Dead mealworms stink

The feeding regimen for my spiders is fruit flies every other day, and once they get above about 2.5 millimeters long, a mealworm once a week. Flies are easy. They die, they get sucked dry, the empty husks of their bodies lie around until I clean up the containers. Mealworms…not so nice. They’re much bigger than the spiders, but they’re still doomed, and in short order they’re trussed up, filled with venom and enzymes, and their guts liquify and are mostly consumed.
That “mostly” is doing a lot of work there. The worms are much bigger than the spiders, remember, so they get turned into a bug milkshake which has about ten times the volume of the predator. They can’t eat the whole thing.
So it rots. It rots spectacularly, since it’s predigested soup. I usually let the spiders sup on the corpse for two days, but then I pull out the blackened, shriveled worm and throw it out.
The spider containers are usually odorless, or nearly so, but these dead mealworms produce an unholy reek. Gooey dead bugs produce a whole new level of unimaginable putrid. Worst part of the job.
Today I was a renfield, tasked with purging the cages of their decaying victims.
While I was at it, I also measured how well they’re growing. A couple are over 5mm long now. One shrunk, I’m not sure why — they are developing into a male, they didn’t eat their mealworm, so maybe they’re in an adolescent funk. I’ll keep an eye on him.

In related news, while I’ve been consistently using the same microscope magnification (16x), that’s not going to work anymore. Some of them barely fit in the field of view, so I’m going to have to switch it down to 10x from now on. Look at this rolypoly monster (sorry, exclusively Pharyngula readers, it’s on Patreon.) You can also see how well the triangulate pigment pattern has developed.
I’m thinking I’ll continue measuring the growth of this batch of spiders for about a week more, ending at 60 days. Then I’m moving them to the grown-ups cages. The plan would be to relocate the females first, and then after a few days to establish a nice homey web, move in the horny males and see if I can get some courtship going…and then maybe the females can start investing some of the energy they currently use to grow to humongous size in producing eggs.


  1. says

    Wait, you raise spiders to murder fruit flies? Sign me up man. I hate fruit flies. With an extreme passion. give me spiders any day of the week. Fruit flies are annoying but spiders just hang out.

  2. John Morales says

    Mealworms are larval beetles.
    Just keep a tray with some soil (just dirt from outside) and put veggie scraps in there regularly (things like banana peels are excellent), introduce a bunch of them, and before you know it you have a sustainable reproducing population.

  3. says

    The problem with fruit flies is that they’re small, probably nutritionally sufficient, but it’s work to eat them. Which would you prefer? A bucket of mice, or a cow?
    The difference is visible. Flies are great for maintenance, but give a spider a mealworm or a waxworm and they’ll gorge until they’re twice their size. A big meal promotes egg production.