Can Darkling Beetles Fly?

Can Darkling Beetles Fly?

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I searched the internet on the question whether darkling beetles can fly, and I read mixed results to it. Some say they can, there are even videos about it, but then again they say that they cannot, due to fused wings or the like.

I am currently interested in mealworms, and plan to farm some myself, and some people show their containers without covers, even though the beetles should be able to fly out then, shouldnt they?

This is really confusing to me, thanks for the awnsers.

Short answer; It depends. Darkling beetles is a very large family of beetles (Tenebrionidae) where some species can fly and some do not. Looking more narrowly at the genus Tribolium (i.e. mealworms), which many people refer to when they talk about darkling beetles, it also differs. The common Tribolium castaneum (red flour beetle) as well as T. molitor are good fliers, while T. destructor does not fly. The same goes for the confused flour beetle (T. confusum), which is not know to fly from what I know.

Lesser Mealworms or Litter Beetles

Adult lesser mealworm adults are 1/2 inch long dark brown to black insects that also are sometimes called darkling beetles. The light yellow to brown larval stage has a hard, cylindrical body like that of a wireworm. When full grown, the larvae are 1/2 to 3/4 inch long. The adults and larvae can be found in floor litter where they feed on poultry feed, dried bird droppings, and bird carcasses. They are one of the best-adapted scavenger insects associated with both litter-based broiler operations and egg houses with deep-pit manure management systems.


Problems with this insect result from the gradual buildup of large numbers in broiler house litter. Food for these scavengers is plentiful so they only need some moisture from waterers or leaky pipes to thrive. Both adults and larvae are more active at night than during the day so large numbers may be present before the producer is aware of a problem.

  • Structural damage occurs when the larvae leave the litter to find a dry spot in which to pupate and change to the adult stage. At this point, they may tunnel into polystyrene insulation materials or even wooden beams and supports. The larvae are more likely to leave the litter if they are very crowded. Extensive tunneling can ruin insulation and force expensive repairs.
  • Invasions of homes or buildings by thousands of beetles has resulted in extreme actions to control the insects and even law-suits filed against producers by homeowners. Typically, this occurs when litter or manure from heavily-infested poultry houses has been spread over fields. If done when temperatures are warm, the beetles will fly from the field and may appear suddenly on and in homes. At night, beetles are attracted to lights ranging in intensity from a single candle to headlights of a car. They seem most likely to fly between 8 pm and midnight. There is no information on how far they can fly.
  • Disease reservoirs are places where pathogens may remain and pose a threat to flock health. Lesser mealworms readily feed on dead and dying birds. They can become contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, or infectious bursal disease virus. Healthy birds can become infected after eating infected larval or adult litter beetles.

Biology and Behavior

Lesser mealworms usually are not distributed evenly throughout a house. They tend to congregate in areas that are most favorable for them. Usually, this is where there is adequate moisture or where the litter is looser and deeper. The larvae and adults tend to accumulate under anything laying on or just under the surface of the litter. Floor feeders provide excellent places for them to hide. If nothing is available, they will stay around the edges of caked litter. Mealworm larvae and adults avoid very dry or very wet areas but do need some moisture to survive.

Eggs are laid in batches in the litter and hatch in 4 to 5 days under typical room temperatures. The larval period, normally about 10 weeks, can be as short as 8 weeks. Following a 5 to 10 day pupal stage, the adult emerges. The average time from egg to adult takes about 80 days. The beetles can develop when the temperature is between 60°F and 90°F. The adults can live for several months.

Beetle Management

Effective litter management can slow the development of these beetles and reduce the chances of having excessive buildups of their numbers. Here are some practices to keep in mind.

  • Water is a key need for mealworm beetles so check pipes and waterers for leaks. All measures to keep the litter dry will help to keep beetle numbers down.
  • Feed storage areas or spilled feed outside the houses can be a starting point for infestations by beetles. Sanitation is very important.
  • Move feeders and waterers when practical to pack down loose litter and make it less suitable for the insects.
  • Regular clean out and disposal of litter can eliminate large numbers of beetles. It is best to do this when temperatures are low enough (near or below freezing) to kill most of the insects.


The preference of mealworm larvae and beetles to get under objects has been used to develop a trap to monitor them in poultry litter. While there are no treatment guidelines in terms of numbers of beetles caught, you can detect them early and look at changes in trap counts over time. The trap catches also let you evaluate control measures that have been applied. At least a few beetles will be found in most houses, there is no way to eradicate or exclude them.

The trap is a 9-inch length of 1-1/2 inch PVC pipe that contains a piece of 8-inch x 11-inch corrugated cardboard that has been rolled up so that the 8-inch length is inside the pipe. Lesser mealworm beetles and larvae will crawl between the cardboard layers to hide. Holes should be drilled at each end of the pipe so that stakes can be used to hold the trap in place in the litter. The traps should be put in open centers of the house for easy retrieval. Avoid placing them near walls, feeders, or waterers. The litter is usually more tightly packed there the beetles and larvae prefer looser litter.

Three traps, approximately evenly spaced along the center line of each house, should be adequate for routine monitoring. They can be checked easily by removing and unrolling the cardboard to count beetles and larvae. The date and numbers found should be recorded so that and trends in can be detected. If necessary, the rolled cardboard from each trap can be placed in individual plastic bags and examined later. In this case, just put a new piece of cardboard in the PVC pipe and put the trap back in the same general area.

The traps need to be checked at regular intervals for the numbers to be meaningful. Once a week or once every two weeks should be adequate. Be sure to record the numbers in a consistent way. For example, as an average number of beetles per week for each house. While numbers of beetles in the trap cannot be related to numbers per square foot in the house, changes in trap counts over time are what is important.


It is virtually impossible to eliminate these insects from a house with insecticides. They are protected down in the litter and the litter itself may bind the products and reduce their effectiveness. Read the label carefully for complete instructions. Some products may be used in floor litter while others are only for residual sprays on walls.

CAUTION! Pesticide recommendations in this publication are registered for use in Kentucky, USA ONLY! The use of some products may not be legal in your state or country. Please check with your local county agent or regulatory official before using any pesticide mentioned in this publication.


Darkling Beetle Fact Sheet

The Darkling Beetle is a tiny little insect, and like the name, they love to hang out in dark places! They are omnivores, and scavengers too - so they enjoy things like other dead insects, fresh and rotting plants & leaves, and fungi. In some species of Darkling Beetle the larva are called mealworms These mealworms are very common as food for pet reptiles, birds, and fish - so you might have dealt with some of these beetles already, just in their baby form! Darkling Beetles can also be good pets of their own for an insect lover - they don't bite and are fairly friendly, and with simple care and a quick lifespan they can be a great starter companion. While they do have wings, Darkling beetles do not fly, and they can extract water from their food so they can long periods with a water source.

