Strange Problem with Mealworms

jak2002003

Crowing
Oct 24, 2009
3,146
1,263
396
Thailand
OK, so I am having problems with my mealworm cultures this month with they dying in large numbers and can't figure out what is going on.

I have kept and bred mealworms for years as food for my birds, reptiles and other animals... and have no serious problems.

They are are the correct temperature, they are clean, they have porridge oats for substrate and thin slices or carrot on top as moisture, which are changed every 2 days to stop them going bad.

My mealworms are growing really slowly and every day there are lots of black soft ones that smell bad that I have to take out.

I see many live ones that are deformed with lots of old skin stuck to their bodies, mostly around their legs. Looks like they have peeling, flakey skin covering them. When they get like this they start to get black areas on their body too and then soon die and turn all black. None are making it to the larger stage or to the stage they turn into a pupa!

I have never had this problem with them before. They are kept in shallow open topped containers so have plenty of ventilation and no direct sunlight. The substrate is not damp or mouldy.

Any one else ever encountered this problem before?
 

Dephora

Chirping
Apr 30, 2020
214
223
70
Southern Oregon
The skin sticking to the beetles sounds like a moisture issue. They may be too dry.

This could be because the bedding is too deep, sucking up what little moisture the carrots give. As there is no top on your container they are subject to whatever humidity the air in your house is, So if you have a heater that sucks all the moisture out of the air that could be the issue too. Have you noticed it being dryer in your home than usual? Maybe moved their bins to a dryer part of the house?

I find that when there isn't enough moisture the worms start nibbling on eachother and the pupae, which makes black spots and causes death or deformation.

Put a lid on the container, semi popped or semi covered, with a shallow dish of water to get the humidity up fast. See how they do in the next couple of weeks while doing that.
I would also recommend removing the pupae in general to protect them from those hungry mealworms. Goodluck
 

jak2002003

Crowing
Oct 24, 2009
3,146
1,263
396
Thailand
Thanks for all the helpful replies.

I am going to add more carrots and also put a lid on the tub (with air holes), then see how that goes.

The bedding is oat bran (which is the same brand I always use). Nothing has changed. I live in Thailand so it's hot air temperature naturally, but I guess the air might be dry as the rainy season has stopped now.

One more question: has anyone heard if mealworms can get parasites, viruses or contagious disease that can spread to eath other... like a mini mealworm plague? I was thinking that perhaps some parasitic wasp or fungus got into my tubs as they have open tops... and infected the worms.
 

416bigbore

Not A Care In The World !
Premium Feather Member
Jun 11, 2020
2,436
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NC
Hello in Thailand. :)

It's funny that you bring up the question of mealworms getting parasites? This is my first attempt at mealworms for our poultry and it's been nothing but a learning experience and that's even after doing my homework before ordering a 1000 mealworms to get started.

With all the research and YouTube video's on raising mealworms this was to be a simple little project that anyone should be able to do without to many problems. So far I am not seeing anything easy about any of it. Knowing what I know now and with all the different issues I have been having along the way, I wish I would have never started. :he

I started by not feeding any of the mealworms to see how many beetles I could end up with first to start the whole mealworm cycle. So from that 1000 ct of worms I ended up with a little over 300 beetles to get my farm started, I didn't think that was very good. For whatever the reason and or reasons, they seemed to die off a little at a time in all the different stages to end up with 300 beetles. Then not knowing for sure my male to female count to have a successful breeding colony?

So far the beetles have been doing a fine job with dropping eggs that have been hatching into baby mealworms. Yesterday I noticed my first Pupa in with my first batch of large worms, so the cycle is starting.

I had an infestation of little fly's and I am guessing they were a type of fruit fly because of the different vegetables I was using for moisture. They got so out of hand I had to change the plastic containers because the eggs their were laying were turning into little fly larva and clawing all over.

Then after I had a handle on that little issue, I noticed a bunch of super, super small white stuff all over the tops of my containers and under the lids. It looked like super fine dust, only problem being they move and I have no clue what they are? So back to changing out all my contains again to get rid of them, but noticing they have started returning back.

I was thinking some type of parasite also, but not sure if they are from the mealworms or not? I have my little project in an empty room where I can keep the temp up a little because I also grind grain for feed and ferment it in that room also.

Sorry for the long winded reply, I would also like to learn more, surprisingly I don't have any mealworms dying off that I have noticed.
 

Allthefloofs

Songster
Sep 16, 2020
547
1,321
166
Scottsdale, AZ
Hello in Thailand. :)

It's funny that you bring up the question of mealworms getting parasites? This is my first attempt at mealworms for our poultry and it's been nothing but a learning experience and that's even after doing my homework before ordering a 1000 mealworms to get started.

With all the research and YouTube video's on raising mealworms this was to be a simple little project that anyone should be able to do without to many problems. So far I am not seeing anything easy about any of it. Knowing what I know now and with all the different issues I have been having along the way, I wish I would have never started. :he

I started by not feeding any of the mealworms to see how many beetles I could end up with first to start the whole mealworm cycle. So from that 1000 ct of worms I ended up with a little over 300 beetles to get my farm started, I didn't think that was very good. For whatever the reason and or reasons, they seemed to die off a little at a time in all the different stages to end up with 300 beetles. Then not knowing for sure my male to female count to have a successful breeding colony?

So far the beetles have been doing a fine job with dropping eggs that have been hatching into baby mealworms. Yesterday I noticed my first Pupa in with my first batch of large worms, so the cycle is starting.

I had an infestation of little fly's and I am guessing they were a type of fruit fly because of the different vegetables I was using for moisture. They got so out of hand I had to change the plastic containers because the eggs their were laying were turning into little fly larva and clawing all over.

Then after I had a handle on that little issue, I noticed a bunch of super, super small white stuff all over the tops of my containers and under the lids. It looked like super fine dust, only problem being they move and I have no clue what they are? So back to changing out all my contains again to get rid of them, but noticing they have started returning back.

I was thinking some type of parasite also, but not sure if they are from the mealworms or not? I have my little project in an empty room where I can keep the temp up a little because I also grind grain for feed and ferment it in that room also.

Sorry for the long winded reply, I would also like to learn more, surprisingly I don't have any mealworms dying off that I have noticed.
I think the dust you are finding are tiny mites. I had them too and checked them out under a scope, they look like mites to me. I started microwaving my wheat bran/oatmeal mix for 2-3 minutes and letting it cool before using it and it seems to cut down on them. I also change my boxes a bit more often than I used to. I changed to shredded carrots instead of slices, they more evenly dissipate the moisture and I don't get moldy spots as often as I used to. I'm in Arizona so it was pretty surprising I would develop mold (to me anyway), but having shredded carrots and making sure they are a bit spread out seems to have solved the problem.
 

416bigbore

Not A Care In The World !
Premium Feather Member
Jun 11, 2020
2,436
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@Allthefloofs Thank you for the reply. :) Yes I would agree that mites are more likely then a parasite. I have heard of heating grains in the oven before, but I guess it didn't register up stairs at the time. LOL

I like to use pieces of cardboard egg carton and place my carrots and other vegies on top of them for the beetles and that seems to help on the mold issue with them.

For the worms I slice a potato and leave the outside skin part down in the oatmeal and that to has slowed the growth on mold with the oatmeal.

I even tried the water gel crystals and that wasn't much better then the vegetables for mold wanting to start. If anything ever happens to all the worms and they die off, I don't see myself going down this road anytime soon again! :gig
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
Nov 27, 2012
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