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Mealworm Business Startup Tips

Hi Everyone, I'm new to to the whole meal worm farming business. I'm from the Philippines. Meal worm farming here is virtually unheard of. I'm in need of your help folks :) I just bought 25,000 meal worms 1 month ago. Around 5000 of them (maybe more)died in the process of getting back to my humble abode. ATM, I have close to 2500 pupae's. Around 700 or so already hatched into beetles. I'm still waiting all of the worms, around 15,000 of them to pupate. Here are a few problems that I encountered along the way though. Worms: -The bins have lids and I punched in a lot of holes at the top. Main problem I'm having constant condensation inside the bin. I wipe them everyday but the moisture always returns. I think it has something to do with the humidity (its very humid here in the tropics) and the bins having lids. And the water building up inside the bins are becoming a nuisance and its basically ruining my substrate. ( Kills some of the worms in the process). I just wanted to know how I can fix this.

Pupae: Is there a better way of sorting pupae besides picking them up? I've seen on some forums that a size 8 mesh could be used to filter them . Does it work 100%? Or is there a probability that some pupae fall through the mesh.?

Beetles: I have big concerns on my beetles. Some of them look really unhealthy. Some actually have broken or no wings. Some of them look chewed up. Did somebody else experience this? I've watched endless youtube videos and none of those videos seem to have the same beetles as I do. Maybe I'll just post a picture in this thread to show you folks. Is there a better way to transfer beetles to another bin? I haven't done the "mesh below the bin method" yet. But I heard it really works.

And I cant really find any Wheat Bran dealers here in our area. Felow Filipino mealworm enthusiasts- I need your help!!!

Thanks!!

Comments

  • Have you tried making the Openbugfarm mealworm kit? If not, take a look at the instructions here: https://github.com/TinyFarms/OpenBugFarm/wiki/Open-Bug-Farm-Mealworm-Kit

    Because it is a hanging mesh, aeration will be better.

    What type of substrate are you using? What is the temperature in the bins?

    Hang in there, @jasonman218, you are among friends.

  • Hello @hjalmarssonsara. I've been looking at your posts and apparently you've been cooking insects for a long time now. :) That's so awesome! :) That's the whole reason I started with this small business. I see a huge potential in raising them. Anyways going back to the topic at hand, I've checked out your mealworm kit. I love the concept however I think that setup wouldn't work for me since I have work during evenings. For the substrate, I started with pig pellets I've bought from a local feed store (Stupid. I know). But they've gone through all the initial substrate and I am now using chick booster feeds. I'm still trying to find a reliable source for wheat bran. The temperature here can go up to 90+ degrees on a hot day. But the average is around 75-82 degrees during a regular day. The humidity plays around 60-80 depending on the time of day. As per my research, its supposed to be ideal for raising mealworms. And in some ways its correct . The growth rate is superb. And pupae's hatch in less than a week. Lemme know what you think. :) Thanks for your concern bud. My first friend in the site. Yey! :)

  • You do not have to use wheat bran. Wheat bran is popular in Europe and the US because it is cheap and easy to find there. You could just as well use oats, sorghum or rice, for example. Just make sure it is organic (no pesticides). It will help with the moisture and should reduce your feed costs.

    Have a chat with @andrew about your setup. You need better airflow to reduce moisture/avoid getting condensation - either by using a mesh or by keeping the mealworm larvae in a mesh bag (like the Openbugfarm model). Especially considering the temperature and humidity in your area.

    There are also a number of posts on the forum that discuss feeding, habitat, etc. Here is one thread you could try: http://www.openbugfarm.com/forum.html#/discussion/106/mealworm-alternative-diets

  • Hey @jasonman218, great you're starting up your own mealworm business :)

    I might be able to help you on some points. Because you have multiple questions I will cut your post into pieces and answer to them one by one:

    • Containers: If I were you, I would leave the lids off the bins. The larvae nor the beetles can get out the container as they can't climb smooth surfaces.