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Arthropoda Class: Insecta Order: Coleoptera Suborder: Polyphaga Superfamily: Tenebrionoidea Family: Tenebrionidae

Darkling Beetle Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a darkling beetle?

The darkling beetle is the common name given to the family Tenebrionidae, which has over 20,000 species. The Tenebrionidae is a type of insect.

What class of animal does a darkling beetle belong to?

The darkling beetle belongs to the class of Insecta with other insects such as the dragonfly and worms.

How many darkling beetles are there in the world?

With over 20,000 species in the family Tenebrionidae, it is hard to estimate what the population of these beetles is.

Where does a darkling beetle live?

This insect has adapted to live in deserts and forests.

What is a darkling beetle's habitat?

Family Tenebrionidae consists of the kind of beetles that can be spotted under stones, decaying logs, or bracket fungi. Some of the species are diurnal and can be found in open. Many species are even adapted to desert conditions.

Who do darkling beetles live with?

The darkling beetle generally lives alone and does not necessarily require a colony to thrive in.

How long does a darkling beetle live?

As we have mentioned, darkling beetles is not one species, and thus, each species has a varying life span. But as a general rule, the darkling beetle lives longer than other insects due to its slower metabolism. Most species live between six months to two years, while few can survive up to 10 years.

How do they reproduce?

The life cycle of a darkling beetle is fascinatingly categorized neatly into four distinct stages. The stages are egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The female of this species are prolific at laying eggs, and over a lifespan can lay about 500 eggs.

What is their conservation status?

While most darkling beetles are not under any threat of extinction, two are considered threatened, and one is unfortunately critically endangered.

Biology and Behavior

Superworms are not a worm, but the larvae stage (immature stage between egg and pupae) of the Zophobas Beetle, a type of Darkling beetle. Darkling Beetles is the common name for Beetles that below to a large group belonging to the Tenebrionidae family). Yellow mealworm beetles are also Darkling Beetles. They are also known as super or giant mealworms, (we refer to them in this section as Giant mealworms).

The giant mealworm ( Zophobas morio) is a large tropical species of mealworm that is popular as feed for larger animals such as fish, reptiles and wildlife rescue. They are much larger than the yellow mealworm growing to approximately 2 1/4 inches long (55 mm). They originated from Tropical Central and South America and require temperatures greater than 12 degrees C to survive and breed effectively. They should never be placed in the fridge which will kill them, which is a common practice for yellow mealworms.


The lifecycle of the giant mealworm comprises of the following 4 distinct stages.

They can be separated for breeding when they are 2 inches (5cm) long.


  • Lifecycle- Reproduction is sexual, with one male being able to transfer enough sperm to fertilize all future eggs. Females giant mealworms can lay up to 400-500 eggs over their life.
  • Females can be distinguished from the males as they are larger than the male.

Poke holes in breeding container- need to be covered unless climate control.

Divided storage boxes and 35 mm film containers work well for holding pupating superworms. Be sure to poke air holes in the container. Place a small amount of meal in each cell with the pupating super worms.
Place the container holding pupating super worms in a warm, dark place. Check the container weekly and remove any deceased super worms.
• Once the larvae have pupated, you can place them into the beetle habitat.

Provide carrots as a source of food and water for both the super worm larvae and beetles. One large carrot, cut up, will feed several hundred larvae or beetles for about 3 days (twice per week minimum)

Growth rate is approximately the same as the yellow mealworm for the same size. For instance i t takes approximately 10 weeks (3-4 months) for a giant mealworm to go from egg to 1 inch (2.5cm) long which is the same as an large yellow mealworm (at 25-28 degrees). Where it differs is that is the worm stage grows twice as large and takes an additional ? weeks. This is The beetle stage will go for another 8-12 weeks (2-3 months).

At cooler temperatures the duration can increase significantly. Click Here for more details:

Supplies Needed For A Mealworm Farm

In its simplest form, a mealworm farm is a container or series of drawers filled with a layer of substrate and few pieces of potatoes or carrots.

Buying Mealworms

Mealworms can usually be found at your local pet or reptile store. They may also be available at a fishing or sporting goods store. If you don&rsquot have one nearby, I use and recommend ordering from Rainbow Mealworms (Save 10% on your first mealworm order).

Start with at least 500-1000 worms. The more you start with, the more you can use right away, and the quicker the population will grow.

When I start a new colony, I like to buy 5000 worms.

Helpful Hint
Never buy &ldquogiant&rdquo or &ldquojumbo&rdquo mealworms to start your colony. These are regular mealworms that have been hormonally altered (generally sprayed with juvenile growth hormones to make them grow large but not pupate). Because they have been modified, they will never pupate.

What to feed mealworms

The mealworm colony lives in a substrate of wheat bran or oatmeal. Although it is commonly called &ldquobedding,&rdquo mealworms use this as their only food source and to lay their eggs.

Mealworms cannot live in flour or other fine-milled grains, nor can they live in whole grains like whole or cracked wheat.

Add at least 2 inches but no more than 8 inches of the substrate to your container or tray.

There are several substrate options, and it comes down to personal preference and availability.

Wheat Bran

Wheat bran is a common choice for mealworm farm substrate. You can usually find 50-pound bags of wheat bran at the feed store (or they can order it for you).

Wheat bran is lightweight and does not compact, so it is easy for the mealworms and beetles to move around in it.

I prefer wheat bran because it is easier to separate mealworms from the substrate when harvesting.

Wheat bran is also very inexpensive.


Oatmeal also makes excellent bedding for mealworm farms.

When choosing oatmeal, choose plain (unflavored) oatmeal.

You can use any type of rolled oats, including instant oats, Old Fashioned Oats, or Quick Cook oatmeal. Avoid steel-cut oats, as they are too thick for the mealworms and Darkling Beetles to eat.

Oatmeal settles into a dense layer that can be difficult for the mealworms to bury into. It is also the same color as the pupae, making it difficult to find and separate them.

Oatmeal tends to be much more expensive than wheat bran, and it is also harder to harvest mealworms from oatmeal.

Helpful Hint
It is easier to sift worms from bran than oatmeal

Pupae are hard to see in oatmeal


Whenever possible, opt for organic wheat bran or oatmeal.

Nonorganic options may have trace amounts of pesticides in them that could kill or negatively impact your mealworm farm.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is sometimes added to feed grains (and chicken feed) to kill insects.

Always check the label and make sure your substrate of choice does not contain Diatomaceous Earth.


While mealworms use the substrate for both bedding and food, they also need a water source.

The best way to give mealworms a drink is with a piece of carrot or slice of potato.

Adding too much moisture by misting the substrate or by using watery fruits and vegetables (like an apple or strawberry) could cause mold.

Carrots and potatoes are perfect for giving your mealworms water without being too wet.

About once or twice a week, give the mealworms a new potato slice or piece of carrot, and throw out the old one.

