When pet owners are feeding their animals these so called “mealworms” the thought of what they actually are never really comes up. The life cycle of this worm actually makes it labeled as a beetle and not a worm. The name of the beetle is called the darkling beetle. The larva form of this beetle is known as the mealworm. It gets more confusing though.. because they’re are literally hundreds of different types of these beetles too. Let’s take a closer look at the different growth stages of the mealworm.
It Starts as an “Egg”
The life cycle of a mealworm starts as a tiny egg that the human eye can barely see. Think of it being the size of a grain of sand. And to make visibility even worse, the egg is usually mixed in with dirt or whatever substrate or waste the egg happens to be within. This egg will sit and do it’s time for around 4-5 weeks of growth until the mealworm is hatched as larva.
In order for the body of the mealworm to grow it has to get rid of its hardened shell like exoskeleton. This is a process that is known as “molting” and it breaks through that old shell skin and has the ability to then grow while also growing a new skin. It will molt dozens of different times just to continue its growth to a full size of around an inch and a half long. Some species are larger than others but the average is around 1.5 inches long.
Second Stage known as “Pupa”
After being a larva for weeks, the newest transformation is known as the “Pupa” stage. Maybe one of the weirdest stages of growth I’ve seen. On the last time the mealworm looses it’s exoskeleton it morphs into this stage.
The legs on the creature become somewhat useless and it does basically… nothing for the next upcoming weeks. 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. With no way of moving, eating food, or running away, it is very susceptible to predators. And the predator list for these tasty grub like worms is very lengthy. Birds especially love them as a tasty morning snack.
Last Stage: “Beetle”
Finally the growth process has ended and the mealworm has turned into its adult form. There are lots of different nicknames for this beetle but the most commonly used one is the “Darkling Beetle” and some even call the worm form of it the Darkling Worm instead of mealworm.
The transformation is quite a site to see and the amount of physical change that occurs to the beetle is very drastic. The adult beetle then goes on to live its daily lifestyle of trying to find it’s next reproduction tactics. The males will literally burrow into the ground to lay eggs in a safe location. For everyday that a beetle dies, other beetles out there are reproducing.