Following the Mealworm's Metamorphosis


This unit is designed for use after the Ecosystem Unit. The biggest challenge in doing this is the timing. Unlike traditional units which are started and run through to completion, this one requires that the mealworms be purchased and allowed to change to larva stage and then observed over time as they grow and develop. This means that while this project is going on, you will need to be doing other things as well. That being said, it is a powerful lesson as students can actually see the developmental changes occur and must record their observations over time just like real scientists must do in the labratory - not all good science has instant results you know! It will also be helpful if, prior to presenting the following scenario, the students read Wump World or Farewell to Shady Glen by Bill Peet and review the main ideas.

Prior to starting this unit, the teacher must purchase the mealworm larvae and collect the materials needed for the project. Keep track of the cost so it can be shared with students for their analysis. For mealworm ordering information, go to the following websites:

Online Catalog

Connecticut Valley Biological Supply

As a result of completing this unit, students will:

  • Describe the life cycle of familiar organisms (from science curriculum)
  • Recognize that individuals of the same species may differ in some characteristics, and sometimes the difference give individuals an advantage in surviving and reproducing
  • Explain how organisms interact with other organisms in different environments
  • Explain that the features of living things can be good indicators of their role and place in an ecosystem
  • Identify anatomical and behavioral adaptations which allow organisms to survive in specific environments (from standards)
  • Explain that the features of living things can be good indicators of their role and place in an ecosystem

Student Task

It is the year 2010 and our country is about to be overrun with garbage. The President has called you, a renowned expert on butterfly metamorphosis, to determine whether mealworms would be helpful in reducing the amount of stinking garbage that is piling up all over the place. You and your team have been assigned to help develop a habitat, which can support the reproduction of mealworms so that their usefulness for this task can be studied. You need to find out what type of environment mealworms need to have, what they eat, and the job that they do for the Earth. When your task is complete, you will present your findings to your peers through one of the following communications vehicles:

  • brochure
  • computer slide show
  • chart
  • poster

In the process of completing this project, the following tasks will need to be accomplished:

Correctly following materials checklists.

Researching stages of mealworm metamorphosis.

Observing behavior and recording them in your Journal.

Making recommendations about the best environment to raise mealworms.

Researching if there are other insects that do the same job and could be used instead of the mealworm.

Presenting your findings to a committee of your peers.

Process and Directions

1. Collect and prepare your materials:

  • Plastic yogurt containers, with lids.
  • Wheat bran
  • Potato
  • Masking tape
  • Marker
  • Mealworms (larva stage)

2. Create the mealworm habitat. In order to grow, mealworm beetles need a habitat complete with everything the mealworm will need to live.

  • Fill a yogurt cup with 3cm of wheat bran
  • Using masking tape and a marker, label the container with your name or initials and date.
  • Select three mealworm larva of approximately the same size. Put them in the yogurt container.
  • Add a small piece of potato. You will want to add a new piece every week.
  • To allow for ventilation, place a lid loosely on the container, and place them in a dark area in the classroom.
  • Take a digital photograph of your habitat

3. Watch, Wait, and Observe. The time needed for development depends on many factors. You should see mealworm beetles in about a month. Each day take a couple minutes to observe what is going on in the mealworm environment and write observations in your Journals . Be sure to include detailed descriptions and pictures. Remember to replace the piece of potato when needed. Take a digital photo as often as possible, in order to see the growth over time.

a. Observe the instinctive behavior of the mealworm and be able to explain it and describe it in your Journals . If you need a reminder of what to look for, helpful resources with information on instinctive behavior can be found at:

b. Find out if they will they eat any other foods? If so, what kinds of foods? How do they find their food in their natural environment? Record this in your Journals.

c. Define metamorphosis and make a list of the stages of metamorphosis of the mealworm in youJournals. To help with definitions, visit the following websites: Merriam Webster's Dictionary on-line at

d. Draw a representation of the life cycle in a wheel diagram in your Journals . An example of an excellent life cycle wheel can be accessed at:

e. Compare mealworm metamorphosis with butterfly metamorphosis. You can do this by filling in this handy Comparison Chart .

f. List any color changes the insect makes as it experiences the stage changes.

g. List the items used to set up the mealworm project and explain their functions, include cost per item.

4. Be sure to make appropriate choices when using the Internet (don't "surf" around or go to websites not listed in this activity.) Create your slide show, including:

  • Materials Checklist
  • Cost of mealworms
  • Digital photos you may have taken
  • Whether you believe they would solve the garbage problem and why? Be sure to save your presentation to the server so you don't lose it.

Resources and Support

Ohio State University -

Linda Mosbacker: Mealworms - Insects - Mealworms

Mrs. Eberhardt's Home Page

Other Web Resources - to be determined by teacher and also are linked throughout the task.


Student Assessment:

1. Project Self-Assessment

2. Journal Self-Assessment

Teacher Assessment:

1. Journal Rubric

2. Project Rubric