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How to Breed Mealworms, The Easy Way
You may ask why people would want to breed food bugs. There are many reasons I can think of why some might WRITE is interested in breeding mealworms: They are insects! They are smelly, slimy, icky, squirmy, insects! They can come out and raid my house! Or those who have some experience with these insects may suggest that they can easily be purchased from a local pet store or even cheaper in bulk off the internet.
First, let me get the thoughts out of the way—they’re not smelly, thin, squirmy, and I don’t think they’re icky. Their climbing skills are limited to rigid objects. They are slow moving so if you drop one, you can easily catch it.
Yes, you can order mealworms from a pet store. The Internet is still selling worms for as little as $12 thousand! So why would I want to go through the trouble of breeding them if I can buy them easily and inexpensively? Great question.
If you raise small reptiles like me, or have very small babies such as viper geckos, pictus geckos, or even chameleons, you need to raise your own food worms! You will find that breeding mealworms provide a large variety of the perfect sizes for these small reptiles. Child predators always eat! You need to have a reliable food supply in the right amount for these young animals to allow them to grow at a healthy rate. By raising your own, you will have many sizes available for your animals.
To start raising your own food worms start with about 100 – 200 adult worms. Again, these can be purchased at a local pet store or even from an Internet company. We note that normally mealworms will metamorphoses to a red and then into a Darkling Beetle.
Prepare the bed used to keep the insects healthy by using a brand of oats and dry baby cereal. The cheaper the better. I use oats as a base for medium. I like to add cereal as an additional food source for young mealworms.
Mix the two together – 2/3 oats to about 1/3 cereal. You will want to mix enough to have about an inch or two in the bottom of your container. This will become the basic food of insects. Additional foods such as potatoes, carrots, apples, kale, and other greens can be offered to provide moisture to the insects. The container can be a plastic shoe box, a sweater box, or another arrangement that I will discuss later.
Once the oats and cereal are mixed, add the mealworms. Add an egg top and bottom and you are good to go. Insects use this egg carton to crawl around on and under. Although mealworms will not climb the plastic walls, I place the cardboard away from the edges of the boxes.
Keeping mealworms in the high 70’s low 80’s and you will start to see red growth soon. I have found with the medium mixture described above and other foods offered that the insects will not bother the red. Some beetles may turn and die but most should turn into beetles. If you want to increase the production rate, you can definitely separate the red from the insects.
After two weeks of being red, you will start to see some black beetles appear under the egg cartons. Again, I didn’t notice any predation in my groups, even if the red ones were eaten by beetles if they were well fed. The beetles ultimately what you strive for is a healthy food colony. They lay eggs to create new mealworms. The eggs are very small and you will probably never see them as they are laid and will stick to the bed.
Finally, the container will be a mixture of substrate, egg cartons, mealworms of various sizes, maybe some reds, and of course beetles. From this slurry operation you can choose the size of the food you want.
The above method works well if you need to feed a few animals. If you have more than a handful of animals, the best way to go about organizing a non-stick food pantry is to use one of those plastic filing systems found at the department store. your area. Set each bowl with a pattern and you’ll attract all sizes of mealworms—more than you could ever use.
In this setup, I have 6 bins of mealworms going (the middle of the bin used for vermiculite). I don’t use all the bugs that this unit produces. I grow many bins to house caterpillars, beetles, and eventually more small insects—mealworms.
I hope you try this neat way to provide your animals with extra nutrients. Be patient as it takes some time to see those first micro mealworms.
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