How Much Food Should I Feed My 2.Month Old Puppy Raising Mealworms: A Beginner’s Journey

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Raising Mealworms: A Beginner’s Journey

If you’re completely new to the idea of ​​growing and eating insects, the general consensus is that mealworms are the way to go. They are high in protein and relatively low in fat, they reproduce very quickly and in large numbers. Adult females usually produce hundreds of eggs at a time and the same adults can be used to reseed new egg stocks every couple of weeks for the next 1-2 months, until their reproductive output is too low. Another advantage of using mealworms as a favorite insect is that they can be stored in the refrigerator for months if necessary, as long as they are taken out to feed them once a week.

life cycle

Before going any further, it is important that you understand the life cycle of the mealworm. Mealworms aren’t really worms: they’re in the order Coleoptera, which makes them a beetle. Mealworms themselves are actually the larval form of the dark beetle. Beetle species account for 40% of all insects on the planet and mealworms are the most cultivated by humans, mainly for animal feed.

After breeding, adult female beetles will lay their small eggs in the soil. These come with a sticky outer coating to pick up soil particles so they hide from predators. Once they hatch into their larval mealworm form, the baby mealworms begin to eat and grow; that’s pretty much all they’re programmed to do. Mealworms, unlike the larval forms of some insects such as butterfly caterpillars, have hard exoskeletons, meaning they must shed them periodically to continue growing. Mealworms will go on to molt successively to grow from the size of a grain of sand to over an inch long.

Once they reach larval maturity, they will begin to pupate and enter their third pupal form, in which their cocooned bodies turn to mush so they can reassimilate into their adult structural form. The time it takes to undergo this metamorphosis varies according to the environmental conditions: the ideal is high humidity and an average temperature. The adult will eventually emerge small, soft and white from the pupa and over the course of a week or so, will eat and grow as its exoskeleton hardens and turns black. A week or two later, the adult will reach sexual maturity and begin to reproduce, thus completing the life cycle.

Cultivation of mealworms on a small scale

After doing considerable research into the practicalities of running a small mealworm farm at home in the UK, I kept coming across the popular notion that ‘separation is key’, keeping the adults, larvae and the eggs away from another. Productivity is the reason for this, as both larvae and adults will eat the eggs and the adults will also forage for young larvae, ultimately reducing overall yield.

The configuration

Now, then, the process. I used a number of example templates to formulate the most efficient means of running a mealworm farm. For starters, you’ll need something to keep your mealworms on. I recommend a six-drawer plastic filing cabinet. Each drawer will serve to house mealworms at different stages of development. Some people cover these drawers with tape to keep the inside dark, as beetles in particular prefer it. Others also poke a few holes in the plastic for ventilation, but many find that opening the drawers regularly to change food sources provides adequate ventilation. The drawers I use are quite deep and not completely sealed, so their inhabitants don’t run out of air without these holes.

Then you will need a good amount of chicken feed pellets for their bedding and most of their diet – some people use oats and others use wheat bran, but ground chicken feed pellets seem to have less risk of mold development, esp. crucial thing to keep in mind when using potato slices as a source of moisture and food. You can go old school with your pellets and grind them in a mortar or you can get one of these mini blenders to speed up the process.

Agriculture begins

Once you have all the setup in place, contact your local pet store and purchase your first batch of mealworms. A couple of hundred or so will do to get you started (if you’re following this method on a small scale). Just before they arrive, grind up enough chicken pellets to evenly coat the bottom of the lowest baking sheet just over an inch thick. Add your mealworms and a couple of moisture sources (I use apple slices and a whole carrot) and the waiting game begins. At this point, it is up to you whether you rescue the pupae as they form, as some mealworms are known to suck the pupae. Either way, you’ll end up with a nice collection of reddish-brown beetles. Let them ripen for a week or so until they turn black.

Now it’s time for your first beetle transfer. Grind the pellets, fill the next tray in the sequence as you did before and place it on a table next to the beetle tray. A pro tip for transferring your beetles is to add a slice of fresh apple and wait for them to gather around, allowing you to grab the slice and shake it into the new tray. You can also strain the entire contents of the tray through a trash can, through a colander or plastic strainer. The beetles should be all that’s left in the sieve, so just put them with the rest in the new tray and put the tray back in the cupboard.

More waiting…but in the meantime you can rinse out the old tray, and don’t forget that beetles need food replenishment more often, as you’ll notice they go through it much faster than mealworms (which also eat the bedding ). ). The rule of thumb is every day or two for beetles and a little less often for mealworms, but just keep an eye out for mold along the way.

After a couple of weeks, it should be safe to say that your beetles will have bred and laid eggs, but you should keep an eye out for tiny mealworms that appear recently in case the process be faster than expected – the beetles will eat them as soon as they see them. When the time is right, repeat the apple slice transfer method to move the beetles up a level. You can always strain them again, which is faster, but you’ll need to make sure your sieve has holes big enough for any of your little grubs to slip through. Some think that doing this is not good for larvae of this size, or for the eggs. If you use the sieve, make sure the bedding goes back into the same tray (and not the bin) because of course there are lovely eggs inside. Top it off with more freshly ground pellets if needed.

All you have to do now is repeat the same steps, leveling up the beetles every two weeks until they reach the top. When they do, start over from the second lowest tray. Just keep the bottom tray out of the cycle, into which you can put any rescued pupae. When these turn into mature beetles, just add them to the beetle tray so they can start breeding. Whenever your mealworm brood in a given tray reaches a decent size, use the filtration method and discard the old bedding. Your mealworms can then be stored in the freezer or fed to your chickens, whichever is the desired outcome. Just remember to wash them before cooking if you’re going to eat them!

Happy farming!

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