Mealworms are the larvae of the tenebrio beetle and are raised for a variety of reasons. Besides being a good food source for various pets such as birds, reptiles and fish, mealworms are also consumed by humans and provide excellent fish bait. Raising mealworms can be more convenient (and cheaper) than buying them in bulk from a pet shop or by ordering them online. Mealworms are also one of the easiest larvae to raise.
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Things you need
- Plastic container (with ventilation holes)
- Wheatbran, oats or any protein-based foods
- Potatoes, apples and/or bananas
Find a plastic container; a towel container works well, but any container of comparable size will work. Wood containers may be used but make sure the edges are smooth otherwise the worms may climb up. Put a ventilation screen over the container, such as a window screen, or puncture holes in a plastic lid.
Purchase your initial mealworms. Prices vary, of course, but they can cost as little as £13 per 1,000 larvae. Ordering them online may be even cheaper. Because mealworms have a short gestation period -- the eggs hatch to larvae usually within a week -- your initial purchase does not need to be too large.
Add the mealworms to the bottom of the container along with a protein-based food such as oats, bran or any other type of stored grain. Mealworms eat a large variety of food, particularly decaying matter; these include plants, sticks, and dead animals and insects. After adding the grains, add food from which the mealworms can obtain moisture, such as potatoes, apples or bananas. Make sure to keep the temperature of the container between 21.1 and 30.0 degrees C. Ideal mealworm temperature is between 25 to 27.2 degrees Celsius.
Clean out the container as needed after the colony begins to grow. While the initial incubation period is usually only about a week, the mealworm larvae will hatch and shed an exoskeleton. The mealworm exoskeletons are in small, flake form and easy to clean. Any dead mealworms or excrement will also need to be removed, otherwise the colony will began to smell. If properly cared for, mealworm colonies do not have an odour.
Put the pupae and beetles on top of the colony in order to let them lay their eggs. Also put any dried up vegetables on top. Add moisture periodically to the colony and keep cleaning as needed.
Tips and warnings
- The larvae of the mealworms are best for feeding (especially to birds) because they don't have the hard exoskeleton.
- Mealworm feeders can be a good idea in order to bring bluebirds to your yard.
- While mealworms are generally harmless to humans, certain people may have allergies to them.
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