Raising Superworms: How Do They Transform To Beetles

Lots of superworms!
Lots of superworms!

Superworms (Zophobas morio larvae)

Superworms are the larvae of the darkling beetle species Zophobas morio.  They are cultured for feeding to reptiles, fish, birds, and other exotic pets.  Superworms don't contain as much chitin as the smaller mealworms, so they are a better live food to feed to pets.  Superworms are very fast and active, can and will bite, and will eat their way out of styrofoam and soft plastic containers.  Unlike mealworms, they should not be refrigerated as they will die.

Life Cycle

The darkling beetle life cycle begins with the egg then develops into the larvae; the superworm. Superworms will remain in this form for the duration of their life unless separated. The constant activity of the other superworms contact with them will not allow them to rest in order to pupate.

Superworms shed their exoskeleton as they grow in size. Superworms should be given a source of moisture, such as a carrot, otherwise the worms will cannibalize each other seeking moisture.

Once separated, the superworms will begin to transform into pupae and then subsequently into darkling beetles. The cycle then repeats.

Setting Up

In order to morph (cause metamorphosis) of the superworms into pupae then subsequently into darkling beetles, they must be separated. There are many containers such as film canisters, deli cups, craft cases, and fishing tackle organizers that work perfectly.

Plano has a really good one that will hold 52 superworms at a time without modification and more if additional dividers are added. It's the Plano Molding 5231 Double Cover Stow N Go Organizer and is clear on top and red like a Porsche on the bottom.

Poke a small hole in the top of cover of the box above each of the compartments (and over the edge of the cover over the lower compartments if using the Plano model suggested above) to allow some air flow in. Do not poke holes in the side or bottom of the compartments as the superworms may try to chew the hole to widen it to escape. The holes at the top are out of reach to them since they slide down the sides when they try to climb up.

Place one superworm in each compartment of the container. No food or bedding should be included. Starving the superworms stresses them which in turn causes them to begin to pupate.

Set the container aside away from heat and bright light in a dark, dry place.

Plano Molding 5231 Double Cover Stow N Go Organizer with holes poked in top and superworms inside.
Plano Molding 5231 Double Cover Stow N Go Organizer with holes poked in top and superworms inside.
Inside clear section.  It holds 27 superworms for morphing.
Inside clear section. It holds 27 superworms for morphing.
Superworms after five days.  The third row left compartment superworm has begun to pupate.  They curl into a C-shape to do this.
Superworms after five days. The third row left compartment superworm has begun to pupate. They curl into a C-shape to do this.
Superworms in the lower compartment.  Some have started to pupate.  Others have shed their exoskeleton as they've grown.
Superworms in the lower compartment. Some have started to pupate. Others have shed their exoskeleton as they've grown.

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

It takes a couple weeks for the entire metamorphosis to happen. As this set is only on day five, more pictures will be added when this hub is updated.

Update: Day 7

Each day a few of the superworms shed their exoskeleton as they normally would when kept together as they grow.  Some of the superworms have started to curl into a "C" shape.  This is an indicator that they are beginning the metamorphosis into the pupae stage of development.  Some people refer to this as the "alien" stage as they look like small alien life forms.

Update: Day 11

Five of the superworms have changed into the "alien" stage and many more have curled into the "C" shape while there are still some that have remained in the laraval superworm form.

"C" shape pre-pupate
"C" shape pre-pupate
First stage pupae
First stage pupae
Top of case with one pupae and many "C" shape superworms
Top of case with one pupae and many "C" shape superworms
Bottom of case showing a number of pupae and many "C" shape
Bottom of case showing a number of pupae and many "C" shape
Different view of bottom of case
Different view of bottom of case

Update: Day 14

As of day 14, we have thirteen "alien" transformations.  Most of the superworms have gone into the "C" shape, but there are some stubborn ones that haven't yet.

Update: Day 21

As of day 21, twenty-two of the superworms have transformed into the "alien" form.

Update: Day 28

As of day 28, all but 8 of the superworms have changed into "alien" form.  No beetles have emerged as of yet.  Temperature seems to have something to do with the speed at which they transform.

The Beetles Begin To Emerge

On day 32, the long wait is over, the first beetle emerged from its pupae stage.  As of day 35, 11 beetles have made the complete transformation from superworm to darkling beetle.  The beetles are a milky white color with an orange spot on their heads when they first emerge then they gradually turn reddish-brown.  They eventually turn solid black.

After the beetles emerge, move each one to a new container set up with rolled oats or whatever other media you choose.  They will begin to mate and lay eggs.  Wait a week to ten days after the beetles turn black then move them to another container setup the same way.  Do this for however many containers you would like to have.  This way the superworms are all about the same size when they hatch out and grow.  Otherwise, they'll each the eggs and the smaller superworms.

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Comments 3 comments

the fix 6 years ago

Crrraaaazzzy! What lucky critters are you growing these for? Your fishes or will you sell them? Very interesting hub I love reading about things like this because I'm kinda scared of wormy beatly things :)


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Nolapete 6 years ago from New Orleans, LA Author

Thanks! We're mostly raising them for our bearded dragons, but the fish and box turtles will get some as well.


jasonn 4 years ago

Love this as iv started doing this to get free food for my bearded dragon

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