What Are Superworms?
Superworms are the larvae of the Zophobas morio darkling beetle. They’re a common feeder insect for many medium to large insectivorous and omnivorous reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and other exotic pets.
What Are Mealworms?
Mealworms are the larvae of the Tenebrio molitor darkling beetle. They’re very common feeder insects for many medium to small insectivorous and omnivorous reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and other exotic pets. They’re also commonly dried and used as bird food.
Superworms vs Mealworms: Appearance
Once you know what to look for, a big difference between superworms and mealworms is their appearance.
Mealworms are small, wormlike larvae with a smooth, hard, segmented body, light orange color, and six legs at the front of the body. They grow to be around 1-1.25” long, unless treated with hormones to delay pupating, which turns them into “giant” mealworms around 1.5” long. After they pupate, mealworm beetles are shiny dark brown or black.
Superworms are also wormlike larvae with a segmented body and six legs. However, they are more variable in color, with a tan body and a black/dark brown head and black/dark brown stripes on the tail end. They are also thicker and larger — around 2” long. After they pupate, superworm beetles are matte dark brown or black with a thick, hard carapace.
Superworms vs Mealworms: Nutrition Facts
- Moisture — 57.9%
- Protein — 19.7%
- Fat — 17.7%
- Ash — 1.0%
- Fiber — 2.7%
- Calcium — 177mg/kg
- Phosphorus — 2370mg/kg
- Moisture — 61.9%
- Protein — 18.7%
- Fat — 13.4%
- Ash — 0.9%
- Fiber — 2.5%
- Calcium — 169mg/kg
- Phosphorus — 2950mg/kg
Superworms vs Mealworms: Feeding to Your Pet
Both mealworms and superworms should be gutloaded with nutritious vegetables and fruits like carrot, apple, or sweet potato for at least 24 hours before offering to your pet.
Immediately prior to feeding, superworms and mealworms must be coated in a high-quality calcium powder, which helps balance their nutritional content to prevent conditions like metabolic bone disease. To do this, place the number of worms that you will be feeding to your pet in a plastic bag with some calcium powder and shake gently until they are evenly coated.
Superworms and mealworms can be offered to your pet via soft-tipped feeding tongs or in a specially-designed “escape proof” feeding dish. They can also be offered in your hand or fingers, but this does increase the risk of an accidental bite from your pet.
Some advise removing or crushing a superworm’s head before feeding, out of concern that the superworm will chew its way out of the animal’s stomach. This is largely a myth, so superworms can be safely offered whole.
If you have mealworm or superworm beetles, these can also be offered to your pet as a convenient way to add variety to their diet. Do note, however, that superworm beetles emit an unpleasant-smelling pheromone when in danger, and this can make them unpalatable to some reptiles. Most reptiles seem to highly enjoy mealworm beetles.
Superworms vs Mealworms: Care
After you have ordered superworms and/or mealworms from DubiaRoaches.com, they will arrive in a small plastic tub. If you simply want to feed them off in the near future, you can keep them in this tub short-term. Mealworms can be kept in the top shelf of your refrigerator door, but cold temperatures will kill superworms. If you plan to keep either long-term, you will need a more permanent form of housing.
The worms can be housed in a plastic tub or kritter keeper. If using a plastic tub, make sure to poke plenty of holes in the lid for ventilation. Fill the bottom of the container with a few inches of edible substrate such as oat bran or uncooked oatmeal, and add some pieces of nutritious vegetables as a source of water and extra vitamins. Add a small lid or paper plate with food for gutloading.
One difference between superworms and mealworms in terms of care is their lifespan: Mealworms generally last about 3-4 weeks when they are kept properly. Superworms can last about 3 months or more if they have access to food and water. The better you take care of them, the fewer of them will die before you have a chance to feed them off. If kept in a tub, the worms may pupate into beetles, which can be fed to your reptile for variety and/or kept to breed and produce more worms.
Although they have similar care requirements, superworms and mealworms should be housed in separate bins.