It may appear that I’m suggesting you keep maggots as pets (mealworms do look quite similar) but mealworms are quite different and very educational. They may wriggle and jiggle in your hand but they aren’t slimy to touch and although I understand they may not be quite appealing for many parents, my children thought they were great fun!
What are mealworms?
Mealworms are the larval stage of a black beetle, Tenebrio molitor, a species of darkling beetle. The larvae can measure from 1.5 cm while young and usually grow to around 2.5 cm at their largest state. They’re more typically known and used as a food source for reptiles, birds and captive mammals.
You may also have seen them featured on fear factor shows, where an unsuspecting person was required to put their head into a bucket of squirming mealworm larvae to win the major prize. They really aren’t that scary though.
Why keep Mealworms as Pets?
A meal worm set-up isn’t just for your average household, they are perfect for classrooms too! There are lots of positive reasons why mealworms make great pets. Here’s why:
- Mealworms go through four life stages: egg, larvae, pupa and adult. It only takes two to three months for the mealworms to go through the full cycle so it’s a perfect opportunity to introduce life cycles and metamorphosis to children. Let them see it first hand!
- Mealworms can be safely handled during all life stages (except as eggs) and provide a great sensory activity for children. Holding a heap of wriggling and jiggling mealworms in your hand, between your fingers is nothing you’ve ever felt before and most children love it. The pupa and adult beetle can be handled to. We love getting hands on! Make sure you wash your hands after touching them though.
- They are a very low maintenance pet. See how to keep them below.
How to Keep Mealworms
What you’ll need:
- A plastic fish tank like this one
- Natural bran
- Live meal worms – easy to buy!
- Food for moisture (carrot, bananas)
Where to buy mealworms?
It’s easy to get your hands on mealworms, they are most commonly found at your local pet shop
The set up
Set up your mealworm enclosure by tipping the bran into the container and then gently tipping in the mealworms. Mealworms not only live and move around in the bran but they eat it too. They do need some water, so adding in a bit of a banana peel or carrot here and there gives them that moisture without creating mould in the bran. Do keep an eye on the food though, if it’s quite damp it can still create some mould and you want to get it out of the enclosure as soon as possible.
Within a month your mealworms with become pupa and then transform into little black beetles. It really is intriguing for children and adults alike.
Would you keep mealworms as pet? Have you ever touched mealworms before?