Mealworms are the larvae of the darkling beetle, also known as Tenebrio molitor. The darkling beetle is a holometabolic insect, meaning it has four life-stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The mealworm is a darkling beetle in larva form, where it remains for 90 to 114 days, before turning into a pupa.
Mealworms are hatched from white, bean-shaped eggs that are 1/20 of an inch (1.27 mm) in length. When they are first born, the larvae are white, but will turn either honey-yellow or yellow-brown within a couple days. The mealworm, when mature, will measure 1.25 inches (3.18 cm) long. Their bodies are smooth and hard, with a shiny appearance.
The primary uses of mealworms are as food for reptiles and birds, and as fishing bait. The mealworm is high in protein, which is why it is the preferred food among reptile and bird owners. Worms can be purchased at pet stores, where they are sold in a container with oatmeal or bran. This is used as food and bedding for the worms. This will usually cost around twenty five dollars for a thousand worms.
When used for fishing bait, many commercial suppliers feed the mealworms a juvenile hormone that helps them grow to abnormal sizes, making the worms more attractive to the fish. Yellow mealworm bait is often used when fishing for perch, trout, bluegill and whitefish. They are especially popular among ice fisherman.
Many people choose to raise their own worms, as it is very easy and can also be fun. When farming your own worms, the cost per 1000 worms is reduced to ten cents, which includes the food and bedding. It ensures an endless supply of bait for avid fishermen.
In order to breed mealworms, you will need a plastic container, whole wheat flour or wheat bran, potatoes, and a starter culture of about 500 mealworms. You can purchase the starter culture online. Many pet supply stores will also sell you a starter culture, but it usually costs about twice as much as purchasing it online.
Fill the plastic container with about one inch (2.5 cm) of the whole wheat flour and add the worm culture. Place a couple of thin potato slices in the box for moisture. Keep the temperature around 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.89 degrees Celsius). In a couple of weeks the worms will turn into pupae, followed by beetles approximately three days later. Transfer the beetles to another container to breed and lay approximately 500 eggs each.