Superworm

Zophobas morio

Last updated: October 4, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Maxim Vasiliev/Shutterstock.com

These larvae are native to Central and South America but now occur on every continent except Antarctica

Superworm Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Insecta
Order
Coleoptera
Family
Tenebrionidae
Genus
Zophobas
Scientific Name
Zophobas morio

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Superworm Conservation Status


Superworm Facts

Group Behavior
  • Infestation
Fun Fact
These larvae are native to Central and South America but now occur on every continent except Antarctica
Incubation Period
7 – 10 days
Average Spawn Size
70 to 100 eggs
Habitat
Decaying vegetation, tree bark, and leaves
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Nocturnal
Favorite Food
Oats
Origin
Central and South America
Location
Worldwide

Superworm Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Cream
  • Light-Brown
Skin Type
Exoskeleton
Lifespan
6 months to a year
Length
4 inches

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Superworms are the larvae of darkling beetles. They are typically used to feed omnivorous and insectivorous invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, and other exotic pets. Their popularity is because they are readily available, easy to house, and inexpensive.

In addition, these larvae are high in phosphorus and fat and are usually fed as treats or in rotation with high-calcium, low-fat feeders.

Superworm Species, Types, and Scientific Name

Superworms’ scientific name is Zophobas morio, and they belong to the order Coleoptera, which is the largest order in the class Insecta. This order contains over 250,000 species! Because of the number of species, members vary significantly in biology, size, behavior, and morphological characteristics.

However, one thing this order all have in common is a pair of elytra, which are hardened front wings and a set of membranous hind wings.

These beetles inhabit nearly every habitat, from aquatic systems to deserts, and feed on various plant and animal materials.

Superworms belong to the family Tenebrionidae and are dark slow-moving,  small to medium-sized beetles. Their hardened forewings have grooves, but the adults look similar to various beetle species. Their larvae are often mistaken for wireworms, which are the offspring of click beetles.


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Appearance: How To Identify the Superworm

These larvae are very similar to mealworms and can grow to lengths of 2 inches or more. Superworms are an excellent source of protein for captive animals like fish or birds like chickens.

Habitat: Where to Find the Superworm

These larvae are native to Central and South America but now occur on every continent except Antarctica. Their ideal habitat includes decaying vegetation, tree bark, and leaves. Pupation occurs in the soil, and when the adult beetle emerges, they feed on the same food as when they were larvae.

They are nocturnal and diurnal insects and keep busy by scattering around the ground in damp, cool, and humid places, looking for food.

Diet: What Do Superworms Eat?

While superworms eat pretty much anything, what they consume will affect the health of the pet they are fed to, so it’s best they receive appropriate nutrition. Foods like wheat bran, oats, and chicken meal will do the trick.

Life Cycle of the Superworm

Their life cycles occur in four stages, egg, larva, pupa, and adult. However,  most of their life is spent in the larval stage. If kept in captivity, they will not pupate if too many larvae are nearby, so it is best to separate them.

It takes them two weeks to prepare to pupate, while the pupal stage lasts for an additional 14 days. Once the pupal stage is over, adult beetles emerge from the soil.

How to Care for Superworms

Superworms are one of the best foods pet owners can feed their reptiles because, unlike giant mealworms that are packed with growth hormones, superworms are naturally large and full of nutrition.

Pet owners usually house these larvae themselves because caring for them is simple. Superworms can be purchased at any pet store or online.

All they need is food and habitat, and they will thrive. In addition, they are a huge cost-saver if bred at home, which is as straightforward as separating the larvae and letting them develop into beetles.

How to House Superworms

Providing them with a habitat is as easy as purchasing a plastic container. But, the best place to keep them is in an aquarium tank, which can be purchased at any pet store. The habitat must be large enough for the substrate to be at least three inches from the top of the tank/container.

For example, a plastic storage container used to house clothes will work. However, the tub must have smooth sides as these larvae can climb up the sides.

Proper Ventilation

These containers need to have proper ventilation for the superworms to thrive. So, a mesh lid would be ideal instead of a solid lid. However, if a mesh lid is unobtainable, pocking tiny holes in a solid top will also do the trick. These holes need to be small, so the larvae cannot escape.

Substrate

The container needs to have a substrate, the sand or gravel found at the bottom of aquariums. Its purpose is to provide bedding and food for the superworms. However, for these larvae, the perfect substrate is:

  • Uncooked oatmeal
  • Bran
  • Wheat bran

These foods provide the ideal amount of moisture without causing the superworms any harm. However, there must be at least 4 inches of dry substrate in the enclosure for the larvae to burrow.

In addition, temperature is very important. Unlike mealworms, superworms should never be refrigerated as it will kill them. Instead, they thrive in 70° and 80° F temperatures.

The best place to house them is in a room where the temperature stays the same all day. Rooms that change temperature throughout the day may stunt their growth

Feeding Superworms

Superworms eat almost anything, but providing them with a nutritious diet will benefit your exotic pet. Foods like fruits and vegetables are perfect. In addition, you can feed them leftover food from your kitchen, like produce.

Superworms should never be exposed to water, so to provide them with some sort of moisture, you can feed them things like:

  • Potatoes
  • Apple slices
  • Carrots
  • Fresh greens

These food items will keep them hydrated. In addition, they should only be fed at night because they are nocturnal. If given at the correct time of day, they will eat very quickly, and the food will not be left to rot.

Water

Superworms cannot be exposed to water, unlike other insects that usually need to be misted or have access to water. If exposed, these creatures can develop fatal health problems.

Gut load

Superworms must be gut-loaded 24 to 48 hours before feeding them to your pet. What this means is they need a special diet packed with high-quality nutrients. You can purchase this formula online or at most pet stores.

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About the Author

I am a 33-year-old creative and professional writer from South Africa. Wildlife is one of my greatest passions and led me to become the writer I am today. I was very blessed to work with an abundance of wildlife (mainly big cats) and captured my unique experiences in writing. But I wanted to take it further, and I ventured into the freelancing world. Now, I get to spend my days writing about animals; what could be better?

Superworm FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What does superworms turn into?

Superworms are the larvae of darkling beetles.

What's the difference between mealworms and superworms?

A superworm is around 5 times larger than a mealworm when you take into account girth and length

How long does it take for a super worm to turn into a beetle?

The pupae will get dark and after 2-3 weeks, will hatch out into adult beetles.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zophobas_morio
  2. Critter Squad, Available here: https://www.crittersquad.com/fact-sheets/super-worm-fact-sheet/#:~:text=Superworms%20are%20the%20larvae%20stage,superworm%2C%20it%20tastes%20like%20almonds.
  3. Oxford Academic, Available here: https://academic.oup.com/jinsectscience/article/21/2/13/6218202
  4. Entomology Today, Available here: https://entomologytoday.org/2021/05/20/superworms-zophobas-morio-bigger-brawnier-hungrier-cousins-yellow-mealworms/
  5. Dubai roaches, Available here: https://dubiaroaches.com/blogs/faq/superworm-faqs

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