Life Cycle

Mealworms that birds, reptiles, and other animals love aren’t really worms. They are the larvae of darkling beetles. There are over 20,000 different types of darkling beetles and mealworms come from the species Tenebrio molitor.

A darkling beetle experiences complete metamorphosis which means that it has four distinct stages of life. The four stages are egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The amount of time a darkling beetle spends in each stage can vary greatly due to environmental factors like temperature, humidity, food, and water.

The first stage of life is spent as an egg. The white bean-shaped egg is tiny and about the size of a speck of dust. The egg is sticky and is quickly concealed by dirt, dust, and substrate. It will take around one to four weeks for an egg to hatch and the larva to emerge.

The second stage of life lasts about eight to ten weeks and is spent as a brown larva. This is the stage where the insect is a mealworm. When first hatched, it is quite small but will grow to one to one and a half inches long.

Since it has a hard exoskeleton, the worm will need to molt and shed its hard outer shell in order to grow. Molts will occur ten to twenty times during this stage of life. A recently molted worm will be soft and white, but the exoskeleton will quickly harden.

A mealworm spends its time eating and growing in order to save up energy for the next transformation.

During a mealworm’s last molt it will turn into a white alien-like pupa. It has no mouth or anus so does not eat. It does have leg and wing buds, but they do not function. The pupa is quite helpless and the only movement it can do is wiggle. This stage of life will last one to three weeks as the pupa transforms its organs and body into an adult.

The final stage of the insect’s life is as the darkling beetle and lasts one to three months. The beetle will be white with a soft exoskeleton. As the outer shell hardens, it will turn brown and then black. The beetle does have hard wings, but it is unable to fly.

After about one to two weeks of adult life, beetles will begin to mate and reproduce. A few days after mating, female beetles will burrow into soil or substrate and lay eggs. Darkling beetles are prolific breeders and females can lay hundreds of eggs during their adult lives.

Darkling Beetle

Mysterious Beetle
Location: Casa Grande, AZ
July 27, 2010 7:47 am
I found this beetle just walking across the floor at work. It does not appear to fly and it moves pretty slowly. It likes to play dead. It can flip itself over quite easily with its long legs. It did something like a headstand once, but it has not released any nasty smells or blistering agents, so it doesn’t seem to have that kind of defense.
The underside is of the abdomen is smooth, while the top of the abdomen is covered in tiny bumps. The antennae are short, divided into tiny, somewhat v-shaped segments, uniform, and consist of a single strand with no branching. The mandibles are small and there’s little, if any, gap between them and the head.
Here are some pictures with a ruler for scale. On the picture of the top of the beetle, you can see both the inches and mm side of the ruler. The picture of the underside shows only the inches side of the ruler.
Do you guys know what this thing is? I’m told that they’re fairly common, but I’ve never seen one before and nobody knows what they’re called.

Update: I think I solved this one myself by looking at a few more
pictures on your site. There are just too many kinds of beetles. I’m
99% sure now, but I would appreciate a confirmation, though.
Death Feigning Beetle
Species Cryptoglossa variolosa
Seems like it has an apt name. It played dead any time I went near
it. Note that this one was originally covered in sand or dust giving
it a whitish appearance, like I see in many other pictures. This one
got a bath before its photo shoot, which is why it’s solid black. It
was then released, avoiding unnecessary carnage.

Hi Matt,
YOur beetle is a Darkling Beetle in the family Tenebrionidae, but we are having issues matching it to a species. It looks quite similar to
Asbolus verrucosus, which is pictured on BugGuide, though that species appears to be gray while your specimen is black.

P.S. The Death Feigning Beetle you cited is in the same tribe, Centriopterini, as the Darkling Beetle we cited. We will check with Eric Eaton to see if he can provide a conclusive answer.

Please note that this beetle was initially grey/white. If it’s like
some of the pictures I’ve seen, that white or grey may be sand or dust
or something similar. This beetle was initially covered in something
that washed off. We actually have a lot of white dust (specifically
lucite, a white dust of plastic particles) at work near where I found
it, so this guy got a bath before I took his picture because I thought
it would make it easier to ID correctly. That might explain the color
difference. That said, there’s plenty of ordinary dust outside. This
is a desert, after all. I don’t know if it had lucite on it or some
other dust. There’s simply too much dust around here to know.
It DEFINITELY tries to feign death, though (though I realize that
other beetles may do that). The first thing it did when I examined it
was to flip over and lie still for several minutes.
Unfortunately, I released the specimen already. For future reference,
what parts of it should I have tried to get a good picture of? I no
longer have that beetle ID guide my biology teacher had years ago, but
I remember that it had me do things like count the number of segments
in the beetle’s leg (and to carefully look for hidden segments). I
tried to find some kind of helpful guide like that online, but had no
luck. That’s when I found your site.

Hi again Matt,
Thanks for writing back with additional information. As we stated earlier, we are waiting for Eric Eaton to get back to us. The kinds of details that help identify beetles are antennae and legs. We believe there is enough detail in your photos for someone with more refined skills of identification, like Eric Eaton, to be able to identify your beetle. Please be patient and see what kind of response we receive.

No hurry. I just thought I’d let you know that it was white & dust
covered before, given that the coloring was confusing you.
Incidentally, if you want ideas for future content for your blog,
consider giving out tips on getting good photographs (and which parts
are important to show in detail). I had to take dozens of photos
before I got anything but a black blob. And my “ruler” looks strange
because it was actually a PDF that I printed out, because I didn’t
have a ruler handy (or rather, the ruler I did have was metal and too
shiny to be readable when photographed.


A variety of methodologies to help control the presence of A. diaperinus, and its impacts on poultry have been examined. Active beetle populations in manure or litter can be monitored by utilizing a variety of sampling methods, including Berlese funnels and tube traps (Safrit and Axtell 1984 Stafford et al. 1988). Buildings can also be surveyed by counting larvae on walls and posts in the early evening and "sentinel" insulation can be placed on walls and posts and monitored for entry holes on a regular basis (Geden and Hogsette 1994).

Identification and testing of aggregation and sex pheromones may lead to more effective monitoring methods and development of more effective baits. Pheromone releasing behaviors of A. diaperinus were examined by Falomo (1986). Geden and Hogsette (1994) recommend several basic and control component research needs for lesser mealworm control. A number of different control measures are warranted in a successful pest management approach.

Biological Control

Several natural enemies of lesser mealworm have been found, but there are no current biological control options for A. diaperinus. The fungal pathogen Beauveria bassiana (Balsamo) Vuillemin holds the greatest promise for further development as a biological control agent. Geden et al. (1998) reported that larvae were highly susceptible to natural epizootic strains of B. bassiana isolated from A. diaperinus. Granular formations of B. bassiana strains provided 60 to 90% suppression in lesser mealworm larvae (Geden and Steinkraus 2003). Numerous studies on the genetic variation of B. bassiana and A. diaperinus populations have been conducted (Castrillo and Brooks 1998 Castrillo et al. 1999). Natural protozoan infections in A. diaperinus examined by Apuya et al. (1994) suggest that they may be an important, overlooked factor in regulating insect populations.

