Mealworms are some of the popular feeder insects for amphibians and reptiles. They are full of nutrients and come with more meat than other similar species. Hence, they offer a good portion of protein for your pets like birds, geckos, turtles, etc.
And, it may sound surprising but mealworms are also edible for humans. According to scientists and experts, mealworms are safe for humans and there are few countries where people eat mealworms.
What are mealworms?
But, do you know that mealworms are not worms in reality? Well, they are just darkling beetles in their larval stage. The darkling beetles are scientifically known as Tenebrio Molitor. In the world, nearly 20000 different species of darkling beetles are found. And, you can choose any species you want- to feed your pet.
What makes the mealworms or larvae of T.molitor distinguishable is their distinct body. The larvae have a well-segmented body. You can distinguish the parts by the dark brown lines. The larva is of cream or light brown color in the initial days and as it reaches near the pupa stage its body color becomes darker. Therefore, what you feed your pet is the larva of the mealworm life cycle.
Habitat of T.Molitor
Darkling beetles are originally from Africa. But, with humans, they have traveled in different parts of the world. At present, the darkling beetles have become a native of North America, You can find them in the dark forest regions where they thrive on moist souls and found their nutrition from the decaying woods and animal bodies. But, there is a high chance that you will find these beetles in human dwellings. It is because now food waste has become abundant and the beetles often venture inside the human dwellings to find foods from the waste materials.
In reality, mealworms are an important part of the ecosystem. They have their role in balancing the ecosystem because they eat decaying organic compounds.
Darkling beetles can be domesticated easily. You can breed them in a simple 5-inch container with a screened lid. A single container can house 100 beetles at once. In captivity, they can eat oatmeal, wheat bran, cornmeal, wheat flour, etc.
Mealworms are usually found in a pet store. A lot of pet owners buy these larvae for their pets. But, this can be an extra expense. In case you want to save some money then you can freeze your exclusive ranger of mealworms for your pet. It is as easy as you think. A little bit of guidance helps a lot.
If you want to provide the best mealworms to your beloved pet then you need to know the mealworm life cycle.
Mealworm life cycle
You already know that mealworms are just the larvae of T.molitor's darkling beetles. Like any other insects, the darkling beetles go through four different stages in their life-
The female darkling beetles usually lay more than 100 eggs at a time. The eggs look like white beans like dust particles. You may not be able to find the eggs in their natural habitat because they are very small. But, you can easily spot them while you are breeding them in your home.
It is what you call “mealworms”. The eggs hatch and larva comes out of those eggs. The larvae are very small at the initial stage. But, they start to grow with time and can grow up to one inch in size. The larva stage is the longest phase in the darkling beetle's life cycle. They remain in the larva stage for eight to ten weeks. The larvae eat and grow in size. In the meantime, they grow and shed their exoskeletons. It is called molting. Molting can happen for nearly 20 times at this stage. Since they eat a lot, they are packed with nutrition and are great for your pet.
It is the third stage. The larva enters the pupa stage during their final molting session. It curls and transforms into a pupa with a cocoon. It does not eat during this time and remains still. The pupa waits inside the cocoon for nearly three weeks to fully transform into an adult darkling beetle. Inside the cocoon, they grow organs like their wings, internal organs, wings, etc.
After three weeks the adult breaks the cocoon and comes out. The darkling beetles have softer exoskeleton after it comes outside from the cocoon. But, the exoskeleton becomes hard after some time and the shell changes its color from brown to black. The adult darkling beetles start to reproduce after a few days and the life cycle continues.
Mealworms are very easy to raise. You can breed them for your pet or you can also start selling them to earn some money. Since mealworms are large and nutritious, they provide a balanced meal to your pet. But, you need to gut load these worms or dust them with supplements if you want your pet to have a balanced diet.