Mealworms are the larval form of the mealworm beetle,Tenebrio molitor, a species of darkling beetle. Mealworms are used for many purposes. They are used to feed chickens, sugar gliders, reptiles, fish and wild birds. People also enjoy eating them and use them in place of typical protein in burgers and salads. They are being called the food of the future.
BinsThere are many ways to farm mealworms but I will limit this page to the separate bin method as that is what we use at Gold Country Mealworms. You can farm this way using plastic organizer towers from places like staples or use individual bins you stack on shelves. If you will have a small farm then the tower drawers will work great. You can get a tower at staples or any business supply store.
If you have the space and plan to have a medium to large farm then individual bins on shelves will need to be used. You can pick up plastic bins at any home improvement store. You can leave the lids at the store you wont need them.
FoodOnce you have your bins you will need a few other things. You will need a substrate for the worms to live in and eat. You can use many types of grain such as oats and wheat. Some people use oats which are fine but to make it easy to sift you will want to grind them up in a blender which adds an extra step. We use wheat bran. We buy 30, fifty pound bags at a time from a mill to cut down our costs. Unless you are farming commercially you won't need this much wheat bran. You can buy a bag at a feed store for about $15.00 and it will last you a long time. It may be sold as wheat middlings or wheat bran. You will also need to have on hand a moisture source for your worms. You can use carrots, apples, potatoes or a combination of all three.
Other AccessoriesYou will want to have a set of sifters to sift the eggs from the beetles and the worms you will feed from the wheat bran. You can pick up a sifter set on Amazon that has several different wire sizes. You may want to get a new trash can to store the wheat bran in and maybe a second one to store the worm frass in. Worm frass is the byproduct or poop that the worms make. It is great as a fertilizer and you can use it in your garden, house plants or on your lawn.
Now you will want to set up the farm. You want to have your farm inside in a temperature controlled room. It can be in your house, a closet, a basement, an out building or a shed. As long as you can keep the temps between 60-80 your are good. The best temps are 75-80 for best production. You will want to put about an inch of what bran in one of the bins, label it worms and put that on a shelf. If using the tower system then put the wheat bran into one of the drawers and label it worms. Now you are ready to get some worms.
Once you have everything set up you will want to buy your first set of worms. How many worms you get to start your farm with depends on how big a farm you need and how many worms you need each week to feed your animals. One thing I suggest to people just starting out is to start off with about 2000 worms. This will allow you to get a feel for farming them and learn. Once you are comfortable then you can scale up to any size you need. You can go to our mealworms for sale page and select the number you want. When you get the shipment from us you will want to bring it inside right away and open the box. We ship our mealworms in a soft muslin bag with a tie on the end. You simply open the bag and gently pour out the worms in a bucket or other container. Then you will want to put them into the bin with the wheat bran. Now put a few slices of apple or carrot in with the worms. Do not add to many slices as you don't want to attract mites. You want just enough slices that they are completely gone the next day. If there are still slices in the bin the next day you have added to many. Don't leave apples or carrots in the bin to long or they will mold. Slices are better then half an apple or half of a carrot. Every few days add a few more slices of apple or carrot.
If you buy large mealworms in a week or so you will notice your worms are starting to lay on the surface of the wheat bran and not moving around to much. Don't worry they are not dead they are getting ready to pupate. They will all start to change into mealworm pupa. At this point you will want to put a 1 inch layer of wheat bran into another bin and label it pupa. When you see the pupa you can gently move them with a spoon into the pupa bin. You do not need to give them any apples or carrots. They do not need anything at this stage. After you start to see beetles in the bin you should add one or two small slices of apple so that when the beetle emerge they have a moisture source and wont attack the rest of the pupa.
Now you will want to get your next bin ready. Put another 1 inch layer of bran in the next bin and label it beetles. When your pupa start changing into beetles you can gently move them into the beetle bin. The beetles will be white at first but quickly change to light brown to black. The beetles will fall over at first and get stuck upside down. Don't worry, as you add more beetles to the bin they will grab hold of a passing friend and pull themselves upright. You will now want to add slices of apples and carrots to the bin. Again careful not to add to many. Now the beetles will start to breed. They will lay approx 5 eggs per beetle per week. So 2000 should produce 10,000 a week for up to 12 weeks. You always need to factor in a 10% mortality rate at each stage. Not all worms will pupate and not all pupa will turn to beetles etc.
Now that your beetles are laying eggs you will want to get another bin ready. No need to put any wheat bran in the bin because when you sift the beetles the wheat bran and eggs will fall through into the bin leaving the beetles behind in the sifter. I sift once a week and that keeps my worms all the same size. You can sift once every 2 weeks or 3 weeks etc. The longer you wait to sift the more of a difference in the sizes of the worms. If you have enough space I recommend sifting once a week. When you are ready to sift get an empty bin and put your sifter in it. Now pour or scoop the beetles and their substrate into the sifter. Sift the wheat bran and eggs down into the bin. The beetles that are left behind in the sifter now go into another bin with 1 inch of wheat bran. Give them some more slices of apples and put them back on the shelf.
Now that you have sifted you have a bin with eggs and wheat bran. This bin can be set aside on a shelf. No need to give any moisture source yet. Wait a few weeks and take a spoon and mound up some of the wheat bran. If you see the mound slide down and move then the eggs have hatched and you have babies. You can now give them some small slices of apple. It can seem like it takes a really long time before you see the wheat bran move. Don't give up, they will hatch. The first batch of eggs I had I almost gave up. I thought for sure I had dome something wrong and there were no eggs in the bin. Then one day I noticed the wheat bran moving and I had thousands of tiny worm babies. A few weeks after they hatch you will see some brown shed skins on top of the wheat bran. The worms are growing and shedding their skin. In about three months the worms will be big enough to feed out. I suggest holding back half the worms to continue your farm. Take those worms and put them in another bin with wheat bran and they will pupate and start the process all over again.
Congratulations you are now a mealworm farmer!