Steinernematid nematodes do not appear to provide long-term control or may be significantly effective in only one life stage (Alves et al. 2005 Geden et al. 1987 Szalanski et al. 2004), although additional testing of a number of different species and strains may be warranted.

The web contents of two spider species were found to have high numbers of A. diaperinus adults in Brazil (Rossi and Godoy 2005). Rossi and Godoy (2005) suggest that natural predation by spiders in poultry houses should be quantified in further studies for use in combination with other biological control agents. Geden and Hogsette (1994) recommend that additional surveys of beetle populations both in the United States and in the original home range of the lesser mealworm should be conducted to discover novel biological control agents.

Chemical Control

Several formulations of carbaryl are registered for use against the lesser mealworm, including wettable powders, dusts, sprayable liquids, and baits. Several pyrethroids are registered and have been used as premise treatments (Geden and Hogsette 1994 Salin et al. 2003), and boric acid is available as a soil and premise treatment in some states (Geden and Hogsette 1994). Lime hydrate (calcium hydroxide) provided increased mortality among adult and larval A. diaperinus in the laboratory but has not been evaluated in the field (Watson et al. 2003).

None of the currently available insecticides provide satisfactory control when beetle populations are at outbreak levels. Some resistance to insecticides has also been observed (Lambkin 2005). Combined adulticidal (pyrethroid: cyfluthrin) and larvicidal (insect growth regulator: triflumuron) products showed some control but was dependent on building characteristics and management practices. Although lesser mealworms appear to be susceptible to many residual insecticides, the effectiveness of premise treatments can be limited by the accumulation of dust on treated surfaces (Despins et al. 1991) and manure levels in buildings.

Cultural and Mechanical Control

Utilized in conjunction with other control practices, another important method used to manage or suppress A. diaperinus outbreaks is some measure of cultural or mechanical control. Cold weather is a simple cultural control method for producers in northern locations, as most beetles can be eliminated by exposing them to sub-freezing temperatures for a week or more, as well as removing manure at these times. However, sub-freezing temperatures can damage pipes and kill birds.

Frequent manure cleanout or removal of litter and replacement of fresh shavings in poultry houses can help greatly reduce beetle populations (Geden and Hogsette 1994 Hinton and Moon 2003). Frequent removal of manure from caged layer systems also eliminates beetle problems. Application methodologies of manure in agricultural fields to suppress lesser mealworm populations were examined by Calibeo-Hayes et al. (2005) and Kaufman et al. (2005a).

Some types of insulation are more resistant to burrowing damage caused by the lesser mealworm and mechanical barriers can be used to prevent beetles from reaching susceptible building construction (Geden and Carlson 2001 Kaufman et al. 2005b).

Raising Mealworms:

I wouldn't say raising mealworms is FUN, but it's not too hard and can save you a lot of money.

Quick Tips for maximum productivity :

  1. Place large mealworms in a shallow plastic sweater container. Cut a hole in the top for ventilation and use a hot glue gun to adhere window screen to it to keep critters and moths out.
  2. Add 2-3" of bedding/food:
    • wheat bran, or a 3:1 ratio of wheat bran to dried skim milk, or
    • 4 layers: 1/4" layers of chicken mash (non-medicated) separated by layers of burlap or newspaper, or
    • 10 parts oat or wheat kernels, 10 parts whole wheat flour, 1 part wheat germ or powdered milk and 1 part brewers yeast.
  3. For moisture, add a small wedge of cabbage or half a potato. Put it on top of a plastic lid or newspaper to keep bedding dry. Replace vegetable at least weekly or if moldy.
  4. Ideally keep at around 80°F (room temperature is fine too) and around 70% relative humidity. Use a moistened sponge in a baggie/ open container (open side up above grain) for additional moisture.
  5. Periodically (e.g., every 1 to 2 weeks) sift out beetles from bedding that will contain the eggs/tiny worms. (The beetles may eat the eggs.)
  6. Once worms are big enough, sift frass (waste) and bedding out once a month, dispose of in garden, wash and dry container, return worms and add new food.

Bluebirds relish mealworms, which are the larvae of the darkling beetle (Tenebrio molitor Linnaeus, also called yellow mealworm or golden grub). Bluebirds will eat larvae (worms), pupae and beetles (before the shell gets hard), but prefer the worm form.

You can buy mealworms from a pet store (expensive - price depends on quantity but figure about $25/1,000) or mail order (less expensive - about $6-16/1,000 - see list of suppliers). You can also raise them yourself (perhaps for as little as .10/1,000).

Raising mealworms is fairly easy because these creatures are the insect equivalent of a weed. It saves a lot of money and is interesting, but I wouldn't classify it as long-term fun. It requires patience as it takes months to get them started (about 3 months for your first beetles, depending on temperatures and the size of starter worms). It also requires discipline to do harvesting, separating, replacing food, cleaning out waste, etc. Some people think it is not worth the bother.

A mealworm colony does not smell if properly cared for. (Dead mealworms and crapped up bedding material reek.) Mealworms don't carry any diseases harmful to humans, although one study indicated that they may act as an asthma sensitizing agent. One farmer indicated she experienced severe upper respiratory infections after handling mealworms and was concerned there might be a connection. She then used a mask and gloves when handling them, but eventually decided to abandon farming. Another had what appeared to be an allergic (respiratory) reaction to the farm - possibly the frass (but not to mealworms stored in a refrigerator.)

Timetable and Life cycle : Tenebrio molitor have an egg, larva, pupa and beetle stage. Depending on food and temperature, it takes about hundred to several hundred days for them to complete their life cycle. Therefore, if you want worms in the spring, start your colony in November or December. For each 20 beetles, you should get about 350 adult mealworms in 200 days. Here is the life cycle if the colony is kept at room temperature (

72 F.) I found it took much longer for the pupa to convert to the beetle stage.

Stage Time*
Egg Incubation 4-19 days (usually 4-7). Another source says 20-40 days
Larva 10 weeks. Visible after about a week
Pupa 6-18 (18-24?) days
Beetle and Egg Laying 8-12 weeks (followed by death). Egg laying starts 4-19 days (average 12) after emergence

* time depends on temperature, relative humidity, food, etc. Different sources report different time frames.

Stock : Get at least 100-1,000 large mealworms from a mail order supplier or pet store or from feed, grain, or meal in a barn/granary.

Do not buy "giant" mealworm for breeding, as they may have been treated with an insect growth hormone to discourage them from morphing into beetles, so they will grow larger. If giant mealworms do morph into beetles, they will be sterile.

