising Insects: A Sustainable Protein Source & Emerging Market.
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