Mealworm setup example

indyana

Well-Known Member
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2,338
Location
Massachusetts, United States
The past few years, I haven't had to buy mealworms at all, so I thought I'd share the details of my small scale breeding method.
  1. Get some small containers. The ones I use are dinner-sized plastic food containers, but it doesn't matter. They should be at least 3 inches deep to keep everything inside.
  2. Fill them with about 2 inches of bedding material. I've been using Pro Gutload from Professional Reptiles with awesome results. In one, add a piece of egg carton. This will be your beetle breeding bin; they like having something to climb on and hide under. You could also use paper towel tubes, other cardboard, cork bark...
  3. Put your mealworms in the other bin without the egg crate. Add some good-sized pieces of carrot or hard squash. The vegetables act as a moisture source, and the hard ones as good because they won't mold. Change carrots once or twice a week, removing old dried up bits and replacing with fresh pieces.
  4. You can take feeders out of this bin, but to get a cycle going, you'll have to let some become pupae and beetles. As you see pupa/beetles, you can take them out and put into your beetle bin with the egg carton. Don't forget to give them carrots too.
  5. When the bedding is mostly eaten in the mealworm bin and turned to fine frass (or it starts smelling not so fresh), it's time for a switchover. Use a superfine or fine screen to sift frass from the mealworms. Discard frass.
  6. At this point, you can use a course screen or hand sorting to separate out any beetles and pupa from the mealworms. Put them into a separate bowl for holding. Discard any dead.
  7. If you want to keep some large mealworms in your fridge, use medium screen or hand picking to separate the large worms and put them into a storage container with some bedding for the fridge.
  8. Pick any remaining beetles and pupa from the beetle bin and add to your beetle bowl. Discard any dead. Take egg crate out.
  9. Put your clean mealworms into the old beetle bin. This is now your mealworm bin. The substrate here should be fine and filled with eggs and baby worms, but you can top off with clean bedding if it looks low.
  10. The old mealworm bin should be empty now that you've sifted and moved the mealworms, so fill with clean bedding. Add beetles, pupa, and egg crate to this bin, which is now your beetle bin.
  11. Repeat cycle. The mealworm bin will grow out any remaining worms while your beetles are laying and hatching eggs in the new beetle bin. When the mealworn bin needs cleaning again, it will be time to repeat the swap.
Mealworm bin, where I collect feeders and let worms grow.
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Beetle bin, where new eggs are laid and hatch.
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Bedding
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Graded screen set off Amazon, came with four screen inserts.
  • Course - stops beetles and pupa
  • Medium - stops larger worms
  • Fine - stops all but tiny worms
  • Superfine - stops everything but frass and eggs
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Latest harvest, after sifting through medium screen. These will be put into a container in the fridge and fed off. I take out a day every few weeks to feed a carrot, them remove carrot and put back in fridge. They don't last forever, but it stops them all from pupating.

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Extra tips:
  • Collect feeders at least a few days before you feed off and properly Gutload. I usually use Repashy SuperLoad and squash, but there are lots of healthy foods to try. Link to my fav gutloading article
  • When you get in new bedding, put into freezer for at least two weeks. After that, store in fridge. Kristi of Ghoulish Geckos told me this once, and it changed my life. No more grain mite outbreaks!
  • Do not get the bins wet or let vegetables mold. Unhealthy and grain mite city. The drier the better.
  • Clean the bins if they smell (obviously).
  • I keep mine in some empty rack spots but not over the heat tape. Temp range is probably 70-85 F depending on the time of year.
I often have to give worms away or feed to the wild birds, even though total space devoted is less than a cubic foot. You could probably scale this up as much as you want, although if you need that much yield, you might want to investigate the more complicated "three-drawer setup" method to minimize egg loss due to cannibalism.
 

acpart

Geck-cessories
Staff member
Messages
11,386
Location
Somerville, MA
I bred mealworms for years and couldn't keep up in the days when I was breeding. Once I bought 10,000 mealworms at the beginning of high baby season and ran out by the end of the month. It looks like a good setup. People should remember that it's easy to develop a sensitivity to any feeder you're using a lot. Get a good mask to use when sifting mealworms.

Aliza
 

acpart

Geck-cessories
Staff member
Messages
11,386
Location
Somerville, MA
I, on the other hand, am really glad to be done with mealworms (once I stopped having hatchlings I got rid of the mealworms) because I developed an allergy to their droppings and was having trouble breathing.

Aliza
 
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