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Instructions For Setting up a Mealworm Colony
Start with a large 3 drawer cart from a discount or home improvement store. Mine is about 23" wide. Since it is on wheels it is easy to move around for maintenance and feeding chores.
Decide on a bedding, most breeders use wheat bran.
In the top drawer I have the maturing mealworms with about 2 inches of substrate.

Give small slices of carrot, apple, summer squash, or sweet potato twice a week for moisture. Give only what can be consumed in one day and remove any that remains the next day to prevent molding. After a few feeding you will learn about how much to offer and will find nothing remaining the next day.

At the time these pictures were taken I had 2 drawers of beetles and only one of worms. Shortly after taking these photos the substrate from the 2 drawers of beetles were combined into the center drawer which will now be raising up the new baby worms to feeding size.

The babies don't eat the fruits and veggies as quickly as the larger worms and beetles so use caution in feeding them so as not to over feed leaving moisture that will mold the substrate.

The bottom drawer contains the beetles and will soon be teaming with eggs and tiny baby worms. As the pupae morph remove the new beetles to the beetle drawer.

Make sure the beetles are also given fruit or veggies at least twice a week or they will eat the new soft beetles for the moisture.

I keep the beetles in about 1 inch of substrate.

As the mealworms morph into pupae I remove them to small plastic shoe boxes. These can be stacked with the oldest on top until they begin to turn into beetles. Note, if stacking the boxes make sure you have air holes in the sides to prevent them from getting too moist.

Once the pupae begin to morph into beetles un-stack any that are in the process of morphing to prevent excessive moisture from killing them.

As the beetles emerge move them to the beetle drawer to prevent them from feeding on the remaining pupae.

To clean the substrate I use wire strainers or sieves in varied sized mesh. I screen the substrate when it becomes excessively dusty to remove the feces and fines from the mature worm bin only.

As the baby's substrate break down I use a very fine screen to sift the babies out of the fines to be added to the older worm bin where they will finish growing out and add bedding as needed.

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Instructions For Making a Cool Temperature Incubator
(Use this for Mountain Horned Lizard Eggs)

Start with a large Styrofoam box. Sometimes you can get one that was used for shipping tropical fish from a pet store. These are great as they are a large square box that will accommodate several cups of eggs. They are also shallow so although they allow you to stack 2-3 cups high they are short enough that they don't take a lot of space and you can stack several in a shelf.

Purchase an indoor/outdoor thermometer. Place the probe in the center of the box and set the meter on the shelf next to the box or fasten it to the front of the box.

If you set up the incubator before the clutch is due to be laid you can move it around to find the best temperatures for the eggs you will be incubating.

I prefer perlite for incubation medium but this is strictly personal preference. I feel that with cool temperature incubation it is important to assure that the eggs will not be too wet. The perlite seems to manage this well as excess moisture will settle to the bottom of the egg cup while the upper layers are just moist.

Place the deli cups containing the eggs directly on the bottom of the Styrofoam box and place a cup with some water in the center. For my MHDs I aim for about 50% humidity in the incubation box.

When the eggs begin to pip I put a plastic file box inside a taller Styrofoam cooler. Line the bottom with moist paper towels and add a small, shallow water dish and some silk plants for the hatchlings to hide in. Put a heating pad or uth set on low between the wall of the Styrofoam and the file box. I keep my MHDs in this setup for the first week or two.

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Instructions For Making an Incubator Out of an Aquarium or Tub
(Do Not Use This For Mountain Horned Lizard Eggs!)

As you can see, this is nothing fancy! Is is also NOT difficult to set up! I am presently using a 20-gallon aquarium but you could use any size you have on hand. A 20-long would hold a lot more egg! You can also use a large Rubbermaid or Sterlite tub instead of an aquarium. These are available in many sizes and can accommodate a large number of eggs.

Stick a submersible aquarium heater with a built in thermostat to the bottom of the aquarium. Fill the aquarium with about 3-4 inches of water, enough to cover the thermometer completely. For starters, set the thermometer to 2° above the temp you want to incubate at. For instance, if incubating at 85° set thermostat at 87°. I have a Sand Shark pump sitting next to the heater to circulate the water. This isn't mandatory but I feel that this will help maintain even temperature throughout the incubator

You can use bricks with a rack set on them to keep the eggs above the water or purchase a rack for cupboards from the closet organizer section at WalMart like the one in the picture. They have a nice weight vinyl covered metal rack with rubber feet. I suppose it could be cut down to make it shorter. Then you could place one over the cut down one to add shelves. In a larger tank, you could overlap, placing the legs through one another to make a larger shelf area, or use plastic shoe boxes with drain hole on top of the rack to increase shelf size. You have now made the guts of the incubator.

