Conditions for Customer Ownership
Primary Hazard Considerations
Wash your hands thoroughly after handling mealworms and/or beetles.
Mealworms are farmed and are generally available year round.
Mealworms and/or beetles will arrive in a paper container that may contain bran. We over-pack each order of mealworms. It is normal to have some deceased mealworms in the container. You will receive at least the quantity of live mealworms stated on the container. Mealworms eat bran and can live in the shipping container for up to a week. Adult beetles will remain healthier if immediately provided with moisture containing food. The larvae will be anywhere from 1⁄2 to 1 inch in length. The pupae are 1⁄2 inch long. The beetles are about 1⁄2 inch long. The larvae and beetles can move relatively quickly, but do not tend to escape because they hide in the bran.
- To observe the complete lifecycle, move worms or beetles to a larger escape proof container with at least 2 inches of bran (such as Bran Meal 88 W 6000) or oatmeal in the bottom. In a 1 x 2 foot container you can fit a couple thousand mealworms, or one thousand beetles. Floor space is more critical than height. Beetles will lay eggs in the bran or oatmeal and it provides a food source for newly hatched larvae. Once the bran becomes broken down into fine particles either replace or start a fresh container. A monthly cleaning of the container is recommended.
- Provide apples or carrots for both mealworms and beetles as a source of food and water. Two large carrots or one large apple cut into large pieces and placed on top of the bran will be sufficient for a couple thousand mealworms or beetles for about three days. Once the food is dried out or has become mushy, throw it away.
Metamorphic life cycle. After one week the mealworm eggs hatch and larvae emerge. During the larval stage, a mealworm will molt 10–14 times. During its last molt, it loses its carapace and changes into a curved pupa. The new pupa is a creamy white color and changes slowly to brown before emerging as an adult. The mealworm remains a pupa from 6 days to around 300 days depending on incubation temperature. A newly emerged mealworm beetle will sit still as its wings unfold and dry. It will appear a creamy color and will brown over a period of 2–7 days. Once the mealworm beetle has browned they are sexually mature and begin to look for a mate. Adults typically live 2–4 weeks or longer in captivity.
The darkling or mealworm beetle is a native species of Africa but has become naturalized in North America. They are often found in cupboards, pantries, or wherever food is stored and are considered pests. In Africa the beetles and larvae eat decaying leaves, sticks, grasses, and occasionally new plant growth. As general decomposers, they also eat dead insects, feces, and stored grains. Mealworms live in areas surrounded by what they eat under rocks, and logs, in animal burrows and in stored grains. They clean up after plants and animals, and therefore can be found anywhere where “leftovers” occur. Many predators eat mealworms including rodents, lizards, predatory beetles, spiders, and birds. Mealworms prefer darkness and to have their body in contact with an object.
Mealworms are typically used as a food source for pet reptiles and birds in North America. They are also provided to wild birds in bird feeders and are used for fishing bait.
- We do not recommend releasing any laboratory animal into the wild, and especially not insects that are considered to be pests.
- Adoption is the preferred disposition for any living animal.
- If the insects must be euthanized at the end of study, put them into a container or bag and freeze for 48 hours.
- A deceased specimen should be disposed of as soon as possible. Consult your school’s recommended procedures for disposal. In general, dead insects should be handled as little as possible or with gloves, wrapped in an opaque plastic bag that is sealed (tied tightly) before being placed in a general garbage container away from students.