Mealworms look a little like worms, but they are not actually worms at all -- they are darkling beetle (Tenebrio molitor) larvae. Golden yellow and divided into 12 segments, mealworms are a rich source of protein, vitamins and calcium for birds, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. Pet stores and online retailers sell packaged live mealworms, and you can store them at home in plastic containers such as ice cream buckets.
Mealworms take up to three months to develop into beetles when stored in a cool, dark area of the home. The packaging mealworms arrive in isn't suitable for storing them. You should pour them into another container, where they can live for several weeks with food and a source of moisture.
When transferring the mealworms to a container, place a piece of white paper underneath the container to see any that escape. Alternatively, put the container outside before adding the mealworms.
Things You'll Need
Dry oatmeal, wheat bran, chicken mash or cornmeal
2- to 5-gallon plastic container with sealing perforated lid
A chunk of raw potato, apple, carrot or a banana peel
Spread a layer of dry oatmeal, wheat bran, chicken mash or cornmeal 1 inch deep over the bottom of a 2- to 5-gallon plastic container.
Add a handful of dried cat food or powdered bird food to the grain to improve the nutrient value of the mealworms.
Place a chunk of raw potato, apple or carrot or a banana peel on the grain.
Pour the packaged mealworms into the container.
Cover the container with a secure, perforated lid. Poke tiny holes in the lid if necessary.
If the container sides are smooth and vertical, and the mealworms are 3 inches below the container rim, there is no need to cover the container with a lid to prevent them from escaping.
Place the container in a dark place at temperatures below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The North American Bluebird Society explains that the speed at which mealworms develop into beetles is affected by temperature. Low temperatures slow mealworm development.
Replace the piece of potato or other vegetable or fruit when it becomes moldy or smells offensive.
In a refrigerator, mealworm life cycles slowand they can be stored for several months. Store mealworms for the long term in plastic containers with a 1-inch layer of grain. Don't add any vegetable or fruit pieces. Cover the container with a lid that allows air to pass through. Label the container and place it in a corner of the refrigerator.
Don't store mealworms in the freezer. Freezing temperatures kill mealworms.
A graduate of Leeds University, Jenny Green completed Master of Arts in English literature in 1998 and has been writing about travel, gardening, science and pets since 2007. Green's work appears in Diva, Whole Life Times, Listverse, Earthtimes, Lamplight, Stupefying Stories and other websites and magazines.