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Keeping Mealworms Alive Long-Term

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WHAT YOU NEED:

  • Storage Container - a large, shallow, smooth sided container that is about the size of a shoe box or larger. Mealworms thrive in a large container because providing more space will help dissipate heat and prevent overheating, which improves survival rate. Too many mealworms, stored in too small of a container, will cause the worms to suffocate, get crushed, or simply overheat and die. It is recommended to use a plastic or glass container, rather than a wood or cardboard, because mealworms can climb up or chew through wood. A clear container is best because it will let you see how much frass (waste) has accumulated. 
  • Bedding - we recommend 2-3” of Mealworm Keeper to be placed at the bottom of the container. Otherwise, any form of a substrate with the word "meal" in it will be fine (cornmeal, oatmeal, bran meal). The substrate should be ground to a fine powder to make it easier to pick out the mealworms when you need to move them. Mealworm Keeper is a bedding that separates the mealworms, but also acts as food. Therefore, you will need to replace it every once in a while after it gets eaten, keep it 2-3" high.
  • Feed - add about ½ cup of fresh vegetables to the container. Cut raw potatoes and raw carrots into 1" x 3” pieces and spread throughout the container for the mealworms. The mealworms may pull the food under the bedding to eat it, which is completely normal. 
  • Moisture - Some moisture is necessary for the mealworms to drink. While the raw vegetables contain some moisture, it is best to add more by using Thirsty Cricket (gel water source). Add it to a low container (a 1/2" tall jar lid will work well) then place on the top of the bedding. Do not add a dish of regular water, the mealworms can drown. Thirsty Cricket is also calcium-fortified, which helps prevent calcium deficiency in your pet since feeder insects are deficient in calcium, and contain excess amounts of phosphorus. 
  • Nutrients -  Mealworm Chow is a highly nutritional food source for mealworms, it is 16% protein and contains added calcium and vitamins that then transfers over to your pet upon consumption. If your feeder mealworms are chock full of good vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, your pet will be too.

DELIVERY OF LIVE MEALWORMS:

Upon delivery, remove mealworms from the cloth bag and transfer to a storage container that has 2-3” of Mealworm Keeper in it. Otherwise, any form of a substrate with the word "meal" in it will be fine (cornmeal, oatmeal, bran meal). The substrate should be ground to a fine powder to make it easier to pick out the mealworms when you need to move them. Mealworm Keeper is a bedding that separates the mealworms, but also acts as food. Therefore, you will need to replace it every once in a while after it gets eaten. Shake off the mealworms from the newspapers, into the storage container, then discard the newspapers. As long as the mealworms are >1" below the top of the container, they can't get out. 

If the mealworms don’t have enough to eat or drink, then they can easily die in their container. Before putting the container in the refrigerator (explained in further paragraphs), add about ½ cup of fresh vegetables to the container. Cut raw potatoes and raw carrots into 1" x 3” pieces and spread throughout the container for the mealworms. The mealworms may pull the food under the bedding to eat it, which is completely normal. Some moisture is necessary for the mealworms to drink. While the raw vegetables contain some moisture, it is best to add more by using Thirsty Cricket (gel water source). Add Thirsty Cricket to a low container (a 1/2" tall jar lid will work well). Do not add a dish of regular water, the mealworms can drown. Let the mealworms sit in their container with their food and water, at room temperature for 24 hours. This will give them adequate nutrition and hydration to stay healthy while dormant.

Even though you will be feeding the mealworms vegetables, naturally they will lose some nutritional value after staying mostly dormant for multiple weeks. We recommend you gutload them to offer your pet maximum nutrition, instead of offering an empty vessel. Gutloading is the process of feeding insects a diet high in vital nutrients prior to feeding those insects to other animals. To gutload, mix Mealworm Chow in with the Mealworm Keeper at a 1:9 ratio (1/3 cup of Chow per 3 cups Keeper). Mealworm Chow is a highly nutritional food source for mealworms, it is 16% protein and contains added calcium and vitamins that then transfers over to your pet upon consumption. Thirsty Cricket is also calcium-fortified, which helps prevent calcium deficiency in your pet since feeder insects are deficient in calcium, and contain excess amounts of phosphorus. If your feeder mealworms are chock full of good vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, your pet will be too.

After 24 hours, remove any leftover vegetables and Thirsty Cricket to prevent mold growth. Then, place the container in the refrigerator for long term storage (continue reading for explanation).

If breeding, stop reading and see our Instructions on Raising Mealworms or Mealworm Breeder Kit.If not breeding, continue reading.

LONG TERM LIVE MEALWORM STORAGE FOR FEEDING TO PETS:

Mealworms are technically the larvae of darkling beetles (species Tenebrio molitor). To keep the insects in this stage of the life cycle (mealworm-form) for feeding to pets, you need to store them in low temperature to cease their metamorphosis. In other words, they need to go dormant. The cooler temperatures will delay the process of metamorphosis, which stops them from continuing their life cycle and turning into beetles. Therefore, store your container of mealworms in your refrigerator (at 45-50 degrees F), this will cause them to go into a dormant state and be usable for feeding for 6-10 weeks. If you do not refrigerate the mealworms, and they remain at room temperature, they will only be usable for feeding for about 3 weeks, because after that point they will metamorphosis into pupa (white, pre-beetle form). Or they will just completely die if they are not in the correct conditions to metamorphosis.

We suggest that you remove the mealworms from the refrigerator once per week for 24 hours, and repeat the steps you did during arrival. Allow the mealworms to feed for 24 hours at room temperature, then remove any uneaten food, and place them back into the refrigerator again. Repeat this process weekly.

FEEDING LIVE MEALWORMS TO PETS:

When it comes times to feed your pets, there are a few tips that will ensure you are feeding a mealworm full of nutrients, leading to an overall healthier pet. As discussed earlier, offering Mealworm Chow and Thirsty Cricket to the mealworms will bulk them up for your pet. Offer your pet the mealworms on the day or day after gutloading them, to reap the benefits.

Make sure you remove the mealworms you are feeding from the storage container in the fridge, and allow them to “warm up” at room temperature for an hour in a dish. This way they will no longer be dormant, and be wiggling around, enticing your pet to hunt. If you will not be feeding your pet by hand (or tweezers), we recommend a dish that is smooth enough and deep enough that the mealworms would not crawl out, Ceramic Dishes and Mealworm Dishes work well. We advise owners to sprinkle the feeder insects with multivitamins or calcium supplements before feeding to your pets, to help prevent calcium deficiency in your pet, since feeder insects are deficient in calcium, and contain excess amounts of phosphorus.

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Please Note: Exotic Nutrition is not in a position to provide specific health and care guidelines on an individual basis. Please visit our animal info tabs or consider purchasing a care guide book for additional information. If you have a health or pet emergency issue, please notify your veterinarian or a specialized technician.

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