To jump-start your farm, ask you local pet store if they have any adult beetles you can get.

Container : As long as the larvae are 1" or more below the top of the container, they can't get out. Mealworms may thrive more in a container with a large surface area. Some people keep the container(s) in a laundry room, garage or basement.

A clear container will let you see how much frass (waste) has accumulated. Use a shallow (e.g., 2-5 gallon capacity, 6-10" deep x 24" long, or 10" x 17" x 6") plastic container. A shoe box size or sweater storage container (Rubbermaid, Sterilite, etc.) will suffice. A pail can also be used. If you are going to separate the stages, a four drawer container like the kind found at Wal-Mart or Target can be used. A 64 quart Rubbermaid container holds 50,000 to 100,000 larva. L Cooksey found that a smooth bottomed container doesn't get as moldy as a container with ridges on the bottom.

Some people use wooden containers, but if the sides are too rough, the worms may be able to climb the walls.

A larger surface area may improve survival by dissipating heat. Too many worms stored in too small a container will overheat and die (e.g., 5,000 worms in a 2 gallon pail=dead worms.) The mealworms should probably be only 3-4" deep.

Ventilation and Cover : Ventilation prevents mold growth. Darkling beetles do have wings, but can't fly. Some commercial farmers do not cover their bins. Since mice, rats, cockroaches and some spiders will eat mealworms, the container should be kept closed. (One bluebirder in Texas found a scorpion in with her mealworms!) A tight fitting cover will also keep flour and grain moths out. Options:

  • If the container comes with a plastic cover, drill holes in it. If condensation forms on the inside of the lid, you need more holes.
  • Cut a section out of the middle of the lid and use a hot glue gun to glue some fine window screening material to the inside of the lid, around the hole.
  • Make a cover for the container out of window screening.

Temperature : The ideal temperature to maximize growth is 77-81ºF, but

72-74ºF is also good. Mealworms do reproduce in temperatures ranging from 65-100 F, but temperatures above 86ºF negatively impact growth and development (inhibiting pupation). The duration of the pupal stage will depend on temperature. It is six days at 91.4ºF, seven days at 80.6ºF, ten days at 75.2ºF and thirteen days at 69.8ºF.

Temperatures below 62ºF may halt reproduction. In cold temperatures the larval stage can last two years. Chilling worms and then re-warming them may significantly delay pupation. Prolonged exposure to temperatures below 40ºF may kill the worms.

I am using a 500 watt rheostat controlled ceramic reptile heater suspended over the container to keep temperatures high enough in my drafty home. The heater is in a metal hood, and sits on top of the Rubbermaid container, on a circular metal window screen hole. Because it dries everything out, I put the cabbage/potato wedges underneath fabric, and have several plastic containers filled with water sitting on top of the bedding.

Light : Consistent with the name darkling beetle, they prefer the dark. Keep the container out of direct sunlight. However, one source indicated that if mealworms develop faster when provided with light. To obtain a supply of adult beetles in the fall, the usual hibernation period of the dark mealworm (a different species) can be prevented by exposing the fully grown larvae to continuous light.

Moisture and Relative Humidity : Mealworms do require moisture. Too little moisture slows growth and reduces size. Too much can produce mold. If larvae are provided with dry food, they can survive and produce one generation a year. If they are provided moisture, they will undergo six generations per year and will be fatter.

Beetles lay more eggs when the relative humidity is higher - ideally 70% (55-80% is good). In one experiment, at a relative humidity (R.H.) of 20%, beetles laid an average of 4 eggs each, but at 65 percent R.H., they laid an average of 102 eggs each.

Adult worms also become more active between 90 - 100% R.H. Keeping the culture moist also prevents cannibalism. More is not better. If you put too much in, or leave it too long, it will get moldy or become a gooey mess.

  • Add a chunk of cabbage, raw potato (half a potato, or a chunk about 1"x3"), a slice of bread (which the mealworms will also eat), romaine lettuce, kale (high in calcium and inexpensive), yam (also nutritious) or apple slices (1/4 of an apple is enough for 1,000 mealworms, once or twice a week - I find apples get moldy too quickly). Some people use celery (e.g., bottom end of bunch), broccoli stems, carrots (grated carrots on a plastic lid), banana peels, or asparagus chunks. Cabbage leaves do not get as moldy as some other choices. Cover cabbage etc., with a cloth to keep it from drying out if you use a heat lamp. A crust of bread (replaced when dry) can also be laid face down on the bedding. You may wish to wash/peel vegetables first to prevent the introduction of pesticides.
  • Place potato/apple slices cut side up, even with top of bedding. By putting the skin side down, you keep the bedding/dry food from getting too moist.
  • Try kiwi skin with about 15% of fruit still in it (after scooping out the rest with a spoon for your own enjoyment). A.M. Prendergast found that it made mealworms grow about 3 times fatter and 30% longer in just 2-3 weeks versus wheat bran alone. The worms also use the skin as a "cave" as it dried and curls up.
  • To make them easier to replace (every 2-3 days or weekly), put vegetable on a little plastic lid, tinfoil pie plate or a piece of cardboard, or stick a toothpick in it. Replace immediately if mold appears.
  • If you use burlap or newspaper, you can spritz it lightly with water on a daily basis. Do not soak, and do not wet bedding. You can also put in a moist (not wringing wet) paper towel, changing it daily. You can put down a piece of aluminum foil under the dampened burlap/paper to prevent grain from getting wet.
  • You may not want to use Fluker's "Cricket quencher," a gel polymer that insects suck water out of - one person raising mealworms experienced a massive beetle die-off after introducing it, but the issue may also have been a bark log tunnel she introduced (purchased a PetSmart.) Fluker instead recommends a Fluker Orange Cube.
  • Small amounts of moist cat food (like Tender Vittles) can also be used, and will provide extra protein.
  • Placing adult beetles on moist blotting paper overnight may increase egg production.
  • Put a moist sponge INSIDE a plastic baggie (open) and lay the baggie on the bedding.
  • Place a small but tall (so they don't drown) bowl filled with water in the middle of the farm to increase relative humidity. A sponge can be placed in the bowl to increase the moist surface area. Fawzi Emad uses a moist sponge wired to the container lid. You can also put the bottom of the sponge in a plastic baggie (to prevent the meal from getting wet and moldy) and stand it upright in the corn or oatmeal. Re-wet the sponge weekly, and wash it when needed.

Food /Substrate/Bedding : The more nutritious the food, the more nutritious the mealworms will be. Layer it in 2-3" inches deep. Replenish the food often, as the worms eat a lot. Change the food out about once a month. Feed the beetles too (same stuff). I mix up a big batch with supplements and store in it a plastic bin with a screw top lid so I don't have to worry about flour moths and other critters getting into it.