    • Beetles: As for the deformed wings of the beetles: Wellington & Lawko (1969) showed that larvae that pupated in substrates with frass, showed significantly more often deformed wings then did larvae that pupated in substrates without frass. In their research, the deformity is called 'pupal winged'.

    PAPER: Frass and infection in relation to juvenile characteristics in adult Tenebrio molitor LINK: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0022201169901219

    • Pupae: If I were you, I would not pick out any pupae at all, just pick the larvae that are heavy enough (>110 mg) you want to pupate in a new container, let them pupate and transfer them as described below. The larvae you can pick out by sieving them (I don't know the exact mesh to use, unfortunately).

    • Beetle emergence: The best way to transfer beetles to a new container is to put an eggtray in the container with pupae. When the beetles emerge, they will climb in the eggtray and you can just take the eggtray out and shake the beetles into a new container (this is the way it's done in commercial farms).

    • Oviposition: An easy way to provide a way to oviposit for the beetles is to take 1 tray with a mesh bottom and put that into another tray with foodsubstrate at the bottom. Make sure the mesh bottom of the top tray makes contact with the foodsubstrate in the bottom tray. This way the beetles deposit their eggs in the foodsubstrate, are not able to eat their own eggs and you can just simply take the bottom try out and exchange it for a new one.

    • Parent age: don't use beetles younger then 1 week, or older then 4 weeks for oviposition. It takes around 1 week to sexually mature and after 4 weeks the amount of eggs deposited drops drastically together with hatch percentage.

    • Environment: 25-29 degrees Celsius and 55% - 70% RH. (70% is optimum for growth, 55% is optimum for moisture content of grain based substrates.)

    This is about as much I can tell you for now. Everything I wrote is either scientifically based or based on personal experience.

    Hope it helps :)

  • Oh, and about food:

    If you can't find wheat bran, see if you can find yourself some wholemeal flour and some soymeal/fishmeal/insectmeal and dried yeast (~5%). Dried yeast provides essential B-vitamins, cholesterol and protein.

  • hey @hjalmarssonsara. Yeah I kinda guessed that with trying to find wheat bran in a week without success. I'll try an alternative solution then :). I'll take your word for taking of the lid. I kinda guessed thats the reason. However Im kinda worried as well about the bins being open since I have the containers inside the house. With the ever present threat of Rats/Cockroaches im kinda worried about taking it of totally. I might go with the mesh option instead. Thank you so much :)

    Thank you for joining the discussion @EntoJesse :) My buyer told me something about separating the bigger larvae so they can pupate on their own. More like the way for superworms. Just wanted to confirm if I need to put in any food on the separate bin for the bigger mealworms. Or will removing substrate from the bin help with the metamorphosis? Also is it a must to separate the beetles from the pupae? I kinda have them together in one bin. Im guessing some of the beetles are actually eating the pupae.

    And almost forgot. I have thousands and thousands of dead mealworms. That was way back when I got em. That could have an effect on my productivity too. I was just to lazy to pick them all up.

    Oviposition- its actually the first time i've heard of it. Didn't know there was a set up for oviposition. its actually a very good idea. :) Is this the set up that big farms use too? Im kinda thinking big as well. Do I need to put substrate at the top tray with the mesh?

    And you did help me out a lot. More so compared to watching tons of mealworm videos. Thanks so much :))

  • my seller* rather. lol

  • Hi jasonman, - The lesser mealworm, Alphitobius diaperinus (Panzer), as opposed to the yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) is better suited to 90F temperatures. Although different strains from different regions show variation, in general at 90F they go from egg to adult in usually no more than over 1.5 months & a cycle from egg to egg takes 71 days.

    It is a tropical mealworm that is more adapted to dealing with both warm & humid conditions ; but their eggs will not hatch when the temperature goes below 70F. However, if already hatched they still can develop into adults at 60F (taking over 3 months). Most strains can also complete their cycle at 100F; although eggs won't hatch if the temperature is over 100F. Your current mortality rate with yellow mealworms should be less if reared lesser mealworms.

