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Breeding Mealworms

How to..

Breeding mealworms is a lot of fun and much more cost-effective the purchasing dried mealworms. If your chickens are anything like ours, then they love to eat mealworms.
Mealworms are a healthy, nutritious snack that is full of protein, which helps your hens lay lots of eggs.
Life cycle:
  • Darkling beetles lay eggs that hatch in 1-4 weeks.
  • Larvae (mealworms) hatch and remain in this stage for 8-10 weeks.
  • Worms turn into pupae and begin the metamorphosis into a beetle which takes 1-3 weeks.
  • Beetles live for 4-16 weeks.

Here is the basic way to set up to start breeding mealworms:

You will need:

A minimum of four trays

Substrate – such as wheat pollard

Some egg cartons or cardboard

Fruit and Vegetables

Step One: Mealworms

You will need to source some live mealworms – most local pet shops have them and soon enough we will have kits!

Put your live mealworms in a drawer or tray with some ground-up grains – oatmeal or pollard work best.

Put a piece of vegetable or fruit in to provide moisture, but nothing with too much water that will rot. I prefer carrot, as it takes the longest to go off. But the mealworms seem to LOVE apples.

Put half an egg carton or some pieces of cardboard into the drawer. The worms like to hide under them and wriggle around on them.
Clean out and replace the grain mixture once a month.

Use a plastic fork periodically to sift through and find any pupae – which get moved to another drawer to hatch into beetles.

Step Two: Pupae

Check your mealworms daily if possible. Remove any rotted vegetable matter, dead insects, or clumps of mould from the oatmeal substrate. Add more vegetables and oatmeal as needed and move the bedding around to prevent mould.

Transformation into the pupal stage can take anywhere from a week to a couple of months. This all depends on how warm your climate is. Mealworms like it warm and dark. Pupae start off extremely pale white and look more like little curled-up beetles than segmented worms.

Separate the pupa as soon as you see them.  This won’t happen all at once, so you do need to keep an eye on them.  You must separate them from adults because they cannot defend themselves and run the risk of being eaten before they have a chance to hatch. Pupae do not move around very much and do not require any food.  I put them on a thin substrate of pollard.

The pupal stage can last anywhere from one to several weeks depending on the temperature. You will know they are getting close to hatching as they begin to darken in color.

Step Three: Beetles

Within a couple of weeks, you will start to see beetles emerge from the pupae. Remove the beetles to a new tray (set up the same as the mealworm tray) as soon as you see them. They will begin to feed on other pupae if they are not taken out quickly.

The beetles will begin to lay eggs on the substrate. Adult females will lay about 500 eggs at a time.

You can attach a mesh bottom to this tray and have a ‘catch’ tray underneath to catch any eggs. We just remove the beetles from the substrate weekly. The beetles then move to a new tray and the existing substrate will be for eggs which will hatch into fresh mealworms.

Step Four: Eggs

Eggs will hatch within 4-19 days depending on the temperature. These will become your fresh baby mealworms! You can continue the cycle as long as you wish, feeding any excess mealworms to your happy chooks!

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