Mealworms are spectacular and exotic sources of proteins for several pets, such as fish, birds, and reptiles. You can purchase them online or at local stores. However, this can be costly.
For that reason, it is more beneficial to have your own mealworm farm. In the article below we will show you exactly how you can get your own mealworm farm up and running in no time at all.
What You Will Need
Plastic or glass containers are the best due to the smooth walls, which prevent escapees from crawling out. Remember to purchase containers with lid ventilators or several air holes to allow proper airflow.
If you choose a bin with several air holes, ensure that the holes are small enough to prevent the worms from escaping. Also, keep in mind that you should have three containers for the different breeding cycles of the worms.
Assuming that you decide to use open bins, a wire mesh cover would be great. Remember to select containers that allow adequate natural light.
If you can’t access natural light, try using a light source, such as a heat lamp.
There are several choices you can work with when it comes to mealworm substrates. Wheat bran, for example, contains a high protein level.
Consider going for organic-grade wheat bran, as it is more beneficial. Wheat flour is another alternative you can try. Typically, wheat flour supports the absorption of important nutrients, unlike wheat bran, which contains phytic acid that hinders the absorption of calcium and iron.
Another great choice is oatmeal. However, oats should only be an option when other choices are unavailable. They are denser than bran and flour, which leads to the trapping of moisture and heat, thereby making the bedding uncomfortable. On the other hand, cornmeal is gluten-free and an incredible source of protein and fiber.
The ideal environment for mealworms is dry bedding. For that reason, the worms should get their water from the food they consume. Add small pieces of fruit or vegetables such as carrots, apples, potatoes, etc. Carrots contain approximately 90% water content. The carb content is low, so it will not affect the appetite of mealworms.
Freshly harvested potatoes contain a percentage of water almost similar to that of cereals, 80%. The rest is just dry weight consisting of starch, which is partially beneficial for the health of mealworms. Leafy greens such as lettuce and celery will also work perfectly are they are an incredible diet for worms in general. They contain 95% water content.
You can start with about 200 mealworms, but we recommend 500. A baby leopard gecko lives off of 5-10 mealworms every day. An adult Gecko will require around 15 mealworms per day.
Therefore, a colony of 200 worms would be consumed quickly, having inadequate time to breed, especially if the gecko pets are ready to feed.
A colony of 500 is sufficient for ready-to-feed pets, and also gives the mealworms time to reproduce. You will need to assess the age & size of your geckos when choosing how many mealworms you need.
Pro Tip: Avoid purchasing the popularly advertised giant worms. Most times, these have received growth hormone treatments. Therefore, the gigantic mealworms will not reproduce. Small mealworms are okay to use, but the standard large-size worms are the best because they only take a few weeks to hatch.
Two or more geckos require more than 500 mealworms. Apart from that, consider the size of your container. Too many worms placed in a small container will lead to death due to suffocation and excess moisture.
Step by Step Instructions for Breeding Mealworms
Step 1: Prepare Your Container
The most suitable container is a clear one since you can comfortably observe the behavioral activities of the colony.
Experts recommend a bin that is 12 by 24 by 12 inches deep. Besides having an adequate surface area to prevent suffocation, the said measurements prevent the worms from escaping and other insects, especially predators, from finding their way into the culture bin.
Ensure that the bin is clean, dry, and properly ventilated. A bin containing microorganisms can cause contamination, which will lead to a significant loss. Remember to select a proper location to place the bin. An ideal spot for proper breeding of worms is dark, moderately warm, and dry.
Step 2: Prepare the Bedding
In the container, add 1 to 2 inches of substrate. It is okay to use oatmeal, cornmeal, wheat bran, wheat flour, or cheerios. Another idea is to use a mixture of the substrate for a perfect combination of nutrients.
Nevertheless, be cautious with the amount of oatmeal you use, as oats are hard, therefore difficult to chew.
Also, ensure that you spread the bedding evenly on the container surface so that you can easily pick up the mealworms. You also want to make sure the worms can comfortably burrow and find their way up the bedding surface. A mealworm keeper makes for perfect bedding as it separates the mealworms and is also an excellent source of food for the insects.
Occasionally, it would help if you change the bedding to keep out excess heat and moisture. This prevents a persistent odor from waste products and dead mealworms.
Step 3: Food & Water Sources
DO NOT place a small dish with water in the culture because the warms will crawl in and drown. Instead, add small pieces of fruit, vegetables, and other food with adequate water content.
Standard options include apples, peaches, celery, cabbages, carrots, and potatoes, to mention a few.
While you are at it, remember to eliminate old food for the prevention of mold growth. According to the majority of mealworm breeders, the most convenient food to use is potatoes because they provide water for an extended period and take longer to mold. However, this should not be the sole source of food and water.
Feed them leafy vegetables to provide nutritional components such as fiber, minerals, and vitamins. In addition, you can use a gel water source, which contains healthy amounts of calcium. Put the gel water source in a small accessible dish and lower it into the bedding. Be cautious with the gel water source, as too much of it can also cause mold growth.
Step 4: Add Mealworms to the Bedding
Gently place your mealworms in the first bin.
Typically, a mealworm will grow and reproduce throughout its life cycle, with proper feeding and a conducive breeding environment. It would be best to purchase worms that are well-bred. A mealworm is only as healthy as the nutrients it consumes. This means your leopard gecko’s health significantly depends on the nutrient value of the worm.
Step 5: Keep Track of Culture Conditions
It would be best to check on the temperature, humidity, and light of the culture environment. Mealworms thrive in temperatures between 21 and 24 degrees Celcius.
That said, place the culture bin in a dark and warm room, such as a barn. Most locations have adequate humidity to breed mealworms. Otherwise, you will have to increase the moisture of the culture if you live in a dry climate.
The best way to achieve this is to lower a small can of water in the container. Use a container with smooth walls that is also tall enough to keep the worms from crawling in and drowning. To delay the process of metamorphosis, you can store the culture in the fridge at temperatures between 45 and 50 degrees F.
How much space is adequate for breeding mealworms?
Typically, breeding mealworms requires an approximate space of 2.0 square meters. This will, however, depend on the size of the three breeding containers. For instance, small boxes measuring 30 (L) × 20 (W) are ideal for small larvae. As the larvae grow and are almost ready for harvest, you will need a larger container measuring approximately 60 (L) × 40 (W) × 10 (H). The size of your colony determines the appropriate space for a thriving culture.
How long does it take to breed mealworms?
The life cycle consists of four stages; egg, larva, pupa, and adult. A complete life cycle of a mealworm takes three months or more, sometimes six to nine months. However, a female adult takes two weeks to mate and lay eggs. Every female mealworm lays anything between 100 – 200 eggs.
What do Mealworms Eat?
The primary diet for mealworms comes from their bedding. This can consist of cornmeal, oatmeal, wheat bran, cheerios, or wheat flour. The substrates are the primary sources of protein. Fruits, leafy greens, and other vegetables are the primary water sources, but they also provide significant nutrients like vitamins, fiber, and minerals.
Is it Hard to Raise Mealworms?
Breeding mealworms are easy because they require minimum supervision and little space. All you have to do is provide a conducive environment: temperature, humidity, space, and nutrition. More so, feeding mealworms is inexpensive, and the microclimate of the culture is easy to manage.
Mealworms are a significant part of the diet for some of our pets. Nevertheless, purchasing the insects from local or online stores might be quite expensive compared to having home-bred mealworms.
We hope our tutorial gave you some great insights on how to do it yourself.