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Bait Production: Meal worms


By Kenneth Williams

Meal worms (tenebrio spp), are easy to raise and provide anglers with  clean, easy to use natural bait throughout the year .Meal worms are an ideal natural bait for the home food fish producer (see LU fact sheet “Home Food Fish Production”.)  Meal worms also can be used to feed a variety of fish, turtles, lizards, frogs, crawfish and other creatures. 

Meal worms are the larval stage of the common flour beatle.  Adults are a flat black color and about 3/4 inch long. They cannot fly which makes keeping them very easy.  


1. A 12 x 14 inch plastic dish pan about and 5 inches deep makes a convenient container for raising meal worms.   

Larger containers can grow more meal worms, however this size is small enough to easily care for and can produce about 100 meal worms per week.

2.  Add 8-10 cups of bran to the pan. This is enough to form a 2-3 inch layer. 

Bran can be  purchased for about $5.00 / 20 lb bag at agricultural feed stores.  Store unused bran in a sealed plastic bucket to prevent infestation from unwanted beetle species.

 3.  Slice 1-2 raw potatoes into quarters and place them on top of the bran, skin side up. Meal worms burrow through the potatoes for food and moisture.  Replace potatoes pieces about every 2 weeks.

 4.  Crumple several paper towels and moisten them. Squeeze out excess water.  Place the towels in a corner of the pan on top of the bran.  Sprinkle water on the paper towels every 2-3 days to keep them moist and provide water for the meal worms.

 5.  Add about 2 dozen meal worms to the pan.  The worms can be purchased at many bait shops or pet stores.  They are usually sold by the dozen or 100 count and come in foam containers.

6.   Place the container in an out of the way place such as a closet or shelf at room temperature.  You can cover the pan with a lid to prevent spills, however, holes should be cut to provide plenty of air circulation.  Adults can not escape from the pan because they can not fly or crawl up the side of the plastic pan.

 7.  Depending on temperature, meal worms will become adult beetles in 1-2 weeks and begin laying eggs.  Small meal worms will hatch 1-2 weeks after adults emerge.  Meal worms will be ready to collect after about 1-2 weeks growth in the bran.  Weekly worm harvest can begin about 3-6 weeks after initial stocking.

 8.  Collect the meal worms with a cat litter scoop, tweezers or fingers.  About 50-100 can be collected weekly.  Place the meal worms in a glass jar or foam cup with lid filled about two thirds full with bran.  Punch holes in the jar lid for air circulation.  Store the jar containing the meal worms in a refrigerator to prevent them from maturing into adults.  They will remain alive but immature if kept cold but not frozen. 

9.  Fresh bran must be added periodically, usually 2-4 cups per month.  Completely replace the bran about every 6 months. 

Meal worms are sold in most pet stores as supplementary food for reptiles, amphibians and fish.  Retail prices for meal worms currently are about $3.50 per 100 count box of worms. 

Meal worm cultivation and sales make an interesting learning and income producing project for children; or on a larger scale, can be a profitable part of a live bait enterprise.





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