What do mealworms eat? What do superworms eat? These questions may seem simple, but the truth is that although these two common feeders are quite similar, the topic of insect nutrition is complex. It’s important to consider not just what will keep the bugs alive, but what they’ve evolved to eat, and how the things they eat affect the animals that eat them.
A proper diet results in healthier mealworms and superworms, which in turn grow faster and breed better. Even if you’re not trying to start a colony, it’s still important to pay attention to mealworm and superworm nutrition, because well-nourished feeders pass that nutrition on to your pet.
What Do Mealworms Eat in the Wild?
Mealworms have been bred industrially for a long time, but they still do occur naturally. They are speculated to have originated around the Mediterranean, as the oldest archaeological records of mealworms traces them to Bronze Age Turkey. However they have spread to many areas around the world since then.
For hundreds of years, mealworms have been generally considered pests because of the way they like to invade and feed on stored grain. They are omnivores, and will eat leaves, dead insects, and animal wastes, but they are particularly fond of stored grains and grain products.
What Do Superworms Eat in the Wild?
Like mealworms, superworms have been bred industrially for a long time, but they’re actually native to tropical parts of Central and South America. In their natural habitat, wild superworms and their beetles are detritivore scavengers. They eat fresh and decaying vegetation, leaves, tree bark, and carcasses, which makes them good CUC for bioactive terrariums.
How to Feed Your Mealworms and Superworms
Mealworms and superworms are both omnivores, which means there are lots of things they can potentially eat. However, there are some things that are better for them than others. Mealworms and superworms that are being raised as feeders should have a plant-based, low-protein diet to prevent them from developing dangerously high protein levels.
Mealworms and superworms are commonly raised in an edible grain-based substrate. Some of the best grains for this are rolled oats, barley, and stabilized rice bran, as these are particularly nutritious. However, grains do tend to be high in phytic acid, which isn’t great for your pet reptile or amphibian, so it’s important to offer fresh fruits and vegetables as well.
Good Foods for Mealworms and Superworms:
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Kelp (dry, unsalted)
- Opunita cactus pads
- Romaine lettuce
- Sweet potatoes
You can also offer a shallow dish of high-quality insect gutload formula.
Foods to Avoid:
- Cat food
- Dog food
- Fish food
As a general rule, avoid anything that you wouldn’t feed to your pet. It’s also smart to avoid high-phosphorus foods.
Mealworms and superworms need to always have a source of water. This helps them grow better and also helps prevent cannibalism. Fresh fruits and vegetables are usually enough to meet this need, but check your mealworm and superworm bins daily to remove any signs of mold.