Raising mealworms: feeding suggestions

December 27, 2008 by Riley Kyrsten  
Filed under Food & Diet

What kind of things can you give mealworms anyways? Is there anything that is bad for them or stunts the growth process? This is a good list of different things that are okay to feed your mealworms, beetles and such.

  • 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. 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.
  • Cover cabbage etc., with a cloth to keep it from drying out if you use a heat lamp.
  • 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.
  • More is not better. If you put too much in, or leave it too long, it will get moldy or become a gooey mess.
  • 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.
  • Cricket quencher,” a gel polymer that insects suck water out of, can also be used. It will not wet bedding material.
  • 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.
  • Place a small but tall (so they do not 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 it in 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 grown worms make it easier to sift out frass so you do not waste food. You can buy some of these 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.
  • oat bran
  • corn meal (not corn STARCH)
  • 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 pets to increase protein content.
  • leftover low sugar cereal
  • birdseed (e.g., milo)
  • wheat flour (whole wheat for added nutrition)
  • grain mixture:

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 a thick, clean, dry hunk of bark on top of the bedding. The beetles will lay eggs on it.

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Raising mealworms: growth and development

December 24, 2008 by Riley Kyrsten  
Filed under Food & Diet

Raising mealworms is very low maintenance and there will be little you will actually have to do other than maintain their food, clean their cage and move pupa, beetles etc. to their correct bins. Usually this only takes about 10 minutes out of the day. However there are a lot of things you can do to speed up the process and make sure the mealworms are healthy and juicy for your sugar gliders. Here are just a few tips and tricks that will make a big difference!

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Raising mealworms: Life cycle

December 20, 2008 by Riley Kyrsten  
Filed under Food & Diet

I’m sure you are curious how long it will take for you to get your mealworm farm up and running at a constant flow. True, it does take time, however there are some things you can do to speed up the process and things you can avoid to prevent slowing the process down. Here is a quick look at a mealworms life cycle and what you can expect to witness through your first batch of mealworms.

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Raising mealworms for your gliders or even profit!

December 17, 2008 by Riley Kyrsten  
Filed under Food & Diet

Keeping up with your sugar gliders diet can become expensive. Between fruit, vegetables and live insects, all things that go quickly and are not necessarily cheap, any ways you can find to save money, without going down in quality will help! Sure you can buy them freeze dried or in cans to preserve them, however they are much more expensive this way and you usually get a smaller quantity then paying the same price for them alive.

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Sugar Gliders are messy! A simple way to contain it!

December 13, 2008 by Riley Kyrsten  
Filed under Food & Diet

So by now I am sure you have discovered that sugar gliders are about as messy as children, if not worse. They throw their food everywhere and think that dumping their bowls over is considered a daily routine. If you are tired of the hassle of washing the walls behind the cage, and vacuuming underneath it every time you feed them. Their is an option for you. The funny looking plastic house in the picture above is just a regular Tupperware box you find at Walmart.

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Sugar Glider Diet: Kazkos Diet

December 10, 2008 by Riley Kyrsten  
Filed under Food & Diet

I just want to say that kazkos diet is a great place to start when looking at foods to feed your gliders. In Australia one of the local Zoos has been breeding and keeping Sugar Gliders since the early 1960’s. There diet has been developed over the years and the latest was added to by an animal nutritionist who added the bird vitamins. After some discussions we think this may have come about because of the ease to which these vitamins can be added to many diets. Here it is not recommended to add the reptile vitamins as these were designed primarily for reptiles although I don’t understand therefore why the bird vitamins were added for sugar gliders other than perhaps they are more gentle to the digestive system of gliders.

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Sugar Glider Diet recommended by Janine M. Cianciolo, DVM

December 6, 2008 by Riley Kyrsten  
Filed under Food & Diet

Today we are going to cover an article on glider nutrition and diet written by Janine M. Cianciolo, DVM who is an exotic pet vet located in Pinellas County, Florida.


Many common disease conditions in sugar gliders are the direct result of improper diet. Their name “sugar glider” suggests that sugar and fruit make up a large portion of their diet, however, this is not the case. Sugar gliders are omnivorous meaning they eat a variety of foods. You will also hear sugar gliders referred to as insectivore/omnivore indicating that insects make up a large portion of their diet in the wild.

In the sugar glider’s natural domain insects are primary to the diet, and when insects are abundant is generally when most of the breeding will occur. Insects are very high in protein, so it stands to reason that breeding gliders require a significant amount of protein in their captive diet when breeding is taking place.

