Yet another enterprise that can easily become a profitable venture is mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) culture. It is said that this enterprise has tremendous potential and members of self help groups can take up this to raise their standard of living. According to Joe Austin, Marine Biologist, Tuticorin, the mealworm, which is high in protein is a good source of feed poultry and ornamental fish enterprises. Mealworm, are not worms but are insects and though at the larval stage it is golden yellow in colour during the adult stage it turns into a dark brown beetle.
“Mealworm culture is a lucrative business in the western countries and cultured mealworms are available even in supermarkets to cater to the needs of farmers. In India, it could be a good business as it can cater to the growing poultry farms and the thriving ornamental and edible fish industry,” Dr Austin informed. He also added that Tuticorin has the perfect climatic condition to rear these mealworms.
Meal worms could be easily raised in a plastic box. The container should be filled with one inch to one and a half inch of thick rolled oat meal or flakey wheat bran and then fifty or sixty beetles could be kept in it. The top of the container should be perforated for free exchange of air.
“The female beetle T.molitor lays 270-500 of tiny, white, oval eggs, which hatch into tiny mealworms (the larval stage). It takes four to nineteen days to hatch. Each mealworm eats a considerable amount of oat meal and wheat bran and moults many a times as it grows. A slice of potato or apple or carrot could be kept in a shallow dish inside the container and this acts as a source of water for the beetle”, he explained.
Mealworm could be harvested at various stages and fed to animals and birds. During the pupal stage it refrains from eating and once it transforms into an adult beetle it could live for few months. The entire life cycle takes about a year and the main predators of the mealworm are lizards and ants, he added.