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Superworm vs. Mealworm

Superworms and mealworms have been compared to each other since the beginning of captivating reptiles! There seems to be no consensus on which insect is a better fit in reptiles’ diet.

However, with the right set of facts about both insects, it becomes easier to know what differences exists between these common feeder worms.

Size is the main difference between a superworm vs. mealworm. Superworms could grow to about 2” in length, while mealworms rarely exceed 1.6” long. Mealworms are usually easier to store than superworms. However, superworms have a lower chitin and higher protein content. Comparing the differences between these two worms is essential to ensure a healthy diet for your reptile.

In this article, we’ll be looking at how superworms and mealworms can fit into your reptiles’ diet. If you’ve always wanted to put an end to the superworm vs. mealworm comparison, this post offers complete facts. Maximize what this post offers and get your reptiles the diet they need to thrive.  

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Overview of Superworms

Superworms (zophobas morio) develop into darkling beetles of the Tenebrionidae family. Its larvae and pupae are preferred feeds for several reptiles across stages. Superworms offer significant levels of calcium, fiber, fat, and protein in their composition.

Superworm pupae tend to be aggressive and use their anatomy to attack when necessary. Superworms have a less-dense exoskeleton (due to low chitin) but may be difficult for very young reptiles to harvest.

Live superworms are available in several pet stores. It is common to see 2” long superworms in pet stores. However, many stores may sell canned superworms only.

Overview of Mealworms

Mealworms (tenebrio molitor) grow into darkling beetles of the Tenebrionidae family. The larvae and pupae of mealworms form a main part of reptiles’ diets. These worms are rich in fat, fiber, and calcium. The worms also have high levels of protein, even if superworms are richer in proteins.

Mealworms have a tougher exoskeleton and are harder to digest than superworms. Mealworms aren’t aggressive insects and don’t have a significant bite force. These worms are usually smaller than superworms and may need supplementation to offer full benefits to reptiles.

Superworm vs. Mealworm – Important Facts to Know

Facts about Superworms

Size

Superworms usually grow to about 2” long and are bigger than mealworms too. Superworms have a softer shell designed to retain their overall shape. However, baby reptiles may find it difficult to digest large superworms. So, you’re advised to feed your reptiles worms no wider than the space within its eyes.

Egg to beetle timeline

Superworms develop on average with the following pattern:

Factors that affect stage time

These factors influence superworms’ stage time:

Humidity

Correct humidity in a superworms breeding area encourage successful transition from one stage to another. How humid a superworms’ breeding box needs to be depends on the season and ambient environment. You may need a hygrometer to determine how humid your superworms breeding area is.

Food

The wrong food could delay superworms’ progression into the next stage. Hormone inhibitors can delay superworms’ growth well above the expected development timeline.

Temperature

Superworms may find it difficult to develop as expected when bred under the wrong temperature. Ambient temperature requirements for successful superworm growth depend on the weather, season, and storage area.

Range of eggs produced

Superworms produce about 90 to 500+ eggs on average throughout their lifetime.

Gut loading needs

Superworms can thrive in a container of the following foods:

Superworm larvae tend to eat whatever they can find and are very easy to gut-load. Most superworm breeds will develop at a steady pace regardless of how much you feed them.

Storage

Superworms can stay as larvae for more than a year, but will pupate faster when separated into their own container. The storage time could be short or delayed based on factors that influence stage time – humidity, temperature, and food.

Facts about Mealworms

Size

Mealworms grow to about 1.6” as pupae and are about 25% smaller than superworms. Mealworms aren’t easily digestible based on their high chitin content. The increased chitin content in mealworms gives them a much tougher shell. Baby reptiles could find this worm too difficult to digest.

Egg to beetle timeline

Mealworms develop within the following timelines on average:

Factors that affect stage time

Three factors affect the growth of mealworms throughout their lifetime:

Humidity

A suitable humid atmosphere promotes better transition of mealworms from one stage to the other. With a correct atmosphere, mealworms tend to grow according to expectations, but wrong humidity hampers their growth.

Getting correct humidity readings make it easy to guarantee smooth development for your mealworms.

Food

Putting your mealworms in the wrong food tank stunts their development, making it difficult for them to grow as expected.

Temperature

Mealworms thrive in a conducive environment with the right temperature. It is important to ensure your mealworms grow under the correct temperature at all times. A thermometer comes in handy if you need to check the temperature in your worm’s ambient environment.

Range of eggs produced

Mealworms produce within 75 – 100 eggs throughout their lifetime. At such a rate, mealworms produce 500% less eggs than superworms on average.

Gut loading needs

Mealworms can be difficult to gut load, and their rejection of feed tends to affect their nutritional profile and development. However, if you can find a way to feed mealworms faster, they will grow bigger in record time.

Storage

Mealworms thrive in a similar environment with superworms.