Sugar gliders will rely on other food sources as the abundance of insects decrease in the colder winter months. Plant products such acacia gum, eucalyptus sap and other nectars make up the majority of this seasonal diet.

Sugar gliders eat manna in the wild. Manna is a crusty sugar left from where sap flowed from a wound in a tree trunk or branch. Gliders also consume honeydew, which is an excess sugar produced by sap sucking insects. Honey and fresh fruits are considered good substitutes for the sap, manna and honeydew free ranging sugar gliders eat naturally in the wild.

I am offering a suggested diet plan that has been refined as a result of my close working relationship with SunCoast Sugar Gliders. I can say from firsthand experience that this diet is highly successful as SunCoast has experienced impressively low disease and death rates, as well as high production rates. The joeys born at SunCoast are healthy and weight sufficient, which are great indicators of a good diet plan. This diet includes all fresh foods prepared daily and offered at time intervals that will prevent sugar glider access to foods that may have spoiled.

Now I am compelled at this point to tell you that there are many paths to good nutrition if you have a sound understanding of the sugar glider’s nutritional needs. Balance is very important and avoidance of foods that could ultimately be disease supportive is important. If you are well versed in what these issues are, then variance from this diet can be acceptable.

As we proceed to the specifics of the recommended diet plan, keep in mind the importance of environmental enrichment. The subject of environmental enrichment covers a lot of topics, but for the sake of this article we will focus on the nutritional enrichment issues. Major zoos, the world over, are very focused on nutritional enrichment. This simply means that variety in the diet is important to the overall well being of the animals being cared for.

Let’s face it, would you like to eat the same thing everyday? By varying the foods offered, you are creating stimulation for your pet that produces several benefits. Amongst these benefits are the prevention of boredom, and food variety also enriches the overall health as each item offered will have varying values as they relate to nutrition, vitamins and minerals.

For example, carrots and corn are both vegetables, but they have significantly different food and vitamin values when consumed. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which is very good for your sugar glider when offered in the right form and amounts. Corn, on the other hand, has a high phosphorus ratio and too much of this vegetable can actually elevate disease opportunity in your pet.

Now let’s get into the specifics of the diet plan I’ve developed for SunCoast Sugar Gliders. A primary objective in developing this diet was to come up with universally accepted foods that over 95% of the population will consume heartily. You can feed a great and nutritionally balanced diet, but if the animals don’t like it, then they will feast on individual components of the diet which will cause a lack of nutritional balance.

The diet is a three part feeding routine, plus the administration of
vitamins and minerals with the second part:

1. A fresh protein source.

2. A fresh source of fruit and/or vegetables. The fruit and vegetable
servings should be sprinkled with a daily dose of vitamin and calcium
supplements to ensure adequate nutrition.

Both of the fresh components should be fed in the evening with uneaten portions removed in the morning.

3. A staple food available all day, everyday to make sure that adequate food amounts are offered. You will likely find that your sugar gliders will eat the fresh foods first and will nibble at the staple food throughout the day and night. It has been our observation, particularly with breeding animals, that they will wake up during the daylight hours for a snack. It’s the sugar glider’s version of what we call the “midnight snack”.


Offered on a four day rotation with one item offered from the following list daily:

Gut loaded mealworms - Feed 10-12 small, 7-10 medium, or 3-5 large mealworms per glider

Gut loaded crickets - Feed 3-5 crickets per sugar glider

Boiled eggs (without shells) mixed with high protein/low sugar cereal (like corn flakes or Special K) and mixed with either honey or apple juice. One heaping tablespoon is offered per 2 sugar gliders.

Yogurt (blueberry or peach) - 1 heaping tablespoon is offered per 2 sugar gliders

Special Note: Just weaned joeys are not quite ready for the mealworms or crickets yet, so substitute Gerber chicken baby food mixed with applesauce or sweet potatoes for the protein portion of the diet. Offer small mealworms weekly until the joey learns how to eat them without any trouble.

June bugs and grasshoppers are also good insects to feed your sugar gliders. While SunCoast does not feed either of these insects, I do recommend them as good protein sources. Never feed lighting bugs to your gliders.

Fruits or Veggies

Offered in single portions daily and varied from day to day depending on the time of year and availability of these items. This is merely the list that SunCoast uses and is not intended to be all inclusive. The amount to feed is about the amount that would equal one apple cut into 8 pieces with one piece fed to 2 sugar gliders.

