Free, Easy Food for Reptiles.
You Will Need...
- A plastic container with or without a lid. Should be at least 12"x12", 8" deep
- Enough rolled oats to cover the bottom of your container and be 1"-2" thick
- Thin piece of (lumber) wood that will use a small amount of space in the container
- Either a few potatoes, plain paper towels with no dye or "Flukers" Orange Cube
- If you don't get the Orange Cube you'll need cheap fish food (the flakey kind)
I choose to feed mealworms as a "staple" because of their ease in cleanliness and safety.
---Though mealworms are delicious and nutritious for most reptiles (birds and fish too), no one type of insect (mealworms or otherwise) should ever be fed exclusively. Animals need variety in their diet for health reasons and to better their quality of life.
---This is an informational on the way to grow mealworms thats worked out best for me (over 5 years of cultivation). Some readers may disagree with my methods. If you think you know better than the author of this article, please discontinue reading and write your own.
Getting the Oats Ready...
Spread the rolled oats onto a baking pan in a single thin layer (do not put too many oats on one pan, don't let them pile)
Put the pan or pans in the oven and bake at about 150 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Stir regularly and try not to burn them. If you do burn some, use them anyway.
This process is to kill the Indian Meal Moth eggs (which we do eat... gross) that are found naturally in oats. If these eggs are not killed, your mealworm culture will be infested with tiny little moths. ---This should be avoided at all costs.
Getting everything else ready...
When the oats have been "cleaned" dump them into one plastic container.
Set the piece of wood on top of the oatmeal "bedding"
Fold and wet paper towels. Set them on the piece of wood so that the moisture does not come in contact with the oats.
___Or slice a few pieces of potato and set them on the wood
___Or place one or two Orange Cubes on the wood
These are all decent options of getting water to the mealworms without causing mold or other problems. Make sure you check their water everyday.
Sprinkle a little fish food on the feeding dish about once a week to help "gut-load".
You can either use the lid you bought with the container and punch holes in it, or leave the top open, mealworms can't fly in any stage.
The last thing you have to do is buy the mealworms to put in. I recommend buying 300-500 if you want the population to explode.
Though it may not be free right now, a mealworm culture can end up saving lots of money and annoyance. Very shortly, a mealworm culture will pay itself off and is almost immediately worth the time it saves.
Using the thing: The easiest way I've ever used the mealworm culture is by simply picking up my reptile and putting him directly in the culture box. When your mealworms have grown and become breeding beetles, the reptile will run around and eat them. Let them have as many as you think they should eat in one sitting, then remove them. (you might want to remove the feeding dish first)
You could also just use a pair of feeding tongs or your hands to pluck out the mealworms you'd like to feed.
--Be patient... it will take a couple months for the mealworms to; grow into beetles, mate, lay eggs, hatch, and then grow into more beetles
** I used a 20 gallon plastic container to start. Needed two large containers of rolled oats. Population is inestimable.
--Never let reptiles munch on rolled oats. But, It is safe for them to consume one or two pieces when grabbing a bug.
--Mealworms are cannibalistic. They'll eat each other if they have no food or water. Also, many of the pupae stage mealworms get eaten (they don't have any kind of defenses or useful mobility. This is a fact that you'll just have to get used to. The only way to avoid this is to use a separate container for the mealworms at all life stages (involves a lot of sifting/stirring/separating). This does not make things easy, which is why I don't recommend it. You will have enough mealworms to not have to worry about saving a few here and there (one mealworm will lay about 500 eggs in a lifetime).
Male beetles are black
Females are brown
Some interesting math from wiki.answers about mealworm population growth:
My first batch of mealworms was 500. and please note: I am taking into account a low mortality rate of 50%:
500 worms(1st generation) divided by 2 =250 pupae
250 pupae divided by 2 = 125 beatles
125 beatles divided by 2 = 62 females
62 females x 500 = 31,000 worms(2nd generation)
31,000 worms divided by 2 =1550 pupae
1550 pupae divided by 2 = 7750 beatles
7750 beatles divided by 2 = 3875 females
3875 females x 500 = 1,937,500 worms (3rd generation)
Im 10% into my 3rd generation
193,750 worms to date