Mealworms make excellent, high-protein food for exotic pets. They are easy to breed and raise, and they provide a valuable source of sustenance for animals that may not be able to eat other types of food. In this blog post, we will discuss the basics of breeding and raising mealworms. We will also provide some tips on how to feed your exotic pet.
How to Find the Right Place for Breeding Mealworms
With regard to the choice of place, there are some things to consider when breeding mealworms.
- Sufficient space for movement: When handling mealworms, you need some space, because various boxes must be placed in the respective room and worked on regularly.
- High dust exposure: mealworm breeding involves high dust exposure. Therefore, choose a space where you can live with the dust. For example, the garage or a garden shed prove to be good options.
- No drafts: over time, mealworms shed their skin. The small “pods” are light as a feather. Therefore, it is important that there is no draught in the room.
You Will Need These Utensils
Before you can start breeding mealworms, you need the right equipment.
Necessary accessories for breeding mealworms themselves:
- Mealworms: To get started, you need to buy live mealworms once. You can get them at a pet store, for example. But you can also buy them from a mealworm breeder.
- Various plastic boxes without lids: the mealworms are bred in these. The boxes should have a uniform size, as this makes it easier to stack them. Lids are not needed as the worms cannot fly.
- A sieve or litter box scoop: These should be close-meshed, as this is used to sift out the mealworms before they are relocated.
- Bedding for the boxes: For this purpose, it is best to use wheat bran, because this fulfills two factors in equal measure: On the one hand, the mealworms live and develop in it. On the other hand, mealworms can also eat wheat bran.
- Tasty and nutritious food: mealworms can develop best if they get tasty fruits and vegetables. Hard bread (alternatively buns) is also part of mealworms’ preferred diet.
- A source of warmth: Heat is important for mealworms to develop optimally. You can use heating mats, for example.
- For organization: you must document or observe the developmental stage of the mealworms well. Therefore, you should also have the following utensils ready: A calendar, a pen, and sticky notes.
Making Mealworm Farm in 10 Steps
Before you can start breeding mealworms, you need to build the “farm”. In this regard, perform the following steps:
Step 1 – Set up a mealworm farm
Place some plastic crates on a countertop. There, fill the boxes accordingly.
Step 2 – Fill substrate
Fill each box with wheat bran, about 5 to 15 cm high.
Step 3 – Add mealworms as breeding stock
Add the purchased mealworms to the boxes.
Step 4 – Feeding the mealworms
Next, you need to add the food to the boxes. Put one to two small slices of dried bread or dried rolls in each box. Also, mealworms need sufficient moisture, which is given to them by fruits and vegetables. It is best to use varieties that do not have too much moisture. For example, we recommend apples, pears and carrots. You can cut these into small pieces and distribute them in the bran.
Step 5 – Prepare another box
When you can see that the first pupations have taken place, prepare another box to put bran into. You do not need to put food into this box.
Step 6 – Transfer mealworm pupae
Then move the pupae to the new box. To help you find all the pupae, it is best to completely dig up the substrate with your hands.
Step 7 – Transfer flour beetles
Once the pupae have developed into small flour beetles, transfer them again into another box filled with bran. You may remember the mealybugs as dark and with a firm carapace. However, in the beginning, they are small, soft, and white. Already at this stage, you need to put them in the new box. You can use a sieve for this purpose.
Step 8 – Food for the flour beetles
Put hard bread and fruits and vegetables into the box with the beetles, making sure that the cut surface must face up from now on.
Step 9 – Beetle egg-laying
In their new box, the beetles will mate, creating mealworms. For this purpose, up to 200 eggs are laid in the substrate per female during her lifetime. Hatching takes place after about three weeks.
Step 10 – Harvesting the mealworms
After three weeks at the earliest and eight weeks at the latest, the beetles are relocated to a new box. From now on they need larvae as food.
For transferring them to the new box, it is best to use the cat litter box scoop or sieve.
Important Tips for Breeding Success and Hygiene
Regular hygiene is particularly important to ensure that breeding mealworms yourself goes optimally and that you can later feed your hamsters with mealworms without spreading diseases.
Observe hygiene rules:
- Once a day, take out all old leftover fruits and vegetables from the boxes and put in new food.
- As soon as you notice that there is a lot of feces and only a little substrate left in the boxes, sift out the worms and transfer them to a new box.
- After you have emptied out a used box, which should happen fairly quickly, clean that box thoroughly. You do not need to use a strong disinfectant for this. A vinegar cleaner or dishwashing liquid will do just fine here.
- If you find moths in the bran, this is no cause for alarm. Although the moths are unpleasant, they do not have a negative effect on the breeding success of the mealworms.
- If you notice a mite infestation, immediately increase the temperature of the boxes. The bran should be about two degrees warmer than the ambient temperature for the mites to disappear.
How to Breed More Mealworms Yourself
To organize the breeding success more easily, you can work with a commercial calendar, through which you can keep track of everything.
We also recommend that you label the breeding boxes with the respective stage. If you use sticky notes, you can remove them later without leaving any residue and stick a new note.
Depending on how quickly you need the mealworms and how many there should be, you can increase the breeding success by raising the temperature. You will notice that breeding is much faster in summer, which is due to high temperatures. Therefore, we recommend using the heating mats in winter to achieve a similarly good effect.