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How to Store Your Mealworms

Mealworms are an excellent feed for all reptiles, birds, and exotic birds. Their nutritional value and taste make them an ideal feed, as they are routinely desired immediately after the first consumption. But, because mealworms are an holometabolic insect, meaning they have a metamorphosis phase, it may be cumbersome to contain the mealworms in their larva stage. If temperatures are too warm, then the worms can transition into the pupa stage, which then transforms into the darkling beetle phase. And if they transform into the darkling beetle phase, they loose their appeal to the reptiles and birds. If the worms the don’t have enough to eat or enough water, then they can easily die in their habitat. So there are a few more obstacles presented with maintaining mealworms in their larva stage.

Keep them refrigerated

The simplest solution is keep them in a refrigerator. The mealworms prefer temperatures around 70 degrees, but you don’t. At 70 degrees, this encourages the mealworms to consume rapidly, which then causes them to transition into the darkling beetle. But, if you can refrigerate them, then that will cause them and their hormones to go dormant, ceasing their metamorphosis. It is the equivalent of cryogenic freezing, without the nitrogen. Basically, keeping mealworms in the refrigerator can increase their larva stage by a couple of months.

However…

There are somethings that the keeper needs to be made aware of regarding the mealworms. Because the mealworms will go dormant, it means that they will go months without eating or drinking any necessary nutrients. So it is crucial that, before refrigeration, the mealworms are given some type of substance that can sustain their bodies during dormancy. Fresh vegetables are the best source to offer them. A fresh cut potato or some fresh carrots will give the worms their needed water and nutrients.

Because the mealworms can last up to a full year before transitioning into the pupa stage, this will give them plenty of time to eat and grow. However, fattening up your mealworms is a delicate balancing act. If you give them too much of what then need to grow, then the can transform sooner than you’d like them too. However, if you deprive them of their nutrients, then they may not grow to the desired size.

So although fattening up your mealworms is a race against the clock, it is still a viable method to grow good-sized mealworms, that can then be refrigerated.

41 comments on “How to Store Your Mealworms

    • please try to keep them warm as i am breeding them and have lost a lot when they got to cold i have 1200 off them and i find they like to say nice and warm. don’t forget to feed them they sure love to eat. i went and got this cheep lamp that i could mount and wen and got a low heat bulb and put my case on a shelf and they seem to be doing great

      Reply
    • Julia Moffat says:

      I reccomend using some kind of oats as a bedding for them. They will eat it too! Some people even crush up Cheerios as a substrate if oats aren’t readily avaible.

      Reply
    • Eddie Baker says:

      Wheat bran or oatmeal oas. They feed on their bedding too just be sure to bake the wheat bran in the oven so u get all the bugs and parasites out

      Reply
    • I keep mine in starter chick feed (24%). I use potatoes for their water source. I store them in an empty closet. I bought a small kit, and have had them for 2 months. I am already going to start more compartments for them. I didn’t realize how fast they would produce.

      Reply
  • Matthew Graham says:

    Can mealworms die from being to hot? I picked them up then ran into a store maybe 10 minutes but it did get warm in my car

    Reply
  • Hi, I am looking into raising meal-worms and have a question or 2. When I go to harvest meal-worms to store them away( I assume I will have a bunch at some point) for later use or sell to others, should I freeze them to death or just keep them chilled and alive? I dont know which is best. I have chickens and will do fresh live for them too. If I sell them to someone with a lizard or bird do they prefer alive or dormant/dead ones?

    Reply
    • Reptiles prefer them to be alive. I have a leopard gecko that I tried to feed dead meal worms to and he would not eat them. As soon as I gave him some that was a live he had no problem scarfing down about 15 of them.

      Reply
  • I store my meal worms in the fridge, but when I went to put them in the meal worm dish for my leopard gecko the meal worms aren’t moving and it’s been over a day in room temperature? Did I kill them by putting them in the fridge? How long are they supposed to be in their dormant state before the wake up and start moving?

    Reply
  • They need air so I can’t put them in a closed container in the fridge, right? Will they smell up my fridge? How often do I need to pull them out for 24 hours to feed them?

    Reply
  • Can the beetle stage be stored in the refrigerator or will it kill them? We are going out of town and have a bunch in that stage right now.

    Reply
    • Hello Kyli;

      We are not totally familiar with the mealworm beetle growth process because we do not breed and raise mealworms on our farm. However, everything we have read on them has indicated that you keep the beetles at room temperature or at about 71-78 degrees. temperatures below 62 degrees, will halt reproduction, so if that is what you are referring to? I guess that will work? I would recommend that you do further research on this topic.

      Reply
  • In the summer and fall you might have a problem with fruit flies if using apple halves, banana peels and carrots for moisture. So to avoid this problem I use damp paper towels. Depending on the temperature, I water the towels once to twice a week. Just watch for mold. If it forms reduce moistening. The towels are good for moisture but also for the worms to grab on to to remove their next skin phase. They like to hide between the towels. So three or four towels deep works nicely.

    Reply
  • In the summer and fall you might have a problem with fruit flies if using apple halves, banana peels and carrots for moisture. So to avoid this problem I use damp paper towels. Depending on the temperature, I water the towels once to twice a week. Just watch for mold. If it forms reduce moistening. The towels are good for moisture but also for the worms to grab on to to remove their next skin phase. They like to hide between the towels. So three or four towels deep works nicely.

    Reply
  • I keep seeing comments relating to “reproduction”— since these are not mature beetles, they won’t be having baby ones of themselves, correct? I understand the mealworms to be the larvae stage of the beetle.
    However i did learn something, that they grow by shedding their skin when their “outfit” gets too tight. Good to know.

    Reply
  • Kelly Bortner says:

    So let me get this straight, I get them, put food in the container. Do I give them a few days to eat first or put them straight into the fridge? Also if they do gutload before the fridge or while in it do I gut load them again before feeding my anole?

    Reply
  • Heather R Barrett says:

    I want my meal worms to breed make more meal worms. I do not want beetle stage. I keep my house rather cold with A/C around 70 degrees. PLEASE HELP I DO NOT WANT BEETLES!

    Reply
  • Put the mealworms in a plastic container with a lid and poke holes in the top be they need air to survive.

    Mealworms have to transition from a worm to a beetle to produce more worms.

    If you want them to stay alive don’t freeze them, fridge them.

    If you want them bigger feed them BEFORE putting them in the fridge. They don’t need food or moisture in the fridge because they go into a hibernation stage.

    If you freeze them, they will die. To each his own on a preference of dead or live worms.

    Reply
  • what happens to the nutritional value when mealworms are stored in the fridge? how long can they be stored before they need to be “gut loaded” before feeding them to pets to make sure the nutritional value is there?

    Reply
  • Hey I keep mealworms as feeders for tarantula and I got them just lately and I have been noticing that they have been like playing dead or fainting maybe or sleeping but I thought they were dead because they stopped moving and after awhile they started moving again so idk whether they are sleeping or playing dead please help

    Reply
  • Hey I keep mealworms as feeders for tarantula and I got them just lately and I have been noticing that they have been like playing dead or fainting maybe or sleeping but I thought they were dead because they stopped moving and after awhile they started moving again so idk whether they are sleeping or playing dead please help

    Reply

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