Mealworms are an excellent food source for exotic pets like lizards, snakes, and skunks, as well as numerous species of birds. However, mealworms aren’t worms – they are darkling beetles in their larval stage.
Since mealworms are holometabolic insects, they have a metamorphosis phase, making it challenging to contain them in their larva stage. A slight difference in temperature can accelerate their transition to pupa and darkling beetle stages. And that’s when they lose their appeal to the birds and reptiles. Moreover, if mealworms don’t have enough water and food, they can die like any other nature’s creature.
Although maintaining them can seem like a daunting task, it doesn’t have to be challenging if you follow the right tips and tricks on how to store mealworms. Here, you will find everything you need to know about storing mealworms, so read on to learn more.
What You Need
Healthy mealworms mean happy pets – here’s what you need to maintain yours properly:
- Storage container: To store your mealworms, use a big container with smooth sides and shallow walls to allow heat to dissipate. An overheated container will suffocate your mealworms, resulting in their death. Consider using a glass or plastic container because mealworms can climb up or chew cardboard and wood and escape. Using a transparent and tough material will also allow you to monitor the accumulation of waste.
- Bedding: Place bedding made of oatmeal, bran meal, or cornmeal at the bottom of the storage container. Make sure to crush it to a powdered state, so you can move your mealworms when needed. Note that the bedding should be kept at around 3 inches of height and replaced regularly.
- Food: To feed your mealworms, add half a cup of fresh vegetables like potatoes and carrots. Once you cut them, add them to the storage container. You may also want to add additional nutrients to help your mealworms thrive. And mealworm chow is one of the best sources of minerals, vitamins, and protein for them. By adding it to your storage container, you also ensure your pets get adequate nutrition.
- Moisture: The lack of moisture can kill mealworms. That’s why it’s vital to keep them well-hydrated. However, they can drown in regular water. That said, they will get the best source of moisture from raw vegetables. Gel water sources are also an excellent choice as they usually contain calcium, which is vital for these tiny creatures.
What Type of Mealworms to Choose?
Get larger mealworms for your mealworm colony, as these will grow into beetles faster than small ones. Once they transform into beetles, they will begin to breed, and their eggs will soon hatch into the form of mealworms. However, some beetles may eat the eggs, so make sure to get them out of the storage container to prevent that. Avoid buying mealworms labeled “giant” and “super” as they either can’t become beetles or breed.
When purchasing mealworms, ensure to buy a large number of them, as this way the colony will be more sustainable. Also, you will save money in the long run.
How to Take Care of Your Mealworms
Although mealworms don’t demand excessive care, there are still several factors to ponder upon.
To prevent overheating the container, use a ventilated cover instead of a plastic lid. Moreover, ensure the temperature inside the container is around 75 degrees to allow your mealworms to thrive and breed. Attaching a thermometer to the storage container will help you track the temperature, ensuring it doesn’t overheat.
Note that mealworms breed faster in high-humidity conditions. So, if you live in a dry area, make sure to boost the humidity levels inside the container. You can do this by placing a glass of water inside the storage container. However, make sure they can’t reach the water, as this is a sure way to end them.
Keep the Storage Container Clean
When looking at how to store mealworms, you will want to keep their storage container clean. You can do this by scanning the enclosure for worm corpses regularly. And, it’s easy to identify and remove dead worms as they will turn dark brown. Although your pets don’t eat dead mealworms, your plants can benefit from them if you add them to the soil.
The container’s smell will largely depend on the bedding. However, if you avoid cleaning it on a regular basis, the dead worms and their excrement can produce an unpleasant odor. To prevent the growth of mold, fungi, and bacteria, remove the excrement, replace the worm bedding, and wash the container once a month.
How to Feed Your Mealworms?
You need to supply your worms with essential nutrients to fatten them up. Besides bedding, you should also add vegetables, fruits, and other food scraps. Since mealworms eat a lot, you’ll need to refill their food consistently. Moreover, you will want to remove any rotting food because these will attract mold and pests.
How to Store Mealworms Long-Term
To prevent your worms metamorphosing into beetles, keep them at lower temperatures. Once stored inside a fridge, they will become dormant, and the metamorphosis process will delay. Note that when stored at high temperatures, they will eat faster, which will lead to their faster transformation into beetles. However, refrigerating them will deactivate their hormones, prolonging their larval phase by approximately two months.
Normally, the worms can be used as food for around three weeks. But when you refrigerate them, you can use them for up to ten weeks. To get the best out of this process, take your worms from the fridge once a week and let them feed all day at normal temperature. Then, remove the leftovers and refrigerate them again.
How to Feed Your Pets with Mealworms?
Reptiles and other exotic animals enjoy eating mealworms. However, if they avoid consuming them, offer them other insects, such as locusts, crickets, and flies. Then, try again with mealworms. Even if your pets never avoid eating mealworms, you should still provide them with other food sources to offer them a balanced diet full of different nutrients.
How to Store Dead Mealworms
Although your pets may not like eating dead mealworms, your plants can benefit from the nutrients they provide. And dead and dry mealworms are easy to store. Simply, place them in a ziplock bag, and you’re good to go – there’s no need to feed or monitor them.
Once in a ziplock bag, you can leave them in a dry place. Just make sure no air seeps into the bag, and your dead worms will be fine.
Storing Mealworms Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
Storing mealworms properly can be easy if you follow our tips and tricks on how to store mealworms. Whether you want them alive or dead or to store them for the short or long term, now you know how to do that. With the appropriate storage container, temperature, and food, your mealworms can be preserved for as long as you need.