What is a Mealworm?
Mealworms are the larval form of the mealworm beetle (Tenebrio molitor) a species of darkling beetle.
For every 100 grams of mealworm larvae, 206 calories and anywhere from 14 to 25 grams of protein are contained. Mealworm larvae contain levels of potassium, copper, sodium, selenium, iron and zinc that rival that of beef. Mealworms also contain essential linoleic acids which are good for the heart. They also have greater vitamin content by weight compared to beef, B12 not included.
Keep mealworms in a container that they can not grip the sides. Either glass ,metal plastic, or wax coated. If the container is deep enough a lid is not necessary, however if you use a lid make sure you create air holes so they can breathe or use cheesecloth. If you notice condensation under your lid you need to increase your airflow.
Place 2-3 Inches of edible substrate on the bottom of the container, this will act as their food and bedding. This substrate can be made up of dry ground up wheat, oats or corn, so basically any cereal. You will need to add more food as the worms eat away at the substrate. Every few weeks or earlier if you notice mold or stench, you should replace ALL of the bedding with fresh substrate. You can use a sifter to gently separate the worms from the bedding.
Keep them out of direct sunlight. Keeping the container at room temperature (68-72 degrees F) is ideal. Up to 80 degrees F if you plan to breed.
While they do eat their substrate as a constant source of food, they still need other nutrients. You can feed them a variety of fruits, veggies and starches. Potatoes are a great option because they take a long time to mold. Discard and replace as the food begins to mold. Avoid excessively soggy food, because it can cause the bedding to get damp and mold.
DO NOT ADD A WATER DISH. The worms can crawl in a drown in a water dish, they will get their water source from fruits and veggies.
Newborn worms will stay like this for 8-10 weeks. Eventually the worms will enter pupae form and start to change into beetles. For the safety of the pupae it is recommended to separate them from the worms until they hatch. The worms and beetles may eat the pupae if kept in the same container. The beetles can then be placed back in with the worms after they hatch. The pupae do not eat, so they can be placed in a paper towel bedded container, which will allow them to stick while they transition.
Conveniently the beetles eat the same food as the worms, so you do not have to change any of your feeding habits!
Eventually you may get a large influx of worms and beetles. At this point you can store any excess worms in a small sealed container with holes in the lid. Refrigerate this container keeping the temp above 40 degrees F so they do not immediately die off.
You can then feed the excess worms to your animals as necessary!