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Everything you need to know about mealworms!

Everything you need to know about mealworms!

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Edible Insects – Photo credit to  Wilhelm Thomas Fiege


1      InCredible Mealworms

Why are we writing about mealworms? They are not only exciting creatures with surprising features but foremost, they are healthy and delicious food for humans!

Learn cool things about mealworms and remember, the best way to learn how GOOD mealworms taste is to buy some products directly from our webshop!

1.1.1   The basic facts

Mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) are the larval form of the mealworm beetle, Tenebrio molitor, a species of darkling beetle. Like all holometabolic insects, they go through four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Larvae typically measure about 2.5 cm or more, whereas adults are generally between 1.25 and 1.8 cm in length. [ ]     Looks

Yellow mealworm adults look like typical beetles and are not worm-like in appearance as their common name suggests. They are dark in color, have a hard shell, and are about ½ inch long.

The common name mealworm comes from the appearance of the larvae (caterpillars), which are cylinder-shaped and about an inch long when fully grown. Their coloration is yellow with brownish rings on the body segments. The larval body turns progressively harder as they grow.

1.2    Why are people interested in mealworms?

1.2.1   Mealworms in scientific research

Mealworms are often used for biological research. They are relatively large in size, and they are easy to rear and handle. Therefore they are often used to prove concept studies in basic biology, biochemistry, evolution, immunology, and physiology.

1.2.2   Mealworms as pests

Mealworms have generally been considered pests because they feed on stored grains. The pests contaminate all products they eat, which leads to costly food losses. Residents who accidentally ingest raw yellow mealworms may have gastric discomfort, but the pests do not transmit diseases.

Homeowners often find yellow mealworms in neglected areas of homes prone to humidity. Forgotten bagged, or boxed items in kitchen pantries are hotspots for these pests. Yellow mealworms are common wherever stored food becomes damp or grows mold. Mealworm larvae are among the largest insect larvae that infest stored products since the full-grown mealworm larvae are about 1 inch long. Yellow mealworm infestations are usually a sign of poor sanitation.

A female yellow mealworm will lay eggs in grain products, so tainted bags of flour can start an infestation. Garden or birdseed left in outbuildings also attract the pests.

Mealworms probably originated in the Mediterranean region but are now present in many areas of the world due to human trade and colonization. The oldest archaeological records of mealworms can be traced to Bronze Age Turkey. Still, there are, for example, no finds of mealworms from ancient Egypt. Records from the British Isles and northern Europe are from a later date.

1.2.3   As feed and pet food

Many pets are insectivores in their natural habitats. Therefore, mealworms have been around as pet food for captive reptiles, fish, and birds. You can also give mealworms to wild birds in bird feeders, particularly during the nesting season. Furthermore, mealworms are commonly used as fishing bait.

Mealworms have a high protein content, and they are increasingly used in bird farms. They are commercially available in bulk and are typically available in containers with bran or oatmeal for food. Commercial growers incorporate a juvenile hormone into the feeding process to keep the mealworm in the larval stage and achieve an abnormal length of 2 cm or greater.

1.2.4   As food

Mealworms are edible for humans and processed into several insect food items in food retail. Typical food products containing mealworms are burgers.

Mealworms have been incorporated into tequila-flavored novelty candies. Mealworms are not traditionally served in tequila, and the “tequila worm” in certain mezcals is usually the larva of the moth Hypopta agavis.[citation needed]

1.2.5   The history of mealworms as food

The West has only recently woken to see baked or fried mealworms as a healthy snack food. Still, the rearing and consumption of mealworms go back centuries. Mealworms have historically been consumed in many Asian countries, especially in Southeast Asia. You can find them in food markets and buy them as street food alongside other edible insects.

Mealworms are easy to raise, which has made them popular in many parts of Southeast Asia. You can feed them with fresh oats, wheat bran, or grain and give them sliced potato, carrots, or apple as a moisture source. Rearing mealworms requires only a small amount of space.

1.3    Nutritional values of mealworms

Mealworm larvae contain significant nutrient content. 100 grams of raw mealworm larvae can contain more than 200 calories and anywhere from 14 to 25 grams of protein. Furthermore, their potassium, copper, sodium, selenium, iron, and zinc levels rival that of beef. What is more, they also have a greater vitamin content by weight than beef, B12 not included. Finally, mealworms contain essential linoleic acids.

According to the EU food safety agency, the yellow mealworm is safe for human consumption.

