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Mealworm Breeding

Posted: 10 Jan 2020, 22:56
by Brisbane_Finches_333
Hi everyone,

I’ve been trying to find how to breed mealworms for my birds to eat :worm: , I’ve looked in the finch news and the article put in there is quite confusing and doesn’t explain much. Can any of you guys tell me how to breed mealworms?


Re: Mealworm Breeding

Posted: 11 Jan 2020, 09:49
by Rod_L
Get a 40 litre (or bigger) plastic storage container and put about 4 inches of bran in it.
Add a container of mealworms and feed them with bits of fruit (no citrus). You can occasionally add a small handful of breakfast cereal (cornflakes or rice bubbles).
Have a lid on the container and have some holes in it but cover them with flyscreen so air can get into the container but flies can't.
Keep the container indoors and somewhere it doesn't get too hot or too cold. If the temperature is comfortable for people then it's fine for mealworms.
The mealworm larvae will eventually change into adult beetles and breed.
Make up several cultures in case one crashes and so you can harvest from one culture for a month while the other one builds up numbers.

In hot weather you can use a plant mister to spray a small amount of water on the culture but not too much otherwise it goes mouldy and fungus can grow.

You can buy 4 tier metal stands from Bunnings for about $15.00 and put one storage container on each shelf and have 4 cultures going.

You can buy earthworm farms from hardware stores and garden centres and grow worms for the birds. If you don't want to buy a worm farm, get a couple of big plastic pots (for plants) and put some shadecloth in the bottom to cover the holes. Then fill the pots with a basic potting mix that does not contain any fertiliser or wetting agent. Put some earthworms in it and feed them on fruit and vege scraps (just put the food on the surface of the potting mix). Don't feed onion, potatoe or citrus to earthworms.
Water the pot a couple of times a week in hot weather.

You can get a 10-20 litre plastic bucket and put a rock/ brick in the bottom. Add a heap of sliced fruit and vegetables and put some bird wire on the top of the bucket. Put the bucket in the aviary and fruit flies will go into the bucket and lay eggs on the fruit. As the flies come out of the bucket, the birds can catch and eat them.
Add fresh fruit regularly and tip out the liquid in the bottom.

Re: Mealworm Breeding

Posted: 11 Jan 2020, 11:15
by arthur
Very comprehensive reply by Rod . .

Other forms of livefood covered by site below

If you don't succeed with your first attempts, stick at it until you do

Re: Mealworm Breeding

Posted: 11 Jan 2020, 15:21
by Stu
Breeding mealworms can be as basic or as complex as you desire.
A mealworm is the larvae of darkling beetles.
They breed easily and have minimal requirements.
You can breed them in one container as Rod_L suggested which is as complex as it needs to be however I found multiple containers are more productive and a little easier to keep clean.


A receptacle - Or receptacles to house and maintain them. A plastic container of which ever size best suits you. Shallow container are better suited. I have used both plastic draws and cheap plastic containers. A size guide L300mm x W200mm x H100mm. If using multiple containers start with at least four.

Substrate to live in - which may also be a food supply, Bran, rolled oats, chicken pellets, anything grain based. As a start I would suggest oat bran which is available at most supermarkets.

A water supply - Which is generally a vegetable or fruit. Sliced carrot is the simplest.

Using the same mealworms you currently have for your birds.
Put them in the container with enough substrate that they can bury into. There is no set rules here but as a guide a container 300mm x 200mm I suggest 20mm to 30mm of substrate. This will feed them for a few months. More is not always better here as it just makes them harder to find and you can add to it if required. A few slices of fresh carrot placed on top and wait.
Replacing the carrot slices is up to you. They will dry up, look horrible but still be consumed by the mealworms. Adding carrot slices as you see fit and removing the old ones if you think it looks messy. The mealworms wont care either way. The only rule here is not to load the containers with moist materials. They need to be dry.

After a period of time, this will vary depending on both climate and food supply the mealworms will pupate.
This could be a couple of weeks to a couple of months, at which time you will notice a small alien creature or two amongst your larvae and bran.
Take these pupa and house them in another container the same or similar to the worms with the same substrate.
If left in the same container the mealworm will consume some of the pupa.

Again after a period of time these pupa will form into beetles.
These white/brown beetles will turn black after a few days and if you have a few of these black beetles they will begin to breed within a couple of weeks.

When you have a tub full of beetles, remove them to another container set up the same.
The container the beetles were in will now contain small mealworms and eggs.
Treat this container the same as the first and it will soon be full of mealworms.
Feed out these mealworms as required and allow some to pupate to repeat the cycle.
When you have exhausted the first container of mealworms empty it, replenish the bran and use it as your next tub for beetles.

Rinse and repeat.

If using fruits to feed/water the mealworms, I advise to go sparingly as these may attract other critters to your culture and may increase the risk of mould.
Contrary to Rod_L suggestion I would not add any additional water to your culture.

Keep it simple, bran in a container, four or five carrot slices a week that's it.

When adding pupa to a beetle container I found placing the pupa on an inverted takeaway food container avoids predation and allow them to climb off into the substrate/bran as they form.

Be mindful of the dust. Mealworm excrement is a very fine dust and may cause reparatory issues for some. The dust for me causes a severe hay fever like reaction.

Re: Mealworm Breeding

Posted: 11 Jan 2020, 15:28
by finchbreeder
Great information guys. :thumbup:

Re: Mealworm Breeding

Posted: 10 Jan 2021, 19:41
by N017
Has anyone tried to freeze mealworms? I have found that in the warmer months you have an abundance of it just to have a shortage in the colder months.

Re: Mealworm Breeding

Posted: 11 Jan 2021, 19:45
by Craig52
N017 wrote: 10 Jan 2021, 19:41 Has anyone tried to freeze mealworms? I have found that in the warmer months you have an abundance of it just to have a shortage in the colder months.
Mealworms turn mushy and black when frozen or soon after they are fed out from being frozen. Bushfly maggots tend to do the same.
You can buy dehydrated mealworm powder but i have never tried it to comment.

Re: Mealworm Breeding

Posted: 12 Jan 2021, 20:35
by arthur
Plenty in the literature about storing M's in the fridge (not freezer) for long periods, where they become dormant, and later on warming resume normal activity . .

If you have an abundance, you might as well experiment . .

And let us know your results . .

Re: Mealworm Breeding

Posted: 13 Jan 2021, 14:06
by Brisbane_Finches_333
I know of freeze-dried mealworms being available for chickens, not sure if finches would like them??

Re: Mealworm Breeding

Posted: 14 Jan 2021, 21:16
by starman
I have never tried freeze-dried mealworms, but most of the live food eating finch species that I have kept have had a strong preference for moving subjects.
The livelier the target, the sooner it is picked off. Dead or mauled worms are usually left until last, if eaten at all.