A Farm in a Box

by Deb on February 9, 2012

Mealworm farm

When we were kids we, like so many others, had silkworms. It was a fun introduction to lifecycles, responsibility and the ethical dilemma of collecting the silk easily or letting them eat their way out.

Now I’ve discovered there is an even easier version where you can see the pupae rather than having them tucked away in a little cocoon. And apparently they are the way to a bird’s heart, although we are still building up our breeding stock and not using them yet.


Mealworms can be bought at petshops as a bird treat, they come in a tub full of bran. Then all you need is a container with breathing holes and some rolled oats. You can also put things like carrots in for them to eat depending on how much moisture you need. You can see up the top we started with a large tub, it was amazing how quickly they all burrowed down.

worms and pupae

This is some of the yellow worms, dead brown skins they have moulted and the white pupae. I think there are also some ring ins, I have no idea what the smaller dark striped grubs are.


A pupa, for caterpillars they are usually inside the cocoon or chrysalis. You can see it still has all the insect things like legs and body parts, but doesn’t use them. In fact ‘pupa’ means doll because they are generally almost immobile and helpless. These ones flick around a little bit if they are disturbed but that’s about it.

immature beetle

This is one of the immature beetles, it still has the long abdomen of the pupa. At this point we picked out the beetles and put them into different containers so they could do what beetles do and start it all over again.


If you want an ongoing farm you need to periodically separate them, because otherwise they will eat each other. And it’s a pain to try to separate the worms, pupae and beetles out from one big mass, much easier if you have a few small containers and move them when needed.

They are very self-sufficient, occasionally add some more food or separate them and you have yummy chocolate mudcake for fish or birds. Or interesting little pets on their own. The girls have had a wonderful time checking them every day, feeding them and moving them to their new accommodation and they’re nice quiet house guests.

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