Mealworms.org – Life Cycle, Habitat, & Care

The mealworm is actually only a larval form of what later generates into the “Darkling Beetle”. This larval state only lasts for a couple of weeks. This worm is a very popular pet food because of the high amount of protein they hold. Pet owners of reptiles, fish, and pet birds rely heavily on these worms being mass produced to feed to their pets on a daily basis. You can visit the pages below that are devoted to different subject matters on mealworms.

image mealwormsPhysical Features & Appearance

  • Hard Exoskeleton Layer of Skin
  • Dark Yellow Color
  • Six Small legs at Front of Body
  • Two Antennae on Head
  • Head Darkens in Color with Age
  • Covered in Brown Bands

Life Cycle of The Darkling Beetle

The life cycle and transformation from worm to beetle happens in three stages. The growth starts at the worm stage and then continues to grow with molting the skin. On the last molt, the worm will turn into the “Pupa” stage. There is literally a time span of a couple weeks where the worm is changing into the beetle. In this middle stage, the worm is unable to do anything. In order for the worm to grow to different sizes and forms, it has to shed it’s exoskeleton. This shedding is known as “molting” and the mealworm will do this dozens of times before actually becoming a beetle. Visit this page for more information on the growth stages.

life cycle mealworm

After being a larva for weeks, the newest transformation is known as the “Pupa” stage. It slowly starts to change into a beetle and the process leaves the creature handicapped. It’s important for the livelihood of it to have protection and cover.

Finding & Searching for Mealworms

buying mealwormsNot all habitats have mealworms in abundance for us to go out and find. You may find it a lot easier to just purchase them from a “fishing bait” store. This worm makes for great bait when fishing for fish so tackle shops stock up on these worms in large quantities.

You can most likely purchase a couple dozen mealworms for under $5  U.S. Dollars. Or your local pet stores will most likely have them on hand for he purpose of feeding pet lizards, birds, and fish. If your in search for more of a bulk quantity, you can find large scale breeders online that sell in large quantities.

Food and Habitat

The beetle and larvae form of this insect feed on decaying debris. Mainly plant like matter such as leaves, grasses, wood matters, and more. What is dying and on it’s way out of this world will get eaten. They are referenced as “decomposers” and do a great job at it too. They will be commonly found in the darkest places burrowed up next to larger objects.

When breeding them in a controlled environment, you should feed them the best food possible. Using a substrate of oats or grains will ensure they are feeding constantly and getting lots of nutrients. They are usually bred as food for larger pet animals and the healthier they are the more nutrition the pets get out of eating them. On top of that, a healthier worm is going to breed more rapidly which in turn gives you more of them as food. You can read this thread found here for more information.

bird eating mealwormPredators and Defense

They really have no way of battling their large number of predators besides the fact of hiding. Some of it’s close cousins of the same genus have defense mechanisms though. An act where the worm stands up and gives off a predatory scent to scare away predators. Only a small amount of worms in this genus have this ability though.

Sex: Male versus Female

The human eye can’t distinguish a male versus a female. The difference in sex of this beetle larvae can only be seen with a microscope. The male will have an external organ where as the female will not. It is a bit tough for the human eye to get a clear visual on this but under a closer view it is easier to distinguish.

Food for Pets – Very Popular

What makes these worms so poplar is mostly due to the “pet industry.” People love to take care of their pets properly and a large part of that is feeding them good nutritional food. That’s where the mealworm comes in. It’s large size and ease to feed in a “dried” state makes it a great meal for our pets. Pet birds, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and some mammals benefit from eating mealworms.

A number of variables make the mealworm one of the best foods to feed these pets. It’s large body mass holds a lot of protein and nutrients for those feeding on it. The ease of being able to feed them in a “dried” state is also very convenient. Not to mention they can be shipped in large quantities across the world for a cheap price.

lizard eating worm

The reptile industry is full of pet owners that rely heavily on mealworms to feed to their pets. It is considered best to feed them as “live” food but you can also purchase them in dried form.

Sportsman and Fisherman

fish baitMealworms are found in natural habitat around the world and just like most insects, they are heavily eaten by larger animals. Fish especially love eating this worm due to it’s larger size and bulk of protein. Fisherman have found them to be very good bait for catching fish.

Fishing anglers have found that using them as bait during certain seasons of the year works better than others. Maybe the fish just happen to have a particular appetite or they know it more as a natural food for hatches and that time of the year.