Setting Up a mealworm farm.

In this chapter, we will discuss setting up a mealworm farm, including choosing the right location, selecting a mealworm farming system, and acquiring the necessary equipment from the point of view of a person who only wants to raise a mealworm for personal use. This principle applies to more significant production. But to get an in-depth how-to to scale up production, we recommend checking Level 2.

Last revision: May 23th 2023

4. setting up a mealworm farm.

a. Choosing the right containers

Mealworms are typically raised in containers. Now, when we say "containers," we're talking about any kind of box or bin that can hold the mealworms and their food. These containers can be made from a variety of materials, but the most common ones are plastic and wood. Some farmers even uses disposable cardboard containers. But it's important that whoever container you'll choose to set up your farm, the surface as to be smooth.

Plastic container

Let's talk about plastic containers first. Plastic is a popular choice because it's lightweight, easy to clean, and readily available. However, not all plastics are created equal. Some types of plastic can release harmful chemicals, especially when they're exposed to heat or sunlight. That's why it's recommended to use a specific type of plastic called food graded polypropylene for your mealworm farm.

Polypropylene is a safe, sturdy type of plastic that's often used to make food containers. You've probably seen it before - it's used for things like yogurt tubs, microwave meal trays, and reusable food storage containers. The great thing about polypropylene is that it doesn't release any harmful chemicals, so it's safe for both the mealworms and for you.

Professional trays developed to hold large-scale mealworm productions. More in Level 2

Wood container

Wooden containers are another option for your mealworm farm. Wood is a natural material that can provide good insulation to help maintain a steady temperature on the farm. However, wood can be harder to clean than plastic, and it can also absorb moisture, which could lead to mould or mildew if you're not careful.

So, in summary, when you're setting up your mealworm farm, you'll need to choose a container to house your mealworms. A food-safe polypropylene plastic container is a great choice because it's safe, easy to clean, and readily available. But whether you choose plastic or wood, the most important thing is to keep your mealworms safe, healthy, and well-fed.

The greatest escapist

When choosing a container for your mealworm farm, another crucial factor to consider is the surface of the container. Mealworms are the pretty little climbers, and given the opportunity, they will try to crawl up the sides of the container. This can lead to mealworms escaping, which is somethin you need to avoid.

To prevent this, choosing a container with smooth sides is best. A smooth surface makes it difficult for mealworms to get a grip and climb. This is another reason why plastic containers, specifically those made of polypropylene, are often recommended. They typically have very smooth surfaces that are difficult for mealworms to climb.

You'll want to ensure the interior surfaces are as smooth as possible using a wooden container. If the wood is rough or has many cracks, it could provide footholds for the mealworms to climb. You might need to sand the wood smoothly or seal it with a safe, non-toxic sealant to make it more mealworm-proof.

So, in addition to choosing a safe, easy-to-clean material like food-grade polypropylene for your mealworm farm, you'll also want to ensure that the container has smooth sides to prevent your mealworms from going on an unexpected adventure. Remember, the goal is to create a comfortable, secure home for your mealworms where they can thrive and grow.

b. minimum containers needed to start your colony

To kickstart your mealworm colony, you must prepare at least three containers. However, we suggest having four containers on hand. This extra container will help you better manage the different sizes of mealworms on your farm. You can always add more containers as your colony grows and your needs increase.

Why do we need to separate the mealworms? Well, it's crucial to keep the different life stages of mealworms apart to prevent cannibalism. For a deeper dive into the mealworm life cycle, you can check out our dedicated module on the subject in Chapter 3 (Mealworms lifecycle).

The great thing is regardless of the life stage; all mealworms can live comfortably in the same type of container. Here's how you can organise your containers:

Container 1

This will be the home for your large mealworms. Fill it with 2-3 inches of mealworm substrate, which serves as bedding and food for the mealworms.

Container 2

This container is for the pupae and adult beetles. Similar to the first, it should also have 2-3 inches of mealworm substrate. To avoid cannibalism, you'll need to separate the pupae from the beetles. A simple way to do this is by placing an egg carton on top of the substrate and putting the pupae in it. We'll talk about this in more detail later.

Container 3

This is where the baby mealworms, freshly hatched from their eggs, will live. Initially, this container will house beetles, which will be removed later to protect the eggs and baby mealworms from being eaten.

Container 4 (Optional, but recommended)

This container is for medium-sized mealworms. This fourth container helps separate the small and large mealworms, making it easier to manage your colony.

