Specieswatch: the truth about the pet shop mealworms

Specieswatch: the truth about the pet shop mealworms

This heavily exploited insect is the larva of the yellow mealworm beetle, whose numbers are declining in the wild

Mealworms seen in pet shops everywhere are the larva of a species of darkling beetle, the yellow mealworm beetle, Tenebrio molitor. They are heavily exploited and easy to breed – sold live for feeding fish, reptiles, and as bait, and dried for wild bird food. People also eat them in restaurants, baked, toasted or fried.

In the wild, however, the adult beetles – pale brown to black and shiny – are in short supply. Like so many other insects, numbers are declining. The beetles are 12-18 mm long and can be found between May and September occurring over most of the northern hemisphere, although in pockets. For example, in the UK they can be found in the Midlands, East Anglia and the south-east and only occasionally elsewhere. They are attracted to light and fly so may be found in houses before disappearing into dark corners.

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