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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.

We highly recommend setting up a Bug Factory Mealworm Farm. You can purchase one here. Simply the best, easiest and cleanest way to breed mealworms.

Here are the instructions using The Bug Factory:

Breeding Mealworms with The Bug Factory – Step-by-step

Step One: Mealworms

You will need to source some live mealworms – most local pet shops have them. Alternatively they can be ordered online and sent via the postal system.

Put your live mealworms in a base unit provided with our Mealworm growing pods with some substrate – Supermeal is best, but you can use oats or pollard.

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.

Mealworms like a warm, dark environment. Around 25 degrees to 28 degrees is ideal, but they will grow in a reasonably wide range of temperatures. Outside of the ideal range their growth will be less though.

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

Step Two: Pupae

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 and how mature the mealworms you started with were.

Pupae start off extremely pale white and look more like little curled-up beetles than segmented worms.

Separate the pupae as soon as you see them.  They won’t all turn to pupae 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.

Use your plastic tweezers provided with The Bug Factory kit to sift through and find the pupae, then move these to another base unit with the beetle tray installed in it. Pupae should be placed on the upper section of the beetle tray.

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

Step Three: Beetles

Within a couple of weeks, you will start to see beetles emerge from the pupae. The beetles will climb off the upper section of the beetle tray and land in the lower section with small holes drilled in it. They will require a layer of substrate and a source of moisture in the same way that the worm stage does. Supermeal and carrot work well. The beetle tray keeps the pupae and beetles separate.

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

The Bug Factory beetle tray allows the eggs to fall through the holes into the base unit below. Over time, you will see small mealworms start developing below the beetle tray. The beetle tray should be left in place for around 2 weeks in the base unit. The time it is left in depends on the temperature and number of beetles in the tray as this will have an effect on how quickly the base unit is populated.

Step Four: Eggs and small mealworms

After a couple of weeks the beetle tray can be moved to another base unit where the beetles will repeat step 3. The eggs and small mealworms which have developed below the beetle tray should be treated the same as the mealworms in step one, and will grow into mature mealworms.

Step Five: Ongoing maintenance

Beetles can survive any length of time up to a few months and will continue to lay eggs during this time. They need to have access to substrate and a moisture source at all times. Any dead beetles should be removed, and you need to regularly check to ensure each base unit with worms in it has substrate as well as a moisture source (carrot or similar) too. Don’t feed all of your mealworms to your pets, you should always keep a few through to maturity and place them on the top section of the beetle tray once they turn to pupae as these will replenish your beetle population and ensure you have a regular supply of eggs and small mealworms.

If you prefer not to use The Bug Factory kit, you can breed mealworms using the following steps:

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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