Have you already started growing mealworms at home or are you considering to get started and are you wondering how to keep your mealworms alive? This article should help you in the right direction!
As usual, let’s first get into some basics about the life (and death) of mealworms.
How long do mealworms live?
If you consider that mealworms live in four general stages then the total lifecycle of a mealworm is about four to six months from egg to grave.These are some approximates per stage:
- Mealworm egg stage: about four weeks until the eggs hatch;
- Mealworm larva stage: about eight to ten weeks until it sheds its hard exoskeleton. This is the stage we’re looking for when talking about edible mealworms, but when you’re raising mealworms yourself you will also need adult mealworms in order to get new eggs and start the cycle again;
- Mealworm pupa stage: about one to three weeks until this wiggly alien-like stage transforms into an adult;
- Mealworm adult stage: about one to three months of beetle life.
How to keep mealworm larvae alive (longer)?
If you’re not into raising mealworms yourself and choose to buy mealworms in larvae stage it is helpful to know how to keep them alive in this stage as long as possible. This way you can keep them a bit longer and don’t have to prepare or consume them all at once.
These are a few quick tips to help mealworm larvae live longer:
- Mealworm larvae, like most of us, need a good airflow for fresh oxygen. You can either poke holes in the bin or tray you store them in (more on that later) or you can take the lid off once or twice a day to get some fresh oxygen flowing;
- You can best store your live mealworm larvae in smooth plastic containers with a cover that either has ventilation holes or is easy to remove so you can refresh the oxygen periodically (as mentioned above). These plastic containers can be anything like Tupperware or Rubberware or any other brand, as long as it’s smooth and easy to clean. There are also more professional home growing brands like The Hive or Hive Explorer by LIVIN Farms. Have a look at their website, they have all sorts of information about home growing of mealworms;
- Mealworm larvae thrive on dry bedding (substrate) like rolled oats, wheat bran or even rabbit pellets or baby cereal. If you make sure the bedding stays dry and void of any humidity (hence a container with a lid) you can make sure the mealworms grow moldy or incorporate nasty bacteria. There are also home growers that bake the bedding for 30 minutes in order to kill any parasites or mealworm eggs that are left behind.
- Make sure the mealworms themselves stay hydrated and well-fed by placing some feed like slices of a potato or apple in the container. Don’t forget to remove/replace the feed within 24 to 48 hours to prevent them from growing mold.
- For regular growth it is fine to keep the mealworms at room temperature, so 20-22 degrees Celcius or 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are able to grow the mealworms at a bit higher temperature then about 26 degrees Celcius or 80 degrees Fahrenheit would be more ideal
- If you want to prolong the mealworm larvae state for some reason, place the well-fed mealworms with their container in the refridgerator. Keeping the mealworms in refridgerated conditions of about 5 to 10 degrees Celcius (or 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit) can prevent the larvae from turning into pupae for a while and thus prolongs their larvae state with about six weeks. Please note that mealworms are one of few live insects that can be kept in a dormant state under these cooler conditions.