One of the biggest misconceptions people have about mealworms is thinking they are a species of worm. Actually, That isn’t the case at all. The name being a misnomer is a big part of that confusion. If your reading this, you probably already know what a mealworm actually is, but for everyone else, let’s explain:
The mealworm is actually the larval stage of the darkling beetle. Not just any darkling beetle though, as there are more than 20,000 different species! It’s actually specifically from the species Tenebrio Molitor. There are a lot of reasons why we choose this particular species for animal and human consumption of mealworm proteins, but that goes beyond the scope of this article.
The Tenebrio Molitor larval stage is the life stage everyone refers to as the mealworm. I’ll leave it up to your imagination how they got the term “mealworm”.
The darkling beetle will go through 4 staged of mealworm metamorphosis. These life stages are:
- larva (Mealworm)
- Adult Beetle
And than the cycle continues.
You can watch the entire life cycle here
The first stage of the mealworm’s metamorphosis is the egg. Unlike the chicken and the egg brain teaser of which came first, In this case, the egg comes first!
It’s white, almost pearly so, shaped like a little kidney bean, Or a fat grain of rice. It’s fairly reflective and shiny in nature, hence the pearl look. These tiny eggs are often missed unless your looking for them, as they will get covered and buried in the substrate and other dirt quite easily.
Once the egg phase is over and it hatches, it becomes the larva you know so well. The signature mealworm is now ready for harvest to feed your pets or hippy relatives. They will molt 20+ times in the time it takes for them to go from mealworm to pupa.
This stage only lasts around 10 weeks though before the mealworm decides it wants to grow up and becomes a pupa. I guess things can eat the pupa at this stage, however, it’s not very lively and most pet’s probably won’t go for it.
Pupas are pretty boring from an external perspective. They will just sit there for 3 weeks. Internally so much is going on, but from the outside all you see is an alien-like cocoon shake back and forth on occasion.
Finally, once it’s finish its rebellious teenage phase (because it doesn’t want to come out of its room, get it? ha…ha…h..) anyway, it moves onto the final stage of its life, the Adult.
After only 2 weeks of being an adult, the beetle will start using its BDE (big dick energy) to start mating with all the female beetles. Next thing you know, we’re cycling back to the egg.