Remember, setting up your containers correctly is the first step towards a thriving mealworm farm. In the next module, we'll discuss how to maintain these containers to ensure your mealworms stay healthy and happy.

c. What Type of System do I Choose?

There are two central systems to choose from. Both have advantages and disadvantages:

The Screen / Mesh Breeding System:

It has less maintenance in the long run but may have lower production rates. It requires modifying trays and containers to hold a mesh that allows the mealworms, especially the beetles, to be contained and get the frass and potential eggs to pass through the holes.

This solution is ideal for hobbyists or small-scale farmers who want a low-maintenance setup.

A small setup using the Mesh Breeding System:

A medium-size setup using the Mesh Breeding System:

Notice how operation costs are reduced with high setup costs and require adapting the infrastructure accordingly.

The Filtering Breeding System:

This system has higher maintenance, however, will have higher production rates

Better for medium to large-scale production

D. Constructing Your Mealworm Container

When it comes to housing your mealworms, you have two main options. You can either go for a multi-drawer unit with separate compartments that slide out, or you can opt for a standalone container or tub with a lid. Let's break down what you need to keep in mind when choosing your container:

1. Size and Shape: Your container should have a large surface area. This gives your mealworms plenty of space to move around. The sides of the container need to be smooth. Why? Well, mealworms are quite the climbers, and smooth sides make it difficult for them to escape.

2. Material: Plastic containers are a top choice. They're light, don't let moisture in, and are easy to clean.

3. Lid: A lid can be pretty helpful while optional. It keeps unwanted guests, like spiders and geckos, from turning your mealworms into snacks. If you choose a cover, ensure it has plenty of ventilation holes. You can create these by cutting out the centre of the top and replacing it with fly mesh. You can attach the mesh using a hot glue gun, rivets, or construction adhesive.

4. Height: Your container needs to be tall enough to keep your mealworms in and everything else out. A height of about six inches should do the trick. This gives you enough room to add 2-3 inches (or 5-8 cm) of the substrate (that's the bedding and food for your mealworms) and still prevents the mealworms from escaping.

Ikea Trofast units are good value options to start up your colony.
Eurocontainers 60x40x15cm are one of the standard containers used in industrial-scale production.

Remember, the goal is to create a comfortable, secure home for your mealworms where they can thrive and grow. In the next module, we'll discuss how to maintain these containers to ensure your mealworms stay healthy and happy.

Picture: A medium farm setup running in an adapted room and using adapted Ikea Trofast and Kallax units to suit production in a vertical farm setup.

F. Choosing the Right Location

When choosing a location for your mealworm farm, it is essential to consider factors such as temperature, humidity, and ventilation. Mealworms thrive in warm, humid environments with good air circulation. A basement or garage can be an ideal location for a mealworm farm.

g. Equipment Needed for Mealworm Farming

The equipment needed for mealworm farming is relatively simple and inexpensive. You will need a suitable container, substrate, feed, and water. Additionally, you may need a heat source and a source of light. A plastic bin or wooden box can serve as a container, and wheat bran or oat bran can be use as a substrate. Mealworms can be fed various foods, including grains, fruits, and vegetables.

H. How many mealworms do I need?

The answer to that depends on what you plan for the colony.

1. Small

You can start small if you're setting up your mealworm farm and plan on using something other than the mealworms right away. A starter population of about 100-200 mealworms should be enough. This allows you to establish your farm and enables the mealworms to start reproducing.

2. To feed pets

On the other hand, if you're planning to feed your pets or livestock with the mealworms as your colony grows, you'll need a larger starting population. In this case, start with around 2000-4000 mealworms. This ensures that you have enough mealworms to feed your animals while still allowing your colony to grow.


Just to remind you, these numbers are just a starting point. The size of your mealworm colony will ultimately depend on your specific needs and how many mealworms you plan to use regularly. As your experience and confidence grow, you'll be able to adjust the size of your colony to suit your needs better.

I. Conclusion.

In conclusion, raising mealworms is an excellent option for those who want to produce food but have limited space and resources. Compared to traditional farm animals such as cattle and chickens, mealworms require very little space, making them an ideal option for urban farmers or those with limited outdoor space. Additionally, mealworm farming can contribute to a more sustainable food system by reducing waste and providing a nutritious protein source.

Documentation Last revision: 17 May 2023 By 01Entolab

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2. Benefits of Raising Mealworms

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