Nutritional Value of Superworm vs. Mealworms

Superworm (Approx. content)Mealworm (Approx. content)
Ash 1% Developer
Calcium 180mg/kg 170mg/kg
Fat 18% 13%
Fiber 3% 2.5%
Moisture 58% 62%
Phosphorus 2360/kg 2940mg/kg
Protein 20% 18.5%

Superworm vs. Mealworm: Feeding Your Reptile

You need to gut-load your superworms and mealworms for 24hours before feeding them to your reptiles. Settle for veggies and fruits, but don’t feed your worms too much sweet potato.

Apart from gut-loading your worms, you need to dust them in calcium powder before feeding your reptile. Superworms and mealworms don’t offer much calcium, making these calcium supplements necessary.

If your reptiles don’t get a high calcium diet, they could develop Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) or other health challenges. Here’s how to dust worms before feeding your reptile:

After dusting worms in a calcium supplement, you can feed them to your reptile through:

DO NOT use your fingers to feed reptiles. Your reptiles could bite you by accident.

Is it Ideal to Breed Superworms or Mealworms with Hormone-Inhibitors?

Hormone inhibitors prevent worms from ever growing into beetles but do much more than that. Apart from stifling worm development, inhibitors may limit the nutrient profile some insects can offer.

Hormone inhibitors are not ideal for rearing superworms or mealworms for a reptile’s diet.  Choose healthy worms bred with organic feeds at all times to give your reptiles’ complete nutrition.

Apart from hormonal inhibitors, hormonal inducement is a common practice among some pet stores. Worms bred with hormone inducers appear larger than other insects of the same age. Ensure any worms fed to your reptiles eat with wholly organic foods.

Are Superworms Addictive to Bearded Dragons?

Superworms can cause a nasty addiction your bearded dragons may not easily shrug off. If you notice your bearded dragons begin rejecting other foods for superworms, try to discourage its addiction. The best way to discourage this addiction without hurting your dragon should start from your vet.

With correct medical advice, it becomes easy to turn your bearded dragons from the path of addiction in time. Your bearded dragon needs a combination of insects and other foods to develop into healthy reptiles.

What to Know Before Buying a Box of Superworms or Mealworms

Misleading advertising by some pet stores

Sizing

Some pet stores may advertise their superworm or mealworm boxes as “Giant” sized. Most of these ads tend to be misleading, especially for mealworms. The largest superworms you’ll find in stores may not exceed 2”, but 100% tend to be about 1.5” long.

Mealworms instead of superworms

If you’re looking for superworms as feeder insects, there’s a very subtle difference to check for. Superworms tend to have darker lines across their head and tail area than mealworms.

But many pet stores sell mealworms to superworm-seeking customer by accident or on purpose. Also, customers in need of mealworms may get a wrong order from pet stores too.

Assuring your pet reptiles get the correct diet has to be your focus, so you can’t ignore this detail.

Hormone inhibitors or inducers

Raising worms with hormone inhibitors or inducers isn’t a great practice. Bulking is a major practice among some pet stores, even if it doesn’t help your reptiles in any way. Some stores could bulk their mealworms to get up to, or more than the size of superworms.

If you don’t breed worms at home, make sure the store you buy from uses correct protein supplements. Only protein supplements can offer correct nutrition to your reptiles, so keep this in mind. 

Checking product descriptions

Some buyers of worm boxes are always in a hurry to tear the packaging without checking descriptions. Check for the following before opening a box of worms:

With information on these, it becomes easy to know what you’ve just bought. If this description isn’t available, put a call through to the pet shop to get these information.

FAQs

Which is better, mealworms or superworms?

Mealworms are harder to digest, making superworms a better fit for reptiles. Superworms also contain more protein than mealworms, making them more nutritious for reptiles. If you want to compare mealworms vs. superworms, the latter tends to offer more as a feeder insect.

Will superworms eat mealworms?

Superworms eat mealworm eggs and can also cannibalize on smaller worms. Most superworms resort to eating each other when there’s not much food or water. Mealworms, on the other hand, don’t each other and pupate before laying eggs while superworms don’t.

Are superworms or mealworms better for bearded dragons?

Mealworms should be fed to bearded dragons as an alternative to other insects, but never as a main staple. Mealworms have lesser nutritional benefits than other feeder worms and may contain much fat.

Feed your bearded dragon mealworms less than the superworms in their diet. Adult bearded dragons may need about half-a-dozen mealworms in their diet at every feeding session.

Do superworms bite humans?

Superworms have a strong bite force that could pinch human skin. The superworm’s size determines how painful its bite can be. Superworms can also injure reptiles and even draw blood from areas covered with light skin.

Final Thoughts: Superworm vs. Mealworm

Selecting between superworm vs. mealworm diets for your reptiles can’t be hard with what you’ve learned. Everything you need to make more of your reptile’s nutrition is less-hassling with the facts presented right here.

Use these facts to your benefit. Get your reptiles worms that will add to their overall daily nutrition. Also, make sure you add the right supplements to offer your pets a complete feeding experience. You don’t want to have a sickly or overweight reptile in your hands. Several bouts of illness could be fatal for your reptiles, so provide your reptile the care it needs to thrive.

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