Fine particles (fine wheat bran, corn meal, chick starter) make it easier to sift out large mealworms. Larger particles (e.g., rolled oats) with larger worms make it easier to sift out frass so you don't waste food. Newly hatched worms are so tiny that they will go through a screen with the frass. See cleaning.

You can buy some of the food items from an animal feed store or bulk food store. Commonly used food sources are listed below. They will also eat corn cobs (hiding inside):

  • wheat bran, red and/or white (about $7.00/20 lb. bag at a feed store) or chaff. Coarse or fine. Put it in 1.5-2" deep. Preferred by some breeders.
  • rolled oats (oatmeal - uncooked, old fashioned - not instant. I don't like using oatmeal as it is difficult to sift out the worms).
  • oat bran
  • cornmeal (not cornSTARCH)
  • chick (poultry - chicken or pheasant & turkey) starter/mash - very nutritious. Available from a feed store. Get NON-MEDICATED. You can put it in four layers each of 1/4" of mash covered by burlap. Easy to sift. 55 lb. bag costs about $11.
  • ground dry dog or cat food encourages pupation. It can also be given to worms prior to offering them to birds to increase protein content.
  • leftover low sugar cereal
  • birdseed (e.g., milo)
  • wheat flour (whole wheat for added nutrition)
  • grain mixture:
    • 10 parts oat or wheat kernels, 10 parts rolled oats (oatmeal) or whole wheat flour 1 part wheat germ or powdered milk and 1 part brewers yeast.
    • 10 parts wheat feed, 10 parts rolled oats, 2 parts brewers yeast
      rolled oats 10 ounces.

    A few scraps of cloth or wrinkled paper layered with the bedding will prevent the meal from packing too solidly.

    Supplements : You can add the following to the dry food/bedding: wheat germ, finely ground egg shells or cuttlebone (for calcium), soybean meal, Wombaroo insectivore mix, fish flakes, fine mouse cubes, bone meal, graham (whole wheat) flour, and dry brewer's yeast ( provides proteins and trace elements essential to the insects' growth and makes larvae grow more. Brewer's yeast can be obtained at health food stores. It's pricey, so you might want to buy it in bulk at a feed store or online . You can sprinkle the vegetables/fruit with calcium and vitamin supplements to add nutritional value. Experiments where skim milk (calcium source) was added to wheat bran (1:3 or 1:2 ratio) yielded better growth than wheat bran alone.

    Cloth or newspaper covering : You can partially cover the food surface (about 2/3) with several layers of newspaper, brown grocery store bags, paper towels, or a folded piece of cloth. Leave space between the paper and edges of the container.

    Worms will crawl between the newspaper layers to pupate, which makes it easy to collect them.

    The beetles will lay eggs on cloth. However, it is difficult to get the beetles off the cloth when maintaining the farm. Beetles will also lay eggs directly on the food source. Or you could put thick, clean, dry hunk of bark on top of the bedding. The beetles will lay eggs on it.

    Separating out worms : To remove worms to offer to birds or to separate them from eggs and beetles you can:

    • use a stainless steel sifter
    • put a sheet or newspaper or grocery store bag or a plastic lid on top of the colony. The worms will crawl under it in a few hours. Repeat until you have taken all worms out and then replace the bedding.
    • hold back on moisture for a couple of days. Then put a lettuce leaf, moistened piece of bread, or damp Bounty paper towel or blue paper shop towel (rung out - re-wet and ring out as needed) in the container on top of the bedding. The larva will cover the bread or lettuce. Shake them into a container until you get what you need.

    Cleaning : Remove dead mealworms or dead beetles. Dead larvae turn black. Dead pupae turn brown and shrivel up. Deformed beetles die early. Other dead beetles stop moving and their antenna crinkle up.

    Frass: As the mealworms consume the bran, a fine, dusty or sandy residue will settle out on the bottom. Eventually, shed exoskeletons and waste products (frass) will build up, and a slight ammonia odor may be detected. That means it's time to sift the grain to separate the worms and adult beetles (don't throw out tiny larvae or eggs) wash the container, add new grain, and return the worms to the container. You'll probably need to do this at least 3 times a year. If the frass builds up too much, mealworms may turn gray and get black stripes and then die.

    The frass (waste) can be used as fertilizer for flowers or vegetables. You might want to save the frass in a separate container for a bit and put some lettuce/cabbage to see if there are any mealworms you can separate out.

    The reason you need to sift out the beetles is they may eat the eggs.

    Sifters: You can make a sifter with #8 (1/8") hardware cloth or nylon reinforced screen tacked onto a wooden frame. If a sifter is made to fit in the bottom of the mealworm container, the frass will fall through the sifter, making it easier to clean the container. The fine hardware cloth may be difficult to locate (try a hardware store), but you can also buy a wire mesh basket from an office supply store, or use a device like a Double Over-the-Sink Colander with extendable arms (available at Linens N Things).

    Colony "Cycling" or Maintenance : Some farmers leave worms, beetles and eggs all together in one container. If you do not separate them, do not change the bedding after the worms turn into beetles, as it contains eggs of future worms. Leave the bedding until you can see and sift out the small mealworms. You really should go through the entire farm about 3 times a year to separate out the beetles into their own container and add fresh bran. Too many adults in the container can eat eggs and reduce the colony's production.

    Others farmers separate them out, since larvae and beetles might chow on the inert pupal stage, and beetles may eat pupa/eggs. If you start a new culture every 2-4 weeks, you will always have all life stages, they will be about the same age, and you won't run out of worms.

    To separate the beetles out, you can catch the live ones easily by providing apple slices. They swarm to the apple - just lift it and shake off swarm after swarm. The handful that are left are easy to pick up/spoon out as they surface.

    • The best set up may be to have two containers that fit inside one another. Put the beetles in Container A, and put small holes (smaller than beetles, bigger than bran) or screen the bottom of that container. Sit Container A inside Container B. Every 2 days to 2 weeks, shake out the bran (with eggs) out of Container A into Container B. The beetles stay behind. Add more food and moisture sources as necessary to A as necessary. Once you've collected enough bran and eggs in the B, transfer the contents to a "nursery" container (Container C) with a source of moisture and let it sit for 30-40 days, and start over again. You can cover Container C bedding with a piece of newspaper or cloth that is spritzed lightly with water on a daily basis. I don't know how well this set up would work if you have a cloth with the beetles on it, as they may be laying eggs on the cloth.
    • Use three or more containers. Container A can be a big Rubbermaid bin with a lid. Contain ers B and C can be open shoe box size containers that sit inside of Container A. Or you can use the multi-drawer stacked containers, or simply three separate containers.
      1. Pull pupae out by hand of Container A (it only takes a few minutes if you do it every 2-3 days)
      2. Put pupae in Container B (no food needed.)
      3. Let adults emerge before disturbing. Pick out the beetles out of Container B every couple of days (you can use a spoon) and put them in Container C with some bran and folded cloth they can lay eggs on. They are easy to see because unlike the pupae they have wiggling legs.
      4. After 2-8 weeks, take the beetles out of Container C and feed them to the birds/discard. Periodically remove any dead beetles.
      5. Let the eggs in Container C hatch. For the first couple of weeks/months you can hardly see the larvae. Tens of thousands fit in a shoe box size container. Disturb the culture as little as possible during this phase.
      6. When they are big enough to sift out from the grain, separate larvae out with a sieve or by hand and put them in Container A or more containers if you want to sort by age and size.
    • One person has a simple set up in a collection of 12 used takeout containers, each about 5"x7"x3" deep. The beetles are in the first one. Every couple of weeks she sifts the egg-containing bran and beetles into two separate clean empty containers. Four or five months later this provides a batch of mealworms that are pretty much all the same size.