1.3.1   Mealworms can eat plastic!

In 2015, it was discovered that mealworms can eat polystyrene! The funny thing in that research is that no difference was found between mealworms fed only styrofoam and mealworms fed conventional foods during the one-month duration of the experiment.[7] Actually, it is the microorganisms inside the mealworm’s gut that are responsible for the fantastic job. When the microorganisms were killed by giving antibiotics to the worms, the degradation of polystyrene stopped.

Mealworms cannot only eat various forms of plastic, but they can also consume potentially toxic plastic additives in polystyrene with no ill effects. The worms can then be used as a safe, protein-rich feed supplement, or you can fry them on your frying pan and eat! YUMMY!

In fact, mealworms can eat an all-plastic diet and not die!

Mealworms are not the only insects eating plastic. Wax worms can eat polyethylene which means that they will escape if you want to carry them around in a plastic bag!

1.3.2   How to grow Mealworms?     How mealworms regenerate?

The mealworm beetle breeds prolifically. Mating is a three-step process: the male chasing the female, mounting her and inserting his aedeagus, and injecting a sperm packet. Within a few days, the female burrows into soft ground and lays eggs. Over a lifespan, a female will, on average, lay about 500 eggs. [ ]

After four to 19 days, the eggs hatch. Many predators target the eggs, including reptiles. [ ]

During the larval stage, the mealworm feeds on vegetation and dead insects. It molts between each larval stage, or instar (9 to 20 instars). After the final molt it becomes a pupa. The new pupa is whitish, and it turns brown over time. After 3 to 30 days, depending on environmental conditions such as temperature, it emerges as an adult beetle. []     Moder farming of mealworms

1.4    Ecological source of protein

2      How to raise mealworms

You can raise your own mealworms for food and it is easy!

Alternatively, you can raise use mealworms to feed insects for birds fish, reptiles, rodents, and other pet animals.

Or, you can give half of the mealworms to your pets and eat the rest!

Setting up your own mealworm farm is cheap and fast!

2.1    Setting up the farm

You can buy a ready to start mealworm farmin kit from internet or build your own farm from scratch. Both ways are easy.

2.1.1   Preparations

To start your farm you need feed, plastic containers to keep your mealworms and cardboard structures, like egg cartons or toilet paper rolls, under which the worms can hide themselves.     Feed

Mealworms eat dry food like oatmeal or cornmeal but they also need some fresh food, like a sliced vegetable, to get moisture. Carrots work best for this, but you can also use other fruits and vegetables such as potatoes or apples. Slice the vegetables! It is better if the slices dry than mold because mold kills the meaworms!     Containers

You need plastic containers with air holes in their covers. You can use whichever basic, food quality container and drill the wholes yourself.     Cardboard to create hiding places for mealworms

Get egg cartons or used toilet paper rolls.     The worms

If you only grow mealworms for your pets, you may get your first 500 – 1000 mealworms from a local pet store.

However, if you want to grow mealworms for food, it is a good idea to get your first mealworms from someone who has already raised for food for some time. Even though mealworms do not naturally carry human diseases, it is better to get your first population from somewhere you know they have been grown.

Mealworms, also known as darkling beetle larva. You can start with anywhere from 500 to 1000.


Building a home for mealworms

Cover the bottom of each plastic container with 2,5 centimeter /1 inch layer of oats/cereals/ cormeal which serve both as bedding and food for the mealworms in their various stages of development.

Lay some vegetable slices, lettuce, cabbage or fruit on the top of the bedding in each bin you plan put mealworms in. You can use any vegetable of fruit you want. Just slice them thin enough that they don’t mold!

Next, place cardboard material on top of the bedding to give mealworms shadow because these creatures are children of darkness.

Now it is time for a mealworm housewarming party! Pour in the mealworms in one or more containers. The idea is that each container only has mealworms in one stage of their life. So, label the containers accordingly for mealworms, pupa, and adult beetles.

Now it is time to seal the containers and place them in a warm, dark place. Warmth speeds up the life cycle process. Mealworm grow and pupate slower in cold and faster in warm.

Your mealworm farm is ready!

2.2    Running the mealworm farm

2.2.1   Periodical maintenance

Mealworms are easy pets. Some farmers like to check things out daily, but others think that once a week is enough.

Remove things gone bad like dead insects, old vegetable, and mold. Turn around the bedding to check its condition and to give it air to prevent mold. Remove clumps of mold or change the bedding if needed. Add new vegetable slices.

