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Mealworms for Science

Keep your kids learning during the Coronavirus


Introduction

Are you looking for ways to occupy your kids while they’re home? Do you want to find educational activities that will help them grow and understand more of the world around them? For a limited time, ArboVe is selling LIVE mealworms so you can keep your kids engaged in fun learning during the Coronavirus. Our live mealworms make it easy to advance your kid’s knowledge in science without even realizing it! Additionally, we will be donating a portion of our proceeds during this time to help provide food to those who’s access to food has been impacted by the Coronavirus.


What are mealworms?

Mealworms are the larval stage of the Darkling Beetle, the second stage in the life cycle. It is believed that long before mealworms made a home in our grain bins, they were found in central Europe where they lived in the forests as decomposers eating dead plant matter on the forest floor. They have an exoskeleton, which means they must shed their outer layer as they grow. It doesn’t take much for them to thrive; just a container, oats, fruits or vegetables, and a dark area. You can even use their castings, called frass, as fertilizer for your garden or potted plants.


Education for kids

Kids can learn all sorts of things from these small creatures, including the life cycles of insects, how food scraps and other organic materials are biodegradable and breakdown in a natural environment, and much more!


Life cycles and metamorphosis

It’s quite simple to grow and raise mealworms. What you’ll need is a clear plastic or glass container for viewing, one to two inches of oats or bran, raw potato, carrots or apples, and of course mealworms. You can order mealworms directly from the ArboVe website! Additionally, if you want to get extra creative, you can go outside and gather some soil, mosses, bark and other materials from nature and create your own Mighty Mealworm terrarium!

Once you have your mealworm habitat ready, evenly place the vegetables around and add your mealworms. In a few weeks, your mealworms will turn into pupae, little white half worm and half beetle-looking creatures and remain in this stage for 1-2 weeks. They will then morph into adult beetles and live another 3-8 weeks. These adult beetles will lay eggs for the next cycle to start. When the mealworms hatch after less than a week, they will be extremely tiny worm-like larvae that will grow for about 14 weeks, shedding exoskeletons and growing larger along the way.

This is a great opportunity for kids to see the changes an insect goes through as it matures through life. Many other insects go through similar stages and each one changes it dramatically. Kids will be able to experience metamorphosis in the pupa stage and learn more about why this is necessary. In each stage, except eggs, kids will be able to hold the creature and gain hands-on experience needed for understanding.


What they can eat and digest?

Another fascinating thing children will be able to experience is the variety of foods mealworms can eat and digest. Their ability to efficiently process a wide variety of organic matter has given scientists an opportunity to study how mealworms could be used to divert millions of tons of food waste from landfills each year. By using mealworms to process this food waste, we can potentially create a more sustainable protein source to feed to livestock such as fish, pigs, chickens, etc. Additionally, mealworm castings, called frass, is an excellent organic fertilizer that could be used in place of the synthetic fertilizers that are commonly used today.

Not only can mealworms digest all sorts of organic matter, but they can also eat and break down Styrofoam. Styrofoam cups take 500 years or more to decompose otherwise, but studies have found that mealworms can actually eat this and aid in its decomposition. With global production of petroleum-based plastics, like Styrofoam, increasing from 1.5 million tons in 1950 to 299 million tons in 2013, this is a great discovery in the right direction to help our planet become healthier and less polluted. Microorganisms such as good bacteria in the guts of mealworms make this all possible. You can experiment by putting other products in the enclosure to see what else mealworms may be able to digest.


Experiment with your Mighty Mealworms

There are many simple science experiments children can try. The only limit is your imagination! We’ve listed a few ideas below to get you started.

Spread your mealworms evenly out on a flat surface. Do they remain separated or do they have a tendency to group together?

Test out different foods and see which ones your mealworms prefer.

What happens when you shine light on mealworms? Do different colors of light have different effects?

For a more in depth explanation of experiments and some additional ideas, you can visit the link below.

https://celiakaitlynmealworms.weebly.com/experiments.html


Conclusion

Raising and experimenting with mealworms is an interesting and fun way to keep kids engaged in science without them even realizing they’re learning. Try it for yourself!


Note: If you plan to eat your mealworms, you should only allow them to eat foods that are safe for humans to eat. Also, for safe consumption, it is essential that you follow proper cooking guidelines. The current standard to ensure a safe mealworm product is to heat mealworms to a temperature of at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 5 minutes. To humanely euthanize mealworms, place in the freezer for 8-12 hours.

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