Mealworms are a favorite treat for my flock, they come running when they see me because they know I’ve got a mealworm treat! Mealworms are very easy to grow and only require a minimum amount of maintenance to keep your flock in healthy protein treats!
- 3 Drawer plastic storage container like this one:
- Screening and Duct Tape
- Dry Oatmeal, Cornmeal or wheat bran
- Sliced or chopped carrots, potatoes, and/or apples
- Cardboard (egg cartons, used toilet paper or paper towel rolls)
- Mealworms, also known as darkling beetle larva. You can start with anywhere between 500 and 1000. Do not get the superworms, these have been given supplements to increase their growth and will not reproduce. Mealworms can be purchased at pet stores or online. Here are a couple of options online (there are several options available on Amazon):
Steps to Begin Your Mealworm Farm:
- First you will want to get your 3 drawer storage container. Cut out a rectangular opening in the bottom of the top drawer. Fasten the screening to the bottom of this drawer with duct tape. This drawer will be for the crickets. As they lay their eggs, the eggs will fall through the screening into the second drawer where they can safely hatch and not be eaten by the crickets.
- Fill all drawers with about 1” of oatmeal, cornmeal or wheat bran. This will be the food source for each stage of the mealworm’s development. In the top and middle drawers you will be putting in the fruits and vegetables as the water source. Carrots work best and mold the slowest. You will want to keep an eye on the fruits and vegetables and once they dry or start to get moldy they need to be replaced. The third drawer is for the pupa.
- Make sure that you have everything in place before you get your starting mealworms and that they are set up in a warm, dark place. They are very hardy but a temperature between 76 and 81 degrees F will maximize the growth. Anything above 71 degrees F will work.
Daily or Weekly Maintenance:
Some farmers like to check on things daily, others will do it weekly
- Depending on how old the mealworms are when they get to you, you will begin to see pupa anywhere from a few days to a couple of months. You will know that they are getting close to the pupa stage the darker the mealworms get. Darker color will signal the change to each phase of development.
- Once you begin seeing pupa, you will need to transfer them to the third drawer. This drawer doesn’t need fruits and vegetables because they don’t eat in the pupa stage. I do, however, put the oatmeal in this drawer so that when they hatch they will have oatmeal to eat instead of other pupa. The pupa will hatch in 9-21 days depending on the temperature. Pupa will start out completely white and darken as they get closer to hatching and you will begin to see movement.
- Remove the crickets from the pupa container as soon as possible. Again, they go in the top drawer along with the 1” of oatmeal and the pieces of fruit and vegetables. Put cardboard pieces in this drawer because they love the darkness and things to crawl on. The crickets will burrow down through the oatmeal to lay eggs. The eggs will then sift through to the larva container and hatch. Then the cycle starts all over again.
- To harvest mealworms for treats you can put them in a plastic food container with oatmeal and refrigerate. Once per week get them out for a day and let them gut load on carrots, potatoes or apples then put them back into the refrigerator for storage. The cold will slow down their growth cycle and will keep them in the larva stage. When you are ready to feed them, just let them get to room temperature and then take them to your flock!