Mealworms make a nutritious meal for many pets, including birds and reptiles. If you don't want to have to head to the pet store every time you need to feed your pet, consider keeping mealworms at home. They are very easy to raise and breed, and you'll save the time and money of going to the store to constantly buy more mealworms. Here's how to keep mealworms:
- Choose a suitable container. You can keep mealworms in almost any container with a breathable lid. A small plastic aquarium with a lid works well. So does a Rubbermaid tote with holes poked in the lid. Choose a clear container if you want to watch the mealworms in action, or an opaque one if you'd rather not see them. You can use anything from a half gallon aquarium to a ten gallon or larger plastic tote for this project.
- Add substrate. Substrate is the material in which the mealworms will be living. There are several choices for this material. Create a mixture of wheat bran and oats about two inches deep in the bottom of the container. Or, mix whole wheat flour and dry powdered milk. The mealworms will be well fed as long as their substrate provides some nutrition.
- Add potato. Peel a potato, and then slice it into a few large chunks. Place them in the container, on top of your chosen substrate. They provide additional nutrients, and also keep the mealworms from drying out. Replace the potato every few days, or at the first sign of mold.
- Purchase your mealworms. To colonize your mealworm habitat, you'll need to purchase several dozen mealworms from the pet store. Put them in the tank and let nature take its course. No special lighting is needed, though you should try to keep the container of mealworms at a temperature between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but out of direct sunlight.
- Understand the mealworm life cycle. After a while, the mealworms you purchased to populate the tank will pupate, forming an adult beetle. As the beetles breed, they will lay eggs which develop into baby mealworms, starting the process over again. Wait about a month after putting the first mealworms in the tank before you start feeding them to your pet; you want your mealworm colony to have a strong start. You can remove the adult beetles from the mealworm colony while they are alive, or wait until they die before removing them. Once they reach the adult beetle stage, they will live about two weeks.
- Add substrate. As the worms eat the substrate, add more to keep it about the same level. About once per year, you should replace the substrate. Sift it first to catch any young mealworms.
Keeping mealworms is an easy project that can save you a lot on food for your pet. It also makes an interesting school project. Mealworms do not require extensive care, and are relatively easy to raise.