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Tenebrio molitor
Tenebrio molitor.jpg
Mealworms, the larvae of Tenebrio molitor.
Common names: Mealworm, Yellow mealworm, Mealworm beetle, Darkling beetle, Darkening beetle
Size: 1 inch
Color: Light brown with dark brown stripes
Defense: Sprays noxious odor from scent gland
Range: Temperate regions worldwide, but primarily in the northern hemisphere
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Family: Tenebrionidae
Genus: Tenebrio
Species: molitor
Life cycle
Tenebrio molitor larvae.jpg
Tenebrio molitor pupae.jpg
Tenebrio molitor adult.jpg

Stage consumed: Larva
Cooking method: Sauteed, boiled, roasted, or fried
Parts consumed: All
Toxicity: No information

Commonly referred as mealworms, yellow mealworms, mealworm beetles, darkling beetles, and darkening beetles, Tenebrio molitor is an insect which is eaten in the larval stage. Not to be confused with superworms or the less common mini-mealworms. The larvae grow to about 1 inch in length and are light brown with darker brown stripes.

There is conflicting information about whether or not the adult beetles of this species fly, with some sources claiming that they do not, while others claim that they generally only fly in search of food, so those in captivity rarely will. [1]


The first record of mealworms in North America was in 1827 in Nova Scotia.[2] They reportedly occur in temperate regions all across the world, but especially in the northern hemisphere.[3] Typically, they are found in or near human civilization because they thrive on grain and flour. They cannot breed in the tropics.


Only the larvae of Tenebrio molitor is consumed—the adults have a hard shell and emit a foul odor from their scent glands when threatened.

Sauteeing is a popular method for preparing mealworms. Rapid cooking over high heat can cause the larvae to explode, so pan-frying is not recommended. Boiling, roasting, and deep-frying are other common methods of preparation. Marc Dennis, founder of Insects Are Food, recommends freezing mealworms for an hour and then boiled for one minute before using them in your recipe.[4]

The flavor is most described as nutty.


Mealworm crunch


  • 1 cup mealworms
  • 6 tablespoons oil, butter, or margarine
  • Salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste


  1. Sautee mealworms in fat of choice until golden brown
  2. Add spices and stir to combine
  3. Drain off excess fat
  4. Serve alone, or combine with Chex Mix or your favorite trail mix

View more larvae recipes on Entomophagy Wiki.

Additional recipes:


Tenebrio molitor is extremely easy to breed in either small or large amounts. They can be fed on oats or bran and given some carrot, apple, or potato for moisture. The adults should be removed from the main enclosure to prevent them from eating the eggs.

The following video demonstrates large scale mealworm farming (skip to 2:10):


There are no known legal issues with import, export, or sale of mealworms.


Live mealworms are abundantly available, either in pet stores, or online from herpetological supply stores. Additionally, some business sell mealworms prepared for human consumption.