for Your Wax Worm Ranch
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Origins: You can find wax worms in Iowa in weakened or run down beehives. Bee keepers hate wax worms. Somehow the greater wax moth sneaks past the bees that guard the entrance to the hive. Once inside, they lay their eggs in the honeycomb. When the eggs hatch, the larvae (wax worms) hatch and start eating the combs. They eventually destroy the hive. As a former beekeeper, we prefer to avoid the rearing of wax moths.
Wax worms aren’t really worms. They
just look like worms. As we said, they’re
the larval stage of the greater wax moth.
Appeal: Most wax worms wind up on fish hooks. You can find them most often in bait stores. Sunfish love these tasty little crawlers. We use them in the pet trade as herptile food. Reptiles and amphibians love them. Tropical fish like them also. African butterfly fish love wax worms (they float, usually). Wax worms taste very good and pack a lot of nutrition in their fatty little bodies.
Size: Wax worms top out at about an inch. Most hit the market at ¾ inch. They fill the same pet food niche as sub-adult grey crickets. They provide some of the variety lizards need in their diets.
Larvae Container: Commercial wax worm containers work well for the larvae. If you plan to breed them, you need more room.
Breeder Containers: Stackable plastic boxes – big enough to get your hands into -- work well for your wax worm breeding colonies. Loosely crumple some sheets of wax paper and add to your container.
Eggs: Adult wax worms lay their eggs in the crumpled wax paper and on the container walls. Once the eggs “harden,” you can lift them with a single-edge razor blade and move them to a new culture once they “use up” your current culture.
Pupae: In nature, beehives stay quite warm. At 86o moths go thru their entire life cycle in six to seven weeks. At 60o your wax worm larvae won’t pupate for several months. At room temperature they pupate much quicker. Larvae crawl into crevices where they can safely spin their cocoons and pupate. They use the crumpled wax paper in the same way.
Adults: Wax worm pupae change into adults in their cocoons. The egg-laying moths emerge in about two weeks. This is the reason for the cloth or screen cover. Few people want these guys flitting about their house. However, most lizards love these fluttering moths.
Container/Media: Add about ½ inch of your food medium and the crumpled wax paper. Add at least a couple dozen worms. Put a cloth cover over the top to keep out fruit flies, gnats, ants, and house flies. Snap a plastic lid or screen on it to keep out mice. The cloth will also keep in the newly hatching eggs. Luckily, you needn’t fool with your breeding colonies once you add your food medium and starter wax worms.
Food Medium 1: Mix bran and honey in a heated sauce pan. Add enough bran to make it stiff. Spread it on a cookie sheet till it cools. Crumble it up and place on the bottom of your container. Freeze any extra for later use.
Food Medium 2: Mix seven parts crumbled dry dog food with one part water and two parts honey. This medium should gut load your wax worms. Spread on cookie sheet to dry until no longer sticky – usually 24 hours. Freezee any extra.
Food Medium 3: Mix any
cereal with honey till it’s all gooey.
Harvesting. Wimps use tweezers. Real hobbyists go into the ring barehanded. Keep your extras cooler -- but not as cold as your refrigerator. Refrigerators kill wax worms. LA.
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