Reader’s Question Answered: Mealworms with a Twist

Many people breeding their own feeders have basic questions when they begin.  This reader’s question also seemed basic and straightforward until we got a few more details . . .


Question 1: 

I’m worried. I have picked tiny new mealworms off the bottom of the 2″ oat substrate as if I were panning for gold. Thrilled, I have accumulated over 20 of them. But now I have them in their own container and have no idea how to properly feed them.

I tried a small wet paper towel in there, but it dried out way too quickly, plus it got the oat/ poop dust all over it. then I tried a small carrot piece in there but they didn’t seem to go to it and it shriveled up way to fast. They just hang out in the poop powder.

I’ll see if I can describe the meal worm bedding  a bit more here. The top 1- 3/4″is rolled oats and the bottom 1/4 inch is darkish powdery stuff which (I think) is poop. . . .Should I grind up the rolled oats into a powder?

And what of the babies that are still in the 2″ oats container? how can they ever wriggle their ways to the top to get at the carrots? It doesn’t seem possible. How can they survive???

Aliza Arzt responds: First of all,the mealworm poop is called “frass”.  I find that the small worms tend to be at the bottom and at the other end of the scale, the large worms that are ready to pupate will be lying still at the top. Another interesting thing about these worms is that if you put a bunch of them in a container with no food, they often end up lined up together at the edges of the container.  It will be easier to sift out the babies, and possibly easier for the worms to feed if you powder your grains with a blender. Using powdered substrate also means that the frass and the food get mixed together and there’s not such a demarcation (the worms know the difference).

I keep my beetles, pupae and worms separate.Every month, I remove all the beetles from their substrate and put all the substrate in a new container.  Then I return the beetles to their original container with new substrate.  Don’t worry if at some point you see that most of the beetles have died; they have a limited lifespan and if they hatch at the same time they’ll die at about the same time.

Since I’m separating beetles from substrate every month, I end up with multiple containers of substrate + worms.  It’s easier to keep the tiny worms separate from the bigger worms.  By the time you have about 3-4 containers of worms in substrate, the oldest container’s worms will be big enough to feed (if you don’t have the space for all those containers, you can combine them.  The bigger worms won’t eat the smaller ones).  Periodically, you can sift the worms, as I mentioned before, and put the ones that don’t fall through the sifter in a “feeder” container.

The reader goes on to say:

I teach at an international school in Cambodia.  Some of my students are native Cambodians and anything they can do to better their country is a huge plus. I see unintended possibilities with breeding mealworms. What should I use as a substrate?  Keep in mind that  in Cambodia oats and wheat germ are not things that are easily found AT ALL. So I’d like to stick with oats. Is there any other type of food that is more readily found in Cambodia that I could use?

Bonnie Lo responds: I live in Hong Kong, about 1000 miles west of you. I’m currently using Cody’s Pro-gutload on all my feeders; he can put 20 pounds of gutload into a flat rate box, so shipping is not very expensive – that is one option.

But before I use Pro-gutload, I would  just shop at the organic section of any high-end supermarket (the only place where these are available), and get whatever cereal and grain product I could find. Usually I’m able to get rolled oats, baby oats, muesli, wheat bran, wheat germ, flaxseed, rice, and a few other type of seeds that I can’t remember right now…blend them into powder and then mix with the rolled oats to form the mealworm bedding. This imported organic stuff is also hard to find over here in Hong Kong; I can only find them in the larger “western style” supermarkets, and so they’re rather expensive. I’m not sure if Cambodia is the same, but with the prices here, the cost for all the individual packages added together (plus the effort to shop for them) is not any cheaper than getting Cody to send 20 pound in a flat rate box. His recipe is most definitely more nutritious than the random pick I mix together.


Aliza Arzt is one of Gecko Time’s editors.  In her other life she is a home care speech therapist living in the Boston area.  She has been breeding leopard geckos since 2005 and has recently been successful in breeding African Fat Tail and Coleonyx geckos as well.  Other interests which she pursues in her copious free time include work in ceramics, practicing aikido and surfing the internet.  Her live and ceramic geckos can be found at

Bonnie Lo  is a leopard gecko enthusiast who has been keeping leopard geckos since 2002. She also breeds all of her feeders, including silkworms, mealworms, superworms, dubias, and lateralis.

What do you think?

Written by Aliza

Aliza is a home care speech therapist living in the Boston area. She successfully bred a variety of gecko species between 2005 and 2017. She currently cares for a large number of geckos as well as a few frogs and bearded dragons. Other interests which she pursues in her copious free time include work in ceramics, practicing aikido and surfing the internet.


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  1. Interesting article, it was especially neat to see how breeders and enthusiasts from around the world have pros and cons to keeping herps in their countries. Maybe an article based around that would be interesting too?

  2. I’ve been breeding mealies for nearly a year now. For my purposes, some cut potatoes and/or fresh carrots seem to work best for making nice fat mealies. At the time of this post I have around 500 beetles, at least 4000 mealies, and at last count, approximately 60 or so currently pupating. Although the bedding consists of mainly oats I also mix in some wheat germ and bran. With this setup I’ve found that my beetles live very long lives. Each week I only find 2 or 3 corpses…not bad I would think. If your Leo enjoys the mealies I highly recommend breeding your own.

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