    Storage : Worms that you don't want to reproduce can be kept in a closed container (with holes drilled in it) in the refrigerator. Lay a paper towel on top to prevent condensation. At 38ºF, or even 45-50ºF they will last along time (months) in a semi-dormant mode. One source says larvae can stay alive 80 days at 23ºF. They will not pupate in the refrigerator. See more information on storage.

    Freeze Roasting : Here is the technique Jeff Kellogg uses to freeze dry mealworms. Roasted mealworms do not require refrigeration, and should last more than a year.

    1. Get 10,000 large mealworms
    2. Put them in two large plastic containers on arrival and put them in the freezer.
    3. Once frozen and dead, heat up the grill on the lowest setting.
    4. Put the mealworms into a large disposable aluminum roasting pan, after sprinkling some corn meal into the bottom of the pan. This prevents them from sticking to the bottom.
    5. put them on the grill, close the lid, and let them sit there for about 4-5 hours.
    6. Again, put the grill on a very low setting (maybe only one burner on low) and shake them up every so often. They will turn brownish, but once they're cooked, they won't turn black and disgusting if left out in warm weather.
    7. Once cooked, put them back in the freezer and use them as normal. No smell, no feeding, no problem.

    Do not use a microwave. If you cook them indoors in the oven, it gets a little smelly.

    Dusting : You can "dust" the outer part of mealworms with powdered mineral or vitamin formulations (e.g., Powdered Calcium [Ca2+] or calcium-vitamin combinations) prior to feeding it to an animal. Put larvae or beetles in a baggie, and gently shake them to coat them with the mineral-vitamin powder. Shake off excess before feeding to animals.

    Uses : Mealworms are a good source of high quality protein. Some people do "gut loading" (offering extra food or protein to the mealworms) two days before feeding to animals. Larvae have a relatively hard exoskeleton made up of indigestible proteins and chitin. Recently molted mealworms may be softer and more digestible.

    You might consider selling excess worms to a local pet store or a zoo. If you sell them, count out 100 mealworms by hand and weigh them on an accurate postal scale. Then figure out what the weight is for whatever quantity you are selling.

      - caged and wild. Includes many songbirds and chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, peafowl, quail, chukar, pheasant, and domestic ducks. Small birds like finches prefer 0.5" size (worms 4-6 weeks old). One source indicates that because of their high fat content they should not be fed as a main part of any diet.
  • Excellent fish bait. Mealworms last on the hook longer than many other kinds of live bait. They are one of the best baits for bluegill, perch, trout, whitefish and many pan fish, and for ice fishing.
  • Tropical fish. They especially enjoy newly molted larvae.
  • Turtles (aquatic turtles of all sorts, box turtles, tortoises), reptiles (sailfin lizards, chameleons, fringe-toed lizards, basilisks, water dragons, basilisks, anoles), frogs (e.g., dart), toads, salamanders and newts. See dusting - it's a good idea to dust mealworms fed to desert or basking reptiles with a vitamin D3 precursor and a calcium supplement like Calsup®, especially when D3 light lamps are not used.
  • Small mammals, e.g. mice, hedgehogs, shrews, sugar gliders, moles, voles, marmosets, bats, rats and other insectivores.
  • Scorpions, praying mantis, centipedes, large insectivorous spiders, etc.
  • Human consumption. Yes some people actually eat them. Freeze for 48 hours first. They will keep in the freezer for a few months if they are properly wrapped in airtight bags or containers. Rinse under running water before cooking. They can also be dried in the oven, and used in place of nuts, raisins and chocolate chips in many recipes. See examples.
  • Science experiments for school children. (Red Nova and Leaping from the Box)
  • Nutritional Value: (Source:

    Note: Grubco's analysis was 62.44% moisture, 12.72% fat, 20.27% protein, 1.73% fiber, 1.57% ash, 133 ppm Ca, and 3345 ppm P.

    • I have found that sometimes after the worms turn into pupa, they fail to morph into beetles. I wonder if this is due to a moisture or temperature issue.
    • Darkling beetles live about three months maximum. (See timetable). If many die all at once, maybe the colony population is synchronized (all about the same age.)
    • If the moisture has been too high, there is the risk of fungal contamination. Continue putting beetles into two or three different containers, to ensure that at least one batch is always under good conditions and to minimize large die-offs.
    • (Thanks to L Cooksey for getting this information from Professor N. C. Hinkle, Dept. of Entomology, Univ. of Georgia)

    Problems with mites : Sometimes a mealworm colony gets infested by grain mites (Acarus sp.) The mites may come from the mealworm supplier, in bran, or litter from poultry production, and may infest a colony that has been around for a long period of time. Excessive moisture + heat may be a contributor. They are prolific breeders (800 eggs/female) and can withstand temperatures of 0 degrees and still hatch when brought to room temperature. (Another species that can be a problem is the mold mite, Tyrophagus sp.)

    The mites are tiny and round, whitish or tan in color, and have eight legs. They may cling to air holes and look like very fine sawdust. Mites can not fly.

    If your colony does become infested, the mites will kill the larvae and adults. Destroy the colony (e.g. by freezing) and start over. To prevent mite infestation:

    • Jack Finch recommended sterilizing all bran/grain (by microwaving it or placing it in a subzero freezer for several days) prior to adding it to a colony to prevent mite introduction.
    • Use only wheat middlings/hulls.
    • Create a moat. Place mealworm containers up on legs, and sit the legs inside small glass or plastic jars filled with water or glycerine (which won't evaporate like soapy water does). This will also keep ants out.
    • use a Vaseline band (a 2" wide band on the outside of the container just after you wash and dry it) to prevent mites from getting into a worm bed.
    • Blaine Johnson thought using apples and potatoes as a moisture source may have connected to a mite problem he had, and switched to carrots.
    • Store grain that will be used in the future inside tightly sealed containers.
    • Kees Van Epenhuijsen (an entomologist from New Zealand) said they achieved 100% mite mortality by using an acaricide paint (Artilin.) Place mealworm containers on top of a piece of plywood painted with the acaricide. This product is NOT available in the United States. Products used to protect beehives from mites (stinky strips put at the entrance to hives) and fumigants (which contain thymol, methol and eucalyptus oil) are too volatile to be used indoors and have no residual action. (I wonder if eucalyptus leaves would work?)

