Follow these steps to learn How to Bread Superworms
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Buying superworms may be easy. But the monthly costs can add up. So breeding super worms is a great way to reduce cost, and provide your insectivorous pets with the proper nutrition they need. Plus, it is very easy once you understand the superworm life cycle and breeding habits. Keep reading to learn how to keep your own colony!
Food for Superworms
Superworms feed on a variety of plant materials. However, the most commonly used food for superworms is oatmeal. You can grind up oatmeal to make a powder with a blender or coffee grinder, which the worms can feed on easily. If you supplement the oatmeal with slices of apple, potato, or carrot, your superworms will have plenty of water to grow. All life cycles of the superworm can be fed this same diet, as superworms are not picky eaters.
Housing, Substrate, and Temperature for your Superworm Colony
The superworms will also use the oatmeal powder to burrow into as substrate, which should be an inch or two thick on the bottom of the container. So, don’t be surprised if you can’t see your superworms on the surface. This also means you do not have to add any substrate besides the oatmeal powder. Superworms are best kept at a dry humidity, less than 20%, to reduce the chances of the oatmeal becoming moldy, which can lead to colony collapse.
They can be kept at room temperature, and prefer a range of 75 - 82 degrees. In this range, the adult beetles will readily lay eggs in the oatmeal powder, which will hatch after 1-2 weeks. If you sift the adult beetles out of the substrate to change their bedding, keep the substrate. It is likely loaded with eggs and the new superworms can hatch directly into it.
After a few weeks of growing, you can use a strainer or screen to sift the small worms out of the powder. Changing the oatmeal powder regularly is the key to reducing the smell. Never refrigerate superworms, as they cannot hibernate like mealworms.
The Superworm Life Cycle
Before you jump into the process of making your own colony, it is important to understand the life cycle of superworms. The life cycle is a bit complex, and if you do not understand it completely, your superworm colony will not be successful.
Superworms are actually a juvenile form of a particular species of beetle, Zophobas morio. The juvenile worms make excellent feeders, but the beetles secrete a noxious, odorous substance that deters most insectivores from eating them. If you want to raise a successful colony of superworms you can feed to your reptile, amphibian, or arachnid, you need a good understanding of the life cycle of these beetles.
All superworms start their complex journey as an egg. Superworm eggs are tiny, often less than 2 millimeters in length. This makes them hard to see with a human eye. After 1 to 2 weeks, the eggs will hatch into tiny larvae.
The juvenile stage of the beetle is the stage that can be fed to insectivores. Juvenile superworms are very small when they hatch, typically very narrow and less than 1 inch long. As they grow and go through consecutive molts, superworms can grow to almost 2 inches long. This size larvae make a great feeder for most pets.
Luckily for superworm farmers, this particular species of beetle has an interesting adaptation. As long as they are touching other superworms, they will not progress to the next stage of development, the pupa. If you keep your superworms in the same container, they will stay superworms forever. But, if you want to have a successful superworm colony, you must separate these large superworms out.
A pupa is a sessile stage in the life cycle of these beetles. During this phase of life, the superworm will form a case around its body. To the untrained eye, the pupa resembles a dead insect. It is mostly white, and it has a much different body shape when compared to a superworm. However, it will wiggle if you touch it. After 1-2 weeks, an adult beetle will emerge from the pupa.
Most insectivores, from reptiles to praying mantises, rely on movement to hunt and capture their prey. Therefore, most pets will not eat insects in a sessile, pupae state. The pupae are also slightly less nutritious because they empty their guts before undergoing metamorphosis. In simpler terms, your pet will not get the nutrients it needs if it only eats the pupa stage of the life cycle. Pupae are really only good at creating beetles.
Adult superworms are actually beetles. They are members of the family Tenebrionidae, or the family of ‘darkling beetles’. Darkling beetles are found globally and typically feed on decaying wood, fruits, and other plant matter. While you cannot feed these beetles to your pets, they are essential to the breeding process.
The adult beetles are the only sexually-mature life form. In order to produce eggs and continue your colony, you will have to continue to produce pupa and beetles, even though they cannot be fed to your pets. House adult beetles in the same container. Here, they will continue to lay eggs which will become new superworms. Superworms make a great feeder insect because you can directly influence the process of metamorphosis, delaying the process until you need more beetles.
Mighty Meta-Morphin' Superworms
The only thing preventing large superworms from entering the pupa stage is the constant contact with other superworms. So, if you want to create more breeding adults, all you need to do is separate the worms from each other. Different breeders suggest different methods for keeping pupae separated, including tackle boxes with small chambers, sauce dishes from to-go restaurants, or almost any other container that fits a 2-inch worm.
After about a week separated from other beetles, they will start to undergo metamorphosis. This process will take 1-2 weeks as the insect forms a pupa and becomes an adult. The adult beetles are sexually reproductive and can be placed together in a container to create babies.
Best Practice: Separating Adults from Juveniles
Superworms can be cannibalistic if they are low on food or if smaller larvae are readily available. So, the best way to keep a superworm culture from eating itself is to keep different ages of worms confined to different containers. If you use ground oatmeal as a base, it is easy to separate the eggs and small larvae from the adult insects using a flour sifter. The following steps make this easy.
After you have some very large, 2-inch superworms, you can separate them into individual containers so they undergo metamorphosis. When they hatch as beetles, place them into a container with other adult beetles. The beetles will mate, and they will lay eggs in the oatmeal substrate.
Once you notice a few eggs starting to hatch, move the adult beetles into a new container with fresh substrate. Add some fresh oats to the egg container and the superworms will slowly grow into much larger feeder worms. When you need more worms, simply change the bedding in the beetle container. If your adults die off, you can easily separate some of the largest superworms into their own containers to create new beetles.
Best of Luck!