2.2.2   Separate the pupa

Before turning to pupa, meaworms shed their skin (moult) several times.

You will learn how the pupa look like. The new ones are almost white but they get darker when they mature.


Keep an eye out for pupa in the mealworm habitat and separate the pupa as soon as you start to notice them. Pupa neither move nor eat the vegetable you have put into their container. They cannot defend themselves and may become eaten before they have a chance to hatch.

Depending on the temperature, the pupal stage lasts anywhere from one to several weeks. The darker the pupae become the closer the hatching time has come.

Check your containers regularly to keep yourself updated about the life cycles in them. Remove adult beetles from the pupa container immediately to prevent them feeding on pupa.

Place the adult beetles into a separate container with the same oatmeal bedding you prepared for mealworms. The beetles need the bedding for nesting.

2.2.3   Eggs and young mealworms

After some time you will start seeing eggs in the aduld beetle container. You don’t need to remove the eggs. Within 4-19 days they will hatch and you will have new mealworms. Adult females lay about 500 eggs at a time.

Move the young mealworms out of the adult beetle habitat into the mealworm container upon hatching. It means a lot of work if you do it manually but on YouTube you can find videos with different tools to do the separation more efficiently.

2.2.4   The circle of maintenance

Repeat everything mentioned above daily or weekly depending on your preference.

[1] Panagiotakopulu E (2001). “New records for ancient pests: archaeoentomology in Egypt”. Journal of Archaeological Science28 (11): 1235–1246. doi:10.1006/jasc.2001.0697.

[2] Finke, M.; D. Winn (2004). “Insects and related arthropods: A nutritional primer for rehabilitators”. Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation27: 14–17.

[3] “FAO Nutritional information” (PDF). Retrieved January 12, 2019.

[4] “FAO Nutritional information” (PDF). Retrieved January 12, 2019.

[5] chmidt, Anatol; Call, Lisa; Macheiner, Lukas; Mayer, Helmut K. (2018). “Determination of vitamin B12 in four edible insect species by immunoaffinity and ultra-high performance liquid chromatography”. Food Chemistry281: 124–129. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2018.12.039PMID 30658738.

[6] Boffey, Daniel (2021-01-13). “Yellow mealworm safe for humans to eat, says EU food safety agency”The GuardianISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2021-01-15.

[7] Jordan, Rob. “Plastic-eating worms may offer solution to mounting waste, Stanford researchers discover”Stanford News Service. Stanford News Service. Retrieved 24 March 2016.

[8] Lockwood, Deirdre (September 30, 2015). “Mealworms Munch Polystyrene Foam”Chemical and Engineering News. Retrieved 2019-02-04.





1.1.1   [13]


How do mealworms taste?


Mealworms have a discreet umami taste that leaves a light, nutty aftertaste. They go well with more or less everything.

You can use either whole or ground mealworms to add protein and a feeling of adventure to your dishes. Try mealworms roasted, freeze-dried, or buy frozen ones and fry them on a pan.

You can serve mealworms using almost any cooking technique, whether roasting, roasting, or sautéing. You can cook and eat them exactly how you want.

Mealworms’ mild and nutty taste blends with everything like bread, meatballs, tacos, hamburgers, spaghetti, caramels, lollipops, paellas, pizzas, chocolate, cookies, etc. You can toss them in salads or on tacos or throw them in your mouth as a snack. Internet is full of mealworm recipes.

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Mealworms – Picture credit to Peter Halasz

We highly recommend trying mealworms from different producers because mealworms’ taste highly depends on the feed they eat. Depending on their diet during their last 2-3 days, the taste of mealworms can differ from slightly unpleasant to very delicious!
I must admit that I was not too fond of the taste of mealworms when I tried them for the first time in 2018. The taste was mild, but I did not like the not-so-delicious aftertaste, which stayed for minutes in my mouth and returned time after time for hours. Those mealworms were from one of the biggest mealworm producers in Europe, and in 2021, their worms still taste the same.
Later, after tasting mealworms from other producers, I have changed my mind. Mealworms can have a very delicious taste of their own and without any unpleasant after tastes.
At Party Bugs, we like mealworms so much that we wanted to create a new Party Bugs product line using mealworms.

Mealworms are also high in protein, so you know they will do a lot of good for you. Often used as a nutrient booster, they give you the same amount of protein as beef but with no environmental effects.

Mealworms are already mass-produced in large quantities as animal feed, and mass production for consumption is the next step.


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