Mealworm Life Cycle

Contrary to belief the mealworm isn't a worm, it is the larval form of the Darkling Beetle. Like most metamorphic insects, the beetle goes through 4 life stages: Egg, Larva, Pupa and Adult. They usually reside in dark, cool and moist places such as under rocks and logs.

The mealworm is the larvae of two types of mealworm beetle; the Yellow and the less common Black Ground Beetle. The beetles breed in three stages, which consist of the female being chased, mounted and then inserted with a sperm packet. In a few days the female will burrow into the ground and lay up to 500 eggs not visible with the human eye. After 4-19 days the eggs will hatch. During the egg stage, they will be more susceptible to predators such as birds, rodents, spiders, other beetles and reptiles.

After hatching, they go into their larval, or grub, stage which can last up to 3-4 months. They grow to be about 35 mm long, with six legs, two antennae and have a dark yellow segmented body with brown bands. During this time the larva will molt it's exoskeleton 9 to 20 times and grow slightly after each molt and will eat alot in order to grow and change into a pupa. At this stage they are mostly nocturnal, but can be wriggle if disturbed.

In the pupa stage, the larva morphs into a white/cream color with a large head and pointed tail, which will turn dark over time into the final stage of the beetle. After this the beetle will grow into their adult stage which will grow to be 12-25 mm long and will turn a dark brown color. When it reaches this stage, it will survive for up to 3-5 months and as in the larvae stage, the beetle is often nocturnal, but is also active during the daytime. The entire metamorphosis the beetle goes through is approximately 1 year. The life cycle of the Mealworm may be shorter if raised inside, but this really depends on the temperature their in and the food they are fed.

Both the adult and the larval form of the beetle are scavengers that eat grains and seedlings and are considered to be pests to farmers. They will also eat decaying material like plants and animals, but they get all the water they need from the food they eat. The mealworm is can also be used as food for reptiles, fish, and birds and as fish bait. They can be reared on carrots, apples, potatoes, and fresh oats, wheat or grain. They are available in bulk and the growers often give them juvenile hormone to keep them at a larval stage where they will grow up to 2 cm or larger. They are also edible to humans as a baked or fried snack food.

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