Bred invertebrate myself
Posted Sep 13, 2014
Mealworms are a strangely amusing feeder insect. My first experience with them was actually as classroom pets, which were both entertaining and educational.
As feeder insects, they’re extremely economical, being easy to both keep and breed. These pantry pests are cheap to feed and their food can double as their substrate. Mealworms can be kept in cornmeal or a variety of grain products.
They don’t drink water in the classic sense and will drown in water dishes. The easiest way to provide them water is by giving them apple slices or an assortment of other fresh foods. These can be partially buried in the substrate, but should be regularly replaced if not fully consumed. It’s also important to watch for mold or excessive moisture buildup.
A large quantity of mealworms can be raised in a small amount of space. I grew all the mealworms I needed for my critters in a few short containers that weren’t more than a foot and a half or so long.
These containers can be stacked as long as it doesn’t block their ventilation and mine fit easily in the cupboard beneath the sink. Unlike crickets, mealworms don’t make noise.
They can smell a bit if their container needs cleaning, but as long as they’re kept dry it’s nothing like crickets. Mealworms are also far easier to contain.
The mealworms themselves don’t even need a lid to their container and the beetles don’t need much of one to keep them in either. You do, though, want to make sure they don’t sneak off since they would be just as happy in your pantry’s cornmeal box as in their own container.
I only ever found one escapee and he wasn’t far from the others. Even the beetles are easy to handle and are fairly active. They always look busy marching back and forth across the containers.
You will have to handle them at least indirectly if you plan on breeding mealworms. Mealworms kept longterm do need their containers cleaned out periodically, which means transferring all the occupants to a new container. This can be done quickly by scooping out the beetles and sifting the mealworms from the substrate with a screen. If you do have beetles, you likely also have eggs, baby mealworms and pupa.
The pupa are the stage before they turn into beetles at which point they’re large and wriggly, but still soft. That was my leopard gecko’s favorite time to eat them. Some mealworm beetles will also eat their companions in the pupa stage, but as long as they have plenty of food and space, it’s not a real issue.
Their eggs are tiny as are the newly hatched mealworms. When I cleaned the containers, I removed the beetles, pupa and easily visible larva then left the old container for a few weeks to let any eggs hatch / larva grow before composting the old substrate.
Mealworms are the cheapest and easiest feeder insect you can keep and are also an interesting one for kids and adults alike.