How to Farm Mealworms
Mealworms are a great source of protein for your birds, your reptiles, and, yes, even you! They can be expensive, though, and you may decide you'd rather farm them yourself. But where to start?
Have no fear! It's much easier — and cheaper — than you think.
What are Mealworms?
If you keep reptiles or birds - or if you go fishing, odds are you know what these creepy little guys are. Mealworms are not actually worms at all. They are larvae, specifically the larvae of the darkling beetle. They also have legs.
If mealworms are allowed to complete their lifecycle, they will pupate and eventually turn into a black beetle. If you're going to farm mealworms, you'll need to let some of them mature into beetles so they can lay eggs that will hatch into more mealworms.
Mealworms are a great source of protein for pets and livestock. In fact, live mealworms contain almost as much protein as an egg, and dried mealworms have more than 50% protein content! Only crickets have more. Dried mealworms are even eaten as a snack by people around the world. People also use mealworms for fishing.
What do Mealworms Eat?
Like their name suggests, mealworms eat grains that have been crushed into meal. They can be fed very well on oats, wheat bran, flour, old cereal and things of that nature. They use vegetables such as potatoes, carrots or apples for moisture. Mealworms will also eat the dead mealworms, so don't worry about cleaning those up.
How do Mealworms Live?
Mealworms live in their food! Often referred to as "substrate," the bedding material in with the mealworms is also their food. Mealworms are often found in bags of flour for this very reason. As a larvae, their job is to eat, eat, eat and eat until it's time to change.
The entire lifecycle of a darkling beetle takes a few months.
How to Raise and Breed Mealworms
Now that we know about mealworms, how do we raise them for our pets or backyard chickens? It's easy!
You will need:
- a clear tote or container
- an egg carton
- oatmeal, wheat bran, cornmeal or some type of meal for food
- potato, carrot or apple for moisture
Put the substrate (food) into the bottom of the container. Place the egg carton into the container. This gives them something to crawl around on and makes collecting them easier. Cut the moisture source into pieces and place the pieces into the container. Add your mealworms. These can be bought at a bait or pet store, or you can buy them online. Don't import mealworms from other countries. You don't know what they've been fed.
That's it! Keep them in a dark place that's around 80F and replace moldy bits of food as needed. If you'd like, you can create a second tank to keep the beetles in when they mature. These beetles can be fed to your pets or livestock as well. Always wash your hands after handling the worms, beetles or after removing food from the container.