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Insects we Breed – SUPER WORMS

This is the first in a series of BLOGS on the Insects we breed here at LIVEBUGS. In future BLOG posts we will discuss Wood Roaches, Crickets and other live bugs which are part of our insect family.


In today’s BLOG we are looking at SUPER WORMS (Scientific Name Zophobas morio).


Photo of Super Worms, 2021


Zophobas morio

Zophobas morio, despite their common name Super Worm, are not a ‘worm’ at all; they are insects. More precisely, they are the larvae of darkling beetles, a flightless beetle which feeds on decomposing organic matter. They are commonly found in tropical regions and are native to Central and South America, although they have been naturalised along the east coast of Australia. You can find them in dark organic matter, particularly rainforest type areas or compost. They are generally considered a good source of protein and nutrients for both wild and captive animals.


Photo of darkling beetles, 2021


Benefits of Live Super Worms

Super Worms can be fed to a variety of insectivorous animals including reptiles, birds, frogs, turtles, and fish. Super Worms are very wriggly compared with mealworms and are particularly good for animals which are roused to feed by movement. Super Worms also have a softer exoskeleton than mealworms, so they are easier for some animals to digest. It is important to note that live insects are only one part of a well-balanced nutritional diet for pets.


Nutritional Value

Super Worms are high in protein and fat, which makes them a great food source for captive animals and sick and injured wildlife. Protein is particularly important for growing reptiles and amphibians as it supports muscle and organ development. Due to their high fat however, they should only form part of a well- balanced diet.


Super Worms also provide a good source of fibre, and a variety of vitamins and minerals that most animals require. In general, insects have a significant protein and fat content. Carbohydrates are represented mainly by chitin which occurs in their exoskeleton. Insects should be fed in moderation along with the rest of the diet; too much chitin can bind an animals digestive system if insects comprise the only diet. Ensure you feed wildlife or captive animals a varied and appropriate diet.


Super Worms also contain minerals (K, Na, Ca, Cu, Fe, Zn, Mn and P) and vitamins (A, B group, D, E, K, and C) and contain dietary fibre not present in meat, for example. (For further information, see https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364616300013) Often more calcium may be required for your animal but feeding the Super Worms themselves a well-balanced natural calcium enriched diet can help ensure animals obtain the appropriate phosphate to calcium ratio in their diets.


There is a vast array of information available comparing the nutritional value of a range of insects – most of it is contradictory and a lot inaccurate. Dr Mark Finke who holds a doctorate in both nutrition and entomology, has investigated the nutritional value of commercially raised insects in the US and may provide the most accurate information regarding insects for animal foods. His comparison charts focus on commercially bred insects, which would be fed a very controlled diet and potentially gut loaded. More information provided by Dr Finke can be found here:

Let us know if you have come across any verified research regarding Super Worms or other insect as animal protein by contacting us a https://livebugs.com.au


At LIVEBUGS we believe that feeding insects a nutritionally balanced diet with a variety of plants and fungal materials ensures the insects are healthy and process naturally through their life cycle.


Life Cycle of Super Worms

There are four phases of a Super Worms life cycle – egg, larvae, pupa and beetle.


Egg

The Super Worm eggs are tiny and very difficult to see when laid in organic matter - hence no photo! Each female beetle will lay approximately 500 eggs during the five months of her life. The eggs hatch approximately 2 weeks after they have been laid, giving way to the larvae.


Larvae

The larvae, or Super Worm, has segmented bodies with six small legs as well as two hind prolegs and generally grow to around 60mm in length. Their dark head and tail make them easy to identify.


Photo of Larvae, Super Worm, 2021


Pupa

In order to pupate, the Super Worms need to be removed from the colony into isolation. They will slowly over the next fourteen days curl up preparing to pupate. They need warmth and dark to pupate. It takes another fourteen days for them to pupate and after two further weeks the pupa become beetles.


Photo of Pupa, 2021


Beetle

The beetles progress to mature beetles within 24 hours and change colour from white to red and finally black without any coloured markings. Within another seven to fourteen days the beetles start laying eggs.


Photo of darkling beetles, 2021


Super Worms have a much longer life cycle than mealworms and have much more specific requirements in terms of temperature, light, food and breeding areas. We will be looking at How to Breed your Super Worms in a future BLOG, so stay tuned by subscribing to our BLOG on line at https://LIVEBUGS.com.au


Super Worms VS Giant Mealworms

Super Worms are often considered to be Giant Mealworms which is problematic. They are NOT mealworms, even though both species are the larval form of darkling beetles. Mealworms readily pupate in mass situations, so are often refrigerated so their natural life cycle is slowed down. Super Worms however are a tropical species and will die if refrigerated. The life cycle of a Super Worm is much longer than a mealworm’s, as Super Worms need to be isolated to pupate. Thus, Super Worms can be kept for long periods naturally, as long as they are fed and looked after.


Super Worms also contain more chitin in their shell than mealworms which means they contain higher concentrations of calcium, fibre and fat naturally. It also means they are softer bodied which enables some animals to digest the Super Worms easier than mealworms.

Mealworms are also much smaller in size than Super Worms. Mealworms at full size are generally around 25mm whereas Super Worms grow up to 60mm and weigh over 1gram. To get mealworms to a similar size as Super Worm, some growers feed their insects a diet containing chemical developer inhibitor, which allows the insect to continue growing rather than pupating when ready. Insects grown using growth inhibitors, hormones or chemicals should be avoided, as traces of chemical residues are found in insects fed artificial and chemically altering diets.


Super Worms are more difficult to grow than mealworms which is why some breeders substitute the larger Mealworms for Super Worms. Ensure you verify the exact type of Super Worm you are receiving by specifying Zophobas morio and ensuring the growers do not use any artificial additives in their process.


Conditions at LIVEBUGS

At LIVEBUGS, we believe that insects should be grown in conditions as close to their natural habitat as possible, including being fed a variety of foods mimicking their natural diet. This ensures the insects are nutritionally rich. We do not believe in industrial rearing and gut-loading, rather that insects fed a nutritionally diverse diet will naturally be healthier with enhanced nutritional value.


At LIVEBUGS we do not use any chemicals or growth inhibitors, hormones or pheromones. We feed our insects a natural diet, often from our organic garden which we ourselves eat from!

Photo of Sweet Potato just harvested from the garden, 2021


Stay tuned for our BLOG on Looking after your Super Worms after you have received them to keep them in top condition.


For further information about Super Worms please contact us at info@LIVEBUGS.com.au


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