Raising mealworms has been increasing in popularity over the last few years. Whether you plan to use them for your chickens, reptiles, hedgehogs or yourself, raising mealworms is easy and fun!
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Listen to more helpful tips on raising mealworms in this Backyard Bounty podcast episode!
If you are new to raising mealworms, you may like to take a peek at our post How To Raise Mealworms. This post also covers an alternative method of housing the mealworm colony in a single container.
We raise mealworms for our chickens in a tiered system. Although you could use a single bin, a tiered system has many advantages. The yield is MUCH higher, the worms are larger healthier, and harvesting is simpler.
Tiered systems can be made out of any plastic drawer, such as these Sterilite drawers or these drawer organizers (which I prefer and use), and works best when using at least 6 drawers. You’ll need at least 3 drawers, and can use up to 20 drawers or more if you needed. Mealworms and beetles do not like the light, so if possible, purchase solid colors or black drawers. You can always cover the drawers with tape or spray paint for plastic if needed (don’t paint the inside!), or place the colony in a dark location.
To start your mealworm colony, purchase a starter kit from a reputable vendor, or a few thousand mealworms from a company like Rainbow Mealworms (use this link for 10% off!). You will also need Wheat Bran, window screen material or 1/8″ (#8) hardware cloth, oatmeal and carrots (preferably organic), and your 3+ drawer container.
To set up your tiered system, you’ll start by carefully cutting out the bottom of one of the drawers, and replacing it with the window screen material or hardware cloth. Fill this with 1-2″ of oatmeal and add a carrot, and place at the top of the tiers. The beetles will eat the oatmeal and use the carrot for hydration. This will become the Beetle Bin. When you receive your starter kit, place the beetles in this drawer. The beetles will burrow to the bottom of the oatmeal to lay their eggs. The eggs will fall through the screen into the Worm Tray 1 below. This prevents the beetles from eating their eggs.
The second tray in your system, below the Beetle Bin, is Worm Tray 1. All Worm Trays need to have 2-4″ of wheat bran and carrots. The worms will eat the wheat bran and use the carrot for hydration. As noted, this collects the eggs as they pass through the mesh in the Beetle Bin.
Below Worm Tray 1 is the Pupae Tray. All pupae are placed in here. No substrate is needed in this tray. When the pupae become beetles, hand separate the beetles and move them to the Beetle Bin.
After the Pupae Tray would be extra Worm Trays. If you are only using a total of 3 drawers, this would not apply. For those using 4+ drawers, fill your additional Worm Trays with 2-4″ of wheat bran and carrots. These trays should be rotated with the Worm Tray 1 position. The more trays you have, the more often you will be able to harvest. Worms take 3-4 months to be full grown after hatching. So, if you are using a 6 drawer system and have 4 Worm Trays, each drawer should be rotated every 3 months (12 months a year/ 4 trays= 3 months). This means that every 3 months, you will harvest mealworms.
If you had an 18 Worm Tray system you would rotate drawers every 3 weeks, (52 weeks a year/ 18 trays = Appx 3 weeks), and you would harvest full grown worms every 3 weeks.
The easiest way to harvest worms is to use a sifter or sieve to separate them from the bran. You can also just pick them out by hand.
Single Bin System
If you would prefer to raise your mealworms in a single bin, please see this post.
Below is an infographic to help explain the tiered system-
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