Apples - Pears - Sweet Potatoes - Watermelon - Honeydew - Cantaloupe - Carrots - Kiwi - Mango - Oranges (only once a week and never to joeys) - Blueberries

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Vitamins and calcium should be given daily. I recommend Vionate as a well rounded vitamin designed for small animals. To supplement calcium levels, I recommend Rep-Cal Calcium, the phosphorus free without Vitamin D3 added version. Vionate already contains Vitamin D, so you don’t need it in the calcium. The vitamins should be sprinkled on the offering of daily fruits or veggies. You will just add a pinch of both Vionate and Rep-Cal. Do not overdose the vitamins. Too many vitamins can be just as harmful as not giving them at all.

I also suggest a third supplementation for breeding sugar gliders. We’ve found that using a milk replacer product like Arnold’s Choice Possum Milk Replacer, sprinkled on the fruit and vegetables has shown beneficial effects to the lactating female. 1/8 teaspoon every day is the amount used by SunCoast. During pregnancy, it is advisable to gear the diet more towards the needs of the female and its OK if the male is indulging in the same foods. If you find the male is getting overweight from this diet, I suggest that you purchase a Wodent Wheel or some other device that will give him access to good exercise.

Staple Food

Offered in the cage at all times. ZooKeepers Secret is the staple food used at SunCoast. From my experience, this is a well balanced formula and sugar gliders like it. This semi-moist protein rich product is a great supplemental food to your gliders fresh diet. It is very important that small animals have access to food continually throughout the day. This is particularly important for breeding animals. There is no commercially available food that I would recommend as the single source of nutrition for your sugar glider.

I do not recommend that you substitute cat food as your choice of staple diet for your sugar glider. Cat food is designed for cats and cats are strict carnivores. To put this in perspective, many years ago when ferrets were becoming popular, ferret owners fed cat food, and over time it was discovered that this incorrect nutritional balance was ultimately bad for the ferrets. We have no reason to believe this is not the case with sugar gliders as well.

Fresh, clean water should be accessible at all times!

If you plan to give additional treats to your sugar glider, do so after they’ve eaten a significant portion of their meal. You can also use ordinary meal items as treats, for example, hand feed your pet its mealworms. You enhance your bonding and friendship and are feeding your pet what it already needs. If other treats are offered, the quantities should be very small in relation to the whole diet consumption. Think of it as dessert! And too much dessert leads to obesity. Obesity in any animal leads to significant health problems.

Dr. C’s Top 10 Nutrition Tips

1. Fresh water should always be available.

2. Never add vitamins to the water supply.

3. Offer meals that are at least 40% protein for non-breeding gliders and 50% protein for breeding sugar gliders.

4. Supplement proteins with a variety of fresh fruits & vegetables.

5. Keep a high quality staple diet in the cage at all times

6. Feed fresh portions of fruit and veggies in the evening and remove any foods that can spoil in the morning.

7. Avoid preservatives and pesticides in the diet.

8. Avoid excessive fat in the diet - meat products should be lean.

9. Maintain positive Calcium/Phosphorus ratios.

10. Gut load your bugs before feeding to the sugar gliders.

In closing, I am an advocate of feeding fresh foods to exotic animals. I see a great number of exotic animals in my practice, and because exotics are relatively few in number as compared to the more traditional domestic pets, I am not yet convinced that there is an adequate pre-packaged food product available that meets all the needs of the sugar glider. If you want to keep an exotic pet, you should be willing to feed it an exotic diet. If you want easy, then get a more traditional pet that you can feed once a day in a bowl on the floor. It is difficult as a professional in my position to see that the demise of most exotic pets is due to the owner’s lack of knowledge on proper nutrition and environment.

This is a diet plan that I can endorse as I’ve seen firsthand the success of this program. I would prefer not to comment on the many variations that are published as I do not have good firsthand experience with them. If you believe that you have a program is that is healthy for your sugar glider, I suggest that you review the plan with your veterinarian to insure that it is appropriate. Remember, there is more than one path to good nutrition, this is just the path that I recommend to my clientele.

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Sugar Glider Diet

December 3, 2008 by Riley Kyrsten  
Filed under Food & Diet

A sugar gliders diet a very important part of their care to maintain their health. Unfortunately it can be a nuisance for someone who didn’t realize that when they bought their sugar glider. I have been reading a lot in forums lately and it seems that pet shops consistently tell people that sugar gliders can eat a mixture of fruits, veggies and the dreaded pellets. Sure that would be great if it were true, but sugar gliders have a very extensive diet.

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