    You can probably find strains in rural farms feeding in sacks of stored rice, linseed (flax), cowpeas (called Payaap in Philipines), soybeans, peanuts & by-products of seed oil extraction. They are considered a pest & targeted by government agricultural extension programs for post-harvest preservation; so, an agricultural field agent should be able to tell you where they are finding lesser mealworm infestations.

    Rural bird (chicken or turkey) operations are very likely to have them; they live in & on the manured litter & also eat the decaying feathers. Of course if you use breeding stock obtained from these type of sources you need to make sure they are not currently contaminated with any stages of pathogens; that would require some test cultures to be confident about Salmonela, E.coli & fungal myco-toxins . If you seek to isolate them from a poultry house look outside because they prefer to pupate in the earth.

    I seem to recall the lesser mealworm can also be found living on bat droppings (guano). So, if you near one, a cave could provide some breedings stock; again once determine no pathogen vector is involved from the guano.

  • Italics above not intentional, sorry & unsure why sometimes end up in a post.

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  • What is the status of your operation now? I have similar dreams, bugs to eat, but started with 2000 on March 24. I think it's going well, but have many questions, the first being why is it necessary to remove dead beetles? Much I've read/seen tells to do so promptly, but not why.

    I started with rolled oats (50#/$12, chickens like them, too), but am moving to organic chicken grower with organic wheat midds. Cabbage seems to mold less, carrots mold, but seem most popular. My primary containers are 10 gal tubs with a mesh bottom that rests inside another tub. Now I know to add more substrate to the bottom tub.

    From the frass gathered in that tub on 2 occasions, I have two 3 gallon tubs of growing larvae, about 2" deep. I've been adding the ground chick grower to supplement their f diet, thinking the oats aren't complete enough. The grower is frozen for a few days to kill foreign eggs, etc.

    Hope it's ok to tag along on your post, since we have a similar goal. I am in North Central FL and climate is tropical, or in the edge of it.

  • @4paws - removing dead beetles / larvae is important because they can become a vector in the habitat for pathogen spread - either a pathogen that killed them in the first place, or one that took root after it died. The other beetles/larvae may cannibalize to some degree or other, and/or the pathogens may spread out into the surrounding substrate.

  • Thank you, Andrew. How did you tag me? I'm not yet familiar with how to navigate and find things on this site. Still haven't found the actual Mealworm Kit that's referred to here.

    It seems rather labor intensive to do the removal, or is there an established method to speed up the process? THANK YOU!

  • Hello friend! I'm seriously considering starting my own mealworm business. Help me, please. Where do I start from? I'm going to start with a solid business plan. Should I prepare it on my own or use a professional service like ogscapital ? If you have any tips, share them here. Any help would be highly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

  • Hi A.Grant, - I think you are deliberately giving promotion here for some "professional service" link. Did you find anything worth asking more about by reading the comments above made before 23 June & use the search function box on the right side of the page to see comments on technical concerns?

    If you are personally financing an edible insect business venture then it all comes down to how much money can invest. Bugs pretty much will multiply from a handfull to a horde, you can even start rearing them in any office desk drawer you might have close at hand.

  • @Jasonman218 . So how is your mealworm farm progress? In your experience so far how much beetles u need to get 1kg?

    I read the mealworm kit can harvest about 9000 mealworm or close to 1kg in grow bags only by 200 beetles.

    so far i need about 2400 beetles to get 1kg. I think my result is really bad right? I am wondering whats wrong with this. @Gringojay @andrew

  • Hi mralvaro, - Are you saying that 2,400 mealworm "beetle" larvae are weighing 1Kg? Or are you saying that 2,400 adult mealworm "beetle" breeding togther are giving you the eggs that grow into mealworm larvae which weigh 1 Kg?

  • @gringojay We need about +/- 10,000 mealworm larvae to fit 1kg.

    in my experience so far i need 2400 beetles breeding together in 1 bin to get 1kg larvae. my farm usually around 86f with 55%rh. how about you? To get 1kg larvae how much beetles you need?

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