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.

Worms (aka larvae) - You will start out with worms. It’s not necessary to refrigerate them. They should remain at room temperature. The worms under go a series of about 10 to 20 molts during which they shed their exoskeleton (outer layer of skin). They burrow under the bedding during this time and stay toward the bottom of the drawer. They eat the oats and get moisture from the carrots. You can use these worms as your feeder worms when your suggies are hungry for a mealie snack.

Pupae - The second stage of worm farming is the pupae. During this time - the worm comes to the surface, and turns into a “C” shape. They are white, alien-looking and very ugly! Don’t worry if you don’t see them moving much at this stage. They should be separated and put into the 2nd drawer - if you have beetles, the beetles can and will eat the pupae. They will not need as much moisture as beetles and worms, so you don’t need to put as many carrots in with them. The pupae then turn into beetles. This can take a couple of weeks. As the pupae morph into beetles, you have to move the beetles into their own drawer or they will eat the remaining pupae. The pupae can actually stay in the same drawer as the larvae as long as you check it daily for beetles and move the beetles into the beetle drawer. Just be sure to keep enough moisture (carrots) for the worms. Gliders also LOVE to eat the pupae. So, If you feel your meal worms are morphing to quickly - feed your suggies some of the pupae.

Beetles - The pupae then metamorphose into beetles. You cannot tell the males from the females. They can’t fly, so you don’t need to worry about them escaping the container. Put a piece of cardboard egg carton in the drawer with the beetles as they like to lay their eggs on something. Beetles lay their eggs usually about 9-24 days after they hatch. They lay eggs for up to 3 months before they die. A female beetle can lay up to 50 eggs per day during their lifetime. You won’t be able to see the microscopic eggs or the tiny new meal worms. The first thing you will notice is it appears the oatmeal mixture is “moving”. You should be able to see them in about 4 weeks.

Stage Time* Egg 4-19 days Larva 10 weeks. Visible after about a week Pupa 6-18 (18-24?) days Beetle 8-12 weeks

The cycle will then begin all over again! Mealworm Farming is a test in patience. As you can see, it can take a few months to get a farm up and running. You may have to replenish your “feeder” worms before you actually get your farm going strong. If you are able to, check your local pet store or online and see if you can find the beetles already full grown. This would make the process that much faster if you can!
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