Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Thriving Meal Worm Farm

It seems as though we are decent meal worm farmers.

Our little colony of darkling beetles, mealworms, and pupae are expanding and developing nicely.

It's been fascinating to watch the life cycle process.

We can't see the actual eggs on our egg cartons and paper towels that are in the beetle drawer, but we find lots and lots of new tiny mealworms plus our mealworm population continues to grow.

All the little meal worms once they hatch.

Daily we remove small to large handfuls of pupae from the mealworm tray to the pupae tray.  

Tons of pupae develop daily.
Eventually, as the beetles emerge, we have to transfer them back to the top drawer to begin the process all. over. again.  It takes the longest (so it seems) for the beetles to emerge.  We have a wide variety of stages so it's hard to tell exactly how long it takes, but we've gone a week or longer with NO beetles what-so-ever, yet we have pupae develop multiple times a day.  As I mentioned, we can't see the eggs.  Nor can we really tell when and how many of the tiny hatched worms fall into the worm tray on a regular basis.  They immediately burrow down into the oatmeal so we don't really know how often and quickly that process happens.  I can say, the worms seem to be multiplying quite quickly, though.

The beginning and the end.  The actual beetles emerge
but also start the process by laying the eggs.
I help with the process.  A little.

I'm happy to pick out the pupae and place them in the bottom drawer to continue their transformation into darkling beetles.  It's weird to feel them wiggle in your hand as you gather them up, but overall it's not too bad.

The mealworms themselves on the other hand, I just can't muster up the courage to pick them up. They squiggle and wiggle and crawl around and it just CREEPS ME OUT!!

Occasionally an egg hatches and the tiny worm doesn't drop down through the screen bottom into the mealworm drawer and develops right there with the beetles. This is a dangerous situation for that little mealworm as the beetles aren't afraid to eat their own.  As evidenced by the fact we've found many a headless beetle shell in the drawer.  IKK!

When we find a lone worm, we must move it to the next drawer.  I ALWAYS call the girls.  I just can't bring myself to pick those wormies up.  LOL!

Then there are the beetles. When they emerge from their pupae on the bottom, they too need to be transferred to the beetle tray so they don't begin eating all the non-transformed pupae.  That would kill out our farm pretty quickly.

Once again, I call Elijah or the girls to grab up those little creepy crawlies to put them where they belong.

Wimp. I know.

The pupae.
You can see the beetle
beginning to emerge.  Eyes,
legs forming. Cool huh?
Still, it's been fascinating to watch the life cycle in live action.

They actually are cute to watch. The beetles are nocturnal and come out in force once the sun begins to set.  I think cooler temps also lure them out as we've noticed now that it's 'summer like' that they come out as soon as the temps begin to drop a bit - even if it's not getting dark yet.  
Over time - a very short time -
they begin to gain color.

Once the beetles emerge they
are start almost white.

White, to tan, to red, to dark brown, to black.
I don't have a pic of a black beetle.
Guess I need to do that.
The worms are fascinating as they move around under the oatmeal and make it bubble and churn. They love bread and will eat through an end piece leaving just the 'hull' as a skeleton.  

The pupae - well, they don't do much until the beetle emerges. Go figure.  It is fascinating to watch how they squirm when you touch them or pick them up, however.  Occasionally you can even see them wriggle around in the oatmeal.  I swear they 'burrow' although I have no scientific proof of that.  I must admit, I had no idea the pupae would be so 'active' and fascinating.  

Learning experiences all around.  

Now to decide exactly WHAT the kids should do as their fair projects.

Have any ideas?  

              I'd love to hear them.  

One idea I considered for Charity was a 'life cycle of the darkling beetle'.  She'd actually 'pin up' the bodies of each stage.  The only one I wouldn't have a 'carcass' for is the egg.

((This was a grand idea until I learned it's 'against the rules' to use 
live animals in an indoor project, 
even if the animal (or insect in this case) is dead. 
Guess photographs will have to suffice.  
Doesn't have near the 'cool factor', but.... it is what it is))

Otherwise, I'm at a loss for inspiration.  

A molting mealworm beginning to form
into a pupae.
A beetle that got 'stuck' half way through
the transformation from pupae to beetle.
We also have 'examples' of partially molted mealworms; not quite emerged beetles; beetles w/not-fully-developed bodies or broken wings; pupae that 'dry up'; worms that don't fully pupate; pupae w/beetle legs and a beetle head, but a pupae body.

Basically mutant darkling beetles.

A fully developed beetle and one with wings not fully
formed and the pupae body still partially intact.
I'm sure we could could come up with a project showcasing those malformations somehow as well.

A bettle w/poorly formed wings.

A pupae molting it's mealworm skin.

If you are a 'bug whiz' and like making posters - give me a shout out and share your wonderful ideas. We could use all the innovation we can get.

I don't know how long we'll continue raising our mealworms.  If we'll just feed them all to the chickens once fair is over or if we'll continue expanding our farm and make it a long term adventure.  

The top side of the part pupa
part beetle.

Not even sure here.  Part pupae, part beetle.

It's not a difficult task, so we may give it a whirl.  

Could be a good money making opportunity for the kiddos.

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