    Problems with moths : Brown moths (typically Indian Meal Moths, a common pantry pest that infests birdseed and cereal) may be attracted to the mealworm bedding. If they get into the farm, they make a sticky web almost like cotton candy. To prevent this, some people store farms outdoors during warmer weather. I put individual containers inside a larger bin with a screen hot-glued to the top. A "pantry-pest" trap using pherhormones can be used to trap adult moths. Microwaving cereals (e.g., 2 minutes), or freezing birdseed and cereals will kill moth larvae that may come in the packaged products. See more control methods.

    Other species : Tenebrio molitor Linnaeus larvae look like wireworms. There is another species of mealworm called the dark mealworm or Tenebrio obscurus, which matures more quickly than the yellow, and adult beetles lay more eggs. The confused flour beetle (Tribolium confusum) is sometimes referred to as a mealworm. The lesser mealworm (Alphitobius diaperinus [Panzer] is also known as the Litter Beetle, Black Bug or Darkling Beetle. "Superworms" (also called King Mealworms, megaworms, kingworms. Sometimes called Giant mealworms, although these are usually T. molitor treated with growth hormones) are Zophobas morio (sometimes listed as Zoophorbas). They are not treated with hormones, but are naturally larger (around 2-3 times bigger) than regular mealworms. They are native to Central/South America.

    Raising Superworms : Superworms (Zophobas morio) also called King Mealworms, King Worms or Megaworms, are used for feeding reptiles, birds, and for bait. Apparently they have less of an exoskeleton than mealworms. It is more difficult to breed superworms, but it can be done. Here is some information that Larry Broadbent gleaned from the Internet and experience. NOTE: Some sources indicate that if an animal (like a bird) consumes a superworm without chewing it, it could bite them in the stomach. Therefore, the head should be removed before feeding them to birds.

    • Superworms SHOULD NOT BE REFRIGERATED as it will kill them.
    • A 10 gallon Rubbermaid bin holds three hundred worms. Figure that about half will die before they turn into beetles.
    • 1-4" of bedding mix should be placed on the bottom of the bin. Wheat bran bedding mixed with some poultry mash works best. Some commercial growers add brewers yeast to increase growth and add protein content.
    • Like mealworms, superworms require moisture - otherwise they will cannibalize each other. This is the dilemma. The worms need the water, but too much water will get into the bedding, and the bedding will ferment, bacteria will grow, and the worms will die. Potato, and/or apple slices work well. The worms "drink" from the slices, and the bedding stays dry.
    • Superworms require warmth. Room temperature is fine for keeping the worms, but they need 70ºF and up to breed. Colonies should be kept at 70-80 degrees F, or eggs, worms, and pupa will die and beetles will not reproduce.
    • Like mealworms, superworms have four stages: egg, larva (worm), pupa and beetles. The beetles are much larger than mealworm beetles, and change color as they mature. The beetle stage lays eggs.
    • To get superworms to pupate, place them under stress. Unlike mealworms, superworms should be placed individually in small plastic containers such as 35mm film containers (stacked on their sides like drums), in order for them to metamorphose. Egg cartons or covered ice cube trays might also work. Include a little bran, cover the container with a cap, and check weekly.
    • It will take a +/-30 days for them to pupate. The worms should curl up. This means they are morphing. If they are straight and still, they are dead. Dead Superworms stink.
    • Pupae do not eat. If touched or exposed to bright light, they may wiggle.
    • When they become beetles (turning from white to reddish color in 24 hours), place them into a bin with bran/chicken feed, and slices of potato or apple quarters. Place 100-150 in a 3 gallon Rubbermaid bin filled with 1-2" of peat moss.
    • About two eggs would fit on the head of a pin. Move beetles to a new container every 10-14 days to keep the beetles or newly hatched worms from eating the eggs. When the beetles die in a few weeks remove them, and leave the bin at 70ºF.
    • New worms should be visible in about a month or two after the death of the beetles.
    • Some farmers only feed newly molted (white) superworms to reptiles, as there have been cases where adult superworms injured some herps such as chameleons.

    Comments on my experience so far raising mealworms : I purchased 5,000 large mealworms in the winter, and it seemed like it took forever for them to pupate. I had to buy a heat lamp because I think temperatures were too low. As a result, the cabbage dries out quickly. It took much longer than the literature said for the pupae to metamorphose into beetles. I made the mistake of not having "siftable" bedding to periodically remove eggs, and I think the beetles ate them. I don't mind the worm or pupal form, but the beetles gross me out. I find the sound of them crawling around creepy. I have to separate the forms out once every week or two, which is tedious. If you are looking for a fun and exciting hobby, this ain't it! But it will save money.

    References and More Information:

    • Feeding/Raising Mealworms - Best of Bluebird_L Classified by E.A. Zimmerman - includes DIY feeder instructions
    • How To Start and Maintain a Mealworm Colony by John Thompson
    • Mealworm links (some broken)
    • Raising Mealworms fact sheet by Ohio State University
    • FEEDING MEALWORMS - Solving the Problem of Mealworm Getaway By Nola Aiken
    • The Smith Meal Worm Feeder by Katherine Smith
    • Feeding bluebirds by Jan Alhgren
    • Keeping and Raising Mealworms by Tricia
    • Raising mealworms or fishing worms, University of Kentucky
    • Raising and Caring for Mealworms - Bruce Johnson and Morgan Davidson
    • NABs fact sheet - Feeding Mealworms
    • Bluebird_L Reference Guide
    • Recipes for human consumption, Food Insect Newsletter
    • Mealworms, Fawzi Emad - caring for, training bluebirds to come to feeder
    • How To Start And Maintain A Mealworm Colony by John Thompson
    • The Bluebird Monitor's Guide to Bluebirds and Other Small Cavity Nesters by C. Berger, K Kridler and J Griggs
    • Asthma caused by live fish bait by Siracusa A, Bettini P, Bacoccoli R, Severini C, Verga A, Abbritti G., Institute of Occupational Medicine, University of Perugia, Italy.
    • Maintaining a Mealworm Farm by Carol Heeson
    • The Breeding of Mealworms, RSPB Birds (and Superworms) by RepVet - Hanley's Herps with good photos by Ron Salem
    • Brewers Yeast supply online - various places - e.g. Omaha Vaccine or - good info, also info on king worms
    • Larry Broadbent of Canada , Ohio State University Fact Sheet by Tony West
    • Thanks to Liz Cooksey, who reported on the etymology of the scientific name for mealworms - tenebrio molitor- "tenebrio" comes from "tenebrion -- one who lurks in the dark" and "molitor" means "miller"

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