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Commercial mass rearing

Hi everyone,

I wanted to know if anyone have experience mass rearing mealworms and/or crickets, or know where you can learn something about the systems used in commercial mass rearing.

My ulterior motive is that i am currently working on a project at my University where this information could help me out a lot - but i am sure many of you want to know something about this topic as well, so naturally, i will post any good sources i find on this myself.



  • Yes, I do have experience with mass rearing mealworms, superworms and grasshoppers. And I can tell you that not a single bugfarm is going to tell you anything haha. At least not here in the Netherlands. It's a very closed world and EVERYTHING is a big secret..

    However, you can find the basics of mealworm rearing in a wide variety of literature on the web. The practical information you will have to figure out yourself, as it is depending on a variety of choises you make and how you want to produce your product.

    For instance, I could tell you what size the rearing containers should be, but that would by no means be thé BEST answer. Because everybody is keeping their info to themselves, there is no consensus in this whatsoever....

    So if you want to mass rear insects, you WILL have to be a pioneer. You want your containers to be able to stack nicely on a pallet. They should be high enough, but not so high that you can only stack very few containers. They should stack in a sturdy (correct word?) way so they don't fall over if you put like 14 containers on top of eachother. They should not be TOO expensive, however they should not be too cheap (low quality) too.

    Even with food, many mass rearers feed their mealworms carrot, but I suspect none of them does have a single clue WHY they are feeding their mealworms carrot. Most will do so because others are doing so. <-- As a matter of fact I know one farmer who feeds his mealworms carrot because he can exchange mealwormfaeces for carrots with a local farmer ;) ;)

    So as you can see, there is no correct answer to your question, because nobody has a TRULY (!!) standarized process for mass rearing insects. Percentage of labour is still way to high and surpresses the profit that everybody could potentially be having..

    If only the world was a little bit more into sharing, instead of taking...

  • edited November 2014

    @EntoJesse - absolutely spot on answer about some of the issues that are hobbling the insect farming industry and will need to be overcome for true scaling.

  • Carrot re-post (10th Sept. 2014 edited); hint: follow the word inositol.

    Carrots (fresh) are up to 90% water & (all following numbers are approximate) glucose = 0.55g/100g, fructose = 0.73g/100g & sucrose = 4.5g/100g. Other carbohydrates include inositol = 2-10mg/gram, mannitol= less than 1.5mg/gram, some cyllo-inositol & sedo-hept-ulose. Other compounds include 4-hydro-benzoic acid, frulic acid (like de-hydro-di-ferulic acid),aldehydes, iso-coumarins & flavenoids. Beta-carrotene = 87mg/ml & in general phenols = 77mg/

    Inositol, like sucrose is a phago-stimulant (phago=eat)& some insects (I infer mealworm larvae among them) have different receptors for each of those carbohydrates chemical "odor".

    Insects have receptors called sensilla; larvae have these associated with their maxilla & flying insects have them associated with their antennae. There are sub-types of sensilla called coelo-conica, basi-conica & tri-chodea. Different chemical are sensed by different sensilla sub-types & if one "hits the spot" it creates an electrical "spark" (action potential) in it's associated neurons.

    The inference is that at a certain stage mealworm larvae registering inositol & on instinct "go for it." Looking at what inositol is made into is pretty impressive.

    Available inositol raises cellular levels of both inositol mono-phosphate (popularly called myo-inositol & by that name a favorite for human health ) & inositol bi-phosphate. This in turn allows phospha-tidyl inositol (made from myo-inositol) to enter into synergy with trans-duction cascades which then effect changes in the larvae. In short myo-inositol leads to more larval growth.

    Phospha-tidyl inositol gets broken apart (hydro-lysis) & in doing so initiates signals (trans-duction) when those phosphates are transfered around. The impetus inside the cell is carried out via what are called 2nd messengers (they don't initiate the "message" coming from outside, but carry it inside that cell).

    In the larvae this means developmental processes are initiated. A function of the metabolites of phospa-tidyl inositol is they interact with cell surface receptors. And insects have something homo-logus ("logus" from Greek word to tell/ say & "homo" same; homo-logus = call it the same) to our human inositol 1,4,5-tri-phosphate receptors in their insect neurons & muscle tubes.

    Insect growth is different from ours which relies on a "mother" cell doing mitosis (makes 2 sets of chromosome) so we can grow tissue with the arrival of a "daughter" cell which in turns "mothers" more daughter cell, etc.. Insects at first do mitosis but their phenomenal growth is due to what is termed endo-replication, which bypasses need for mitosis.

    Quote: "... endo-replication ...employs successive rounds of DNA synthesis...generating polyploid (extra sets of chromosome) cells ... larva-specific tissues ... increases in cell size, rather than ... increases in cell number... occur(s) ... gut ... fat body (insect liver) ... salivary glands... malpighian (insect renal) tubules ...trachea ...epidermis ... required for growth ... organism as a whole ....". (2002) "Drosophila’s Insulin/PI3-Kinase Pathway Coordinates Cellular Metabolism with Nutritional Conditions"; free full text = ... 4705c3ffb8

    Understanding the physical growth of larvae on food brings up the issue of insulin & it's signaling. We humans & mammals do share 39% of insulin reception with insects in their (ortholog) form of an insulin receptor. What they use (we don't) in addition is " ... cleaved carboxyl-terminus of the insulin receptor as receptor substrates and scaffolds for the assembly of a functional signaling complex..." (Quote source in next paragraph for readability. ).

    Quote "... the physiologically relevant consequence of insulin receptor activation is docking and activation of Class I phosphat-idyl-inositide 3-kinase (PI3K)...." Which is our way of getting insulin signalling too; it's what's called a 2nd messenger that the hormone insulin uses to start a cascade of interactions. And insects with "...decreased insulin signaling ... are small & have reduced fecundity ...." Quotes here & above paragraph adapted fro (2009) "The immune response attenuates growth and nutrient storage in Drosophila by reducing insulin signaling"; free full technical link =

    The reason for this digression is to point out that PI3K (insulin signaling partner) is made when the lipid ("fat") of phospha-tidyl-inositol in a cell membrane adds another phosphorus (phosphor-ylation). A larval diet deficient in inositol can limit the rate at which key cell membrane lipids (ie: precursor to PI3K) are being assembled & since the only way larvae grow is by "pumping" up (not dividing) existing cells it can't get as many cm. long &/or as many mg. big. Put another way it can only perform as much insulin signalling (insulin is anabolic = builds up) as there is it's messenger (PI3K) to pass that anabolic signal.

    It is insulin reception synchronized with the signal partner (PI3K) that is integral to nutrients being assimilated. And by extension crucial for the larvae being able to use those nutrients to build up the size of a cell & thus vital tissue groups. When the larvae are quite young they get enough inositol from bran's inositol hexa-phosphate, but when larvae bigger they instinctively are drawn to the inositol in carrots; which I speculate is higher in biologically available inositol (& not extracted when carrots are juiced).

  • Ento jesse - yes the world should be more sharing - go on, break the mould and share your knowledge with us - I realy believe in people who practice what they preach:)

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