I recommend using an indoor/outdoor thermometer to check the temperature at the level where the deli cups of eggs sit. Just wrap the wire for the probe around one of the shelf wires so the sensor is on the rack. This way you will know if you need to adjust the temperature.

The lid is nothing fancy, just the lid from a large plastic bin. I have used Saran Wrap successfully too, just make sure you punch a few holes for air circulation. On this one you can see where the thick cords from the heater and pump create a gap this has been sufficient for allowing air exchange.

Place the deli cups containing the eggs directly on the rack until a clutch reaches about 38 days. My eggs have been hatching at anywhere from 40 to 46 days. You could adjust this time according to the temps you are using to incubate. On the 38th day, I stack all of the younger clutches’ deli cups on one end of the rack and place the 38-day clutch in a plastic shoe box with drain holes poked in the bottom. This is a safety precaution resulting from finding a hatchling swimming last year!

In my picture you can see the little one that hatched early this morning poking his head out of his shell! I don’t normally leave the deli cup lid off, but I took these pics after I discovered the pipped egg and was watching the event!

And the cost of this set-up:

20-gal aquarium$5 at garage sale (you can use a plastic tub instead of an aquarium!)
indoor/outdoor thermometer$7 at Wal-Mart
Wire rack$2 (?) at Wal-Mart
Pumpless than $15 at PetCo
Heater$20 at Wal-Mart (they don't carry these anymore and it could be $30 at PetCo, not sure, again, check garage sales!!
Deli Cups$1/dozen at Super Target, Bakers supermarket, etc.
Plastic shoebox$1-2

I know you can buy a hovabator for close to the cost of this set-up if you buy all of the components brand new, but I happen to have all of this on hand and when I’m not incubating, I can use the tank for babies, insects, or quarantine. I don’t have to find a place to store another piece of equipment! If you are like me and have most of this stuff lying around, it makes a great incubator. I have had an excellant hatch rate using this incubator for my Leopard Gecko eggs.

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Packing Reptiles for Shipping

If you can find some small Styrofoam boxes, for example; shipping boxes from medicines or frozen meats, these are great for shipping. I have found them at garage sales on occasion for a buck or two. Otherwise, get the pink or blue construction Styrofoam sheet and cut it to size to line a heavy box of appropriate size. This will insulate the reptiles against extreme temperatures.

For large snakes or lizards; use a bag of appropriate size with the seams on the outside so they don't rub the animal. Place them in the box with dividers and enough crumpled newspaper to prevent them getting banged around. Face it, the package will get bounced!

For small snakes or lizards and amphibians; find a tub a little larger than the reptile. I have used anything from deli cups to plastic shoe boxes. Poke some small air holes in the tubs. Fill the tub about half full with moist green moss (can be found at garden center). The next part is tricky and you have to be quick! Place the reptile on the moss and quickly cover it with more moist moss and without catching its tail or limbs and put the lid on the tub. The reason for the moss is that the lizards can move around in it without getting tangled and the moisture helps prevent dehydration. I have not suffered any losses so far shipping my animals and have shipped quite a few. Some have taken up to three days to reach their destination.

Place the tubs in the box and use enough crumpled newspaper to prevent them from getting banged around. Face it, the package will get bounced!

Make sure you mark the box well before shipping. I usually mark two sides "LIVE HARMLESS REPTILES" and the other two sides with "65° - 75° F".

Check with your airline or shipper to find out if they have any other requirements.

The reason for the moss is that the lizards can move around in it without getting tangled and the moisture helps prevent dehydration. I have not suffered any losses so far shipping my animals and have shipped quite a few. Some have taken up to three days to reach their destination.

Large box: note a compartment for each bagged snake and in the center, since the temps here are in the hundreds and they are being shipped south, I have a small compartment for a cold pack.

Small box: this would have been for one corn. There is a compartment for the snake and a larger one for the cold pack.

Each box has a lid cut from Styrofoam to cover the top. I prefer the pink or blue foam because you can simply score and snap it to size, but I don't have any so I used the white bead type. It's a lot messier and has to be cut with a fine saw or a serrated or electric knife and it leaves foam beads everywhere!

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Last updated November 26, 2005

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©2002, Marcia E Bradley - FroggieB

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