Superworms crawl over a ruler

Superworms and Darkling Beetles

Superworms and darkling beetles are great tools for the classroom. With the right care, these insects can help students observe numerous biological concepts in action. In this guide, we will go over the basics of superworms and darkling beetles so you can properly raise them in your lab. 

What are Superworms?

Superworms (scientific name Zophobas Morio) are the larvae of the darkling beetle. These larvae look similar to mealworms, though superworms are larger and require different care. Superworms can grow up to four inches in length. They are native to South and Central America, though they can be found in various tropical regions across the globe. Like mealworms, many pet owners keep superworms as feeder insects for reptiles, birds, and other pets. 

Superworm Life Cycle

The superworm life cycle consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Superworms can spend a large portion of their lives in the larval stage. They will not pupate if they are in contact with too many other larvae, so superworms should be separated from one another if you’d like them to develop into beetles. Preparing to become pupae takes approximately two weeks, with the pupal stage itself lasting an additional two weeks or so. Adult darkling beetles emerge from this pupal stage. Note that while over 20,000 species of darkling beetles exist, Carolina refers to darkling beetles as the adult form of Zophobas Morio specifically. 

Raising Larvae vs Adults in the Classroom

Superworm larvae and adult darkling beetles can be used to study different topics in the classroom. Carolina offers superworm larvae that will not readily turn into darkling beetles, making them perfect for use as feeder insects or to study as larvae. We also offer adult darkling beetles. These beetles have a docile temperament, making them perfect for students to observe and study insect anatomy.

Caring for Superworm Larvae

As we mentioned, superworms require different care routines than mealworms, though many consider the two insects to be interchangeable. The main difference is that superworms do not readily pupate, so you must separate the larvae if you want them to develop into beetles. Consult this care sheet for information on caring for superworms. 

Caring for Darkling Beetles

The best habitat for darkling beetles is a terrarium kept in a cool, dry place. Use potting soil and bran meal in their terrarium, and add organic material like fruits and vegetables for the insects to eat. Use this care sheet to learn about darkling beetle care. Note that adult darkling beetles require different care than their larvae. 

Classroom Activities

Students in grades 3-5 will love a fun darkling beetle race. This science kit allows students to race these beetles and collect data on the insects. In addition to learning valuable life science lessons, this kit is a great opportunity for elementary schoolers to work with a docile beetle and put potential insect fears to rest.

Carolina offers additional resources on darkling beetles, as well as information on raising a variety of other organisms. Use our comprehensive website to find classroom resources, products, and free education guides on a variety of science topics.

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