Recently we have started to raise Mealworms. They are the larva of the Darkling beetle. In our first five months we have gone from 1,000 larvae to over 500,000 and the numbers keep rising. We estimate our first batch of beetles are laying around 10,000 eggs a week and they just keep going. Our second batch of beetles will be laying soon.
These little critters need little care. A little wheat bran or ground oats and a slice of potato or carrot and you're off and running. As the larva grows it sheds it outer layer again and again. Once it is full grown it sheds its skin one more time and becomes a pupa (like a cocoon for a butterfly). About a week later +- it becomes a beetle. This is a low cost way of raising food for your chickens, other birds, reptiles and they can be used for fishing bait.
the beetles lay their eggs, it takes roughly a month before you can
start to see the larvae with the naked eye. From there, they
will continue to eat, shed, grow and, of course, poop. The
mealworm poop is more endearingly referred to as frass. The
frass and shed skin may need to be cleaned out every month or so.
Depending on the temperature and humidity conditions, the
larval stage may take roughly two to three more months. Do not throw away your frass! This is a nutrient rich soil amendment that is great to mix in with your potting soil mix.
this point, you may notice a few pupae in with your mealworms. This
is simply the larvae moving into the next stage of their life cycle.
The pupae do not eat and do not move much, other than a few twitches
here and there. In the picture below, the three pupae are
simply lying around. This is all you will see during this
stage. Not very exciting. But once they are done
lounging, you will see more movement and a beetle will start to
emerge from this mummy-like stage.
beetle does not come out of it's snuggly all black and shiny like in
the picture below. When it first emerges, it is nearly
colorless. The body area is white and the head is a light tan
color. Over the next few days it will turn more copper colored
and within a few more days it will turn black. One thing
beetles appreciate is darkness. We like to keep empty toilet
paper rolls in the beetle bin as they enjoy hanging out in them. A
piece of paper or cardboard is good too. Some people use egg
mentioned before, mealworms are a good source of protein, fat and
other nutrients. Chickens and other birds love them. They
are also raised to feed sugar gliders, hedgehogs and small reptiles
like geckos and lizards.