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Mealworms are the larval form of the mealworm beetle and are a great food source for many pets, including reptiles, fish, tarantulas and chickens. So whether you're looking to breed your own fish bait; or making a cheap food source for your pets this short guide will show you how to start your own mealworm colony with just a few simple household items.

Before you get started, you are going to need a few things. To store the mealworms you will need a small 3 drawer storage unit. Having 3 drawers will allow you to separate each stage of the mealworm life cycle. Next, you will need a food source for your mealworms, I prefer to use plain rolled oats, as they are extremely cheap, and mealworms tend not to be too picky.

You will also need some vegetable scraps for the mealworms to eat for added nutrients and hydration. I also strongly recommend having a good pair of tweezers on hand to move the mealworms from drawer to drawer, as trying to pick up the little guys with your fingers can be a bit tricky. And last but certainly not least, you will need some live mealworms. Live mealworms are extremely affordable and can be bought at a number of places online,  as well as PetBarns, Pet Domains and local pet stores.

Now that you have everything you need, it's time to get started. You will want to fill the top drawer with about one to two inches worth of oats. This base layer, or substrate will act both as a source of food for the mealworms, and as their bedding. For now you can leave the bottom two drawers empty, as these will house the mealworms more advanced life stages.

Mealworms are only able to absorb water by eating solid foods, so you will need to put a few vegetable or fruit scraps into the drawer also. I usually just put a few pieces of carrot and other assorted vegetable scraps, any more than this can cause issues with mold. Make sure you replace the vegetables frequently as failing to do so can cause mold to develop.

You can now place the live mealworms into the drawer. From here, the mealworms will take about eight to ten weeks before they start to pupate. the pupa stage is basically the beetle equivalent of a caterpillar entering the cocoon before becoming a butterfly. The pupa stage will last anywhere from one to three weeks, as the pupa transforms into a fully grown beetle.

In this life stage the pupa are extremely vulnerable and can barely even wiggle their bodies, so once you notice that your mealworms have begun to pupate you will want to separate them as soon as possible.

This is where the fun really starts, as the pupas start turning into fully grown beetles. Again, its very important that at each stage of the life cycle is kept separate, so once you start seeing little beetles crawling around, it is time to carefully move them to their own drawer with some tweezers.

The beetles will live anywhere from one to three months and are able to produce hundreds of eggs in that time. The new fully grown beetles will begin to breed and lay their tiny eggs within a couple of weeks. Keep checking the beetle drawer periodically and you will start to notice little baby mealworms starting to pop up all over the place, congratulations! you have just bred your very own mealworms! Now all you have to do is move the new mealworms into the mealworm drawer and start the whole process again.
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