When presenting our business in public or to investors, we often get the question: “Why did you choose mealworm but not other worms?” This article should explain the differences between mealworm and the buffalo worm. The two species look quite alike but they do have some differences that worth noticing.
Alphitobius diaperinus is called by many names. For example, they are called as lesser mealworm; buffalo worm and also litter beetle. It is part of the Tenebrionidae family. The family Tenebrionidae belongs to the order Coleoptera. It means that unlike how their names are indicated, Alphitobius diaperinus is a beetle but not worm. This beetle looks very similar to the yellow mealworm, Tenebrio molitor, but it is smaller. Adult beetle of the buffalo worm reaches a size of 6 mm while the adult of the yellow mealworm reaches a size of 12 mm, so they have approximately half of the size of yellow mealworm.
Table 1: Comparison of the life cycle of the yellow mealworm and buffalo worm.
The next picture shows the life cycle of the yellow mealworm.
This picture shows the difference in size of the yellow mealworm and the buffalo worm.
What is also very interesting about the buffalo worm is that it has a shorter life cycle than Tenebrio molitor, the yellow mealworm. The buffalo worm can finish its life cycle in one month under optimal conditions while the yellow mealworm needs over two months to become an adult. Female beetles of the buffalo worm can lay between 200 to 400 eggs. In one source from the literature, it is written that the female beetles of the buffalo worm can lay up to 2000 eggs, it is an extremely large amount of eggs to lay for such a small beetle.
The optimum temperature for the yellow mealworm is between 25-27 °C. In another research paper, it states that the optimum temperature for growth is 31 °C for both species. Findings in the literature vary but it seems that the buffalo worm prefers the environment to be a little bit warmer. The optimum relative humidity is 70% for both species, but this value varies in scientific papers. Unlike the yellow mealworm, (T. molitor), larvae of the buffalo mealworm (A. diaperinus) are more susceptible when it comes to pupation. Either they need more substrate in vertical direction or some cardboard pieces which they can use for pupation. Depending on the amount of space given, only a certain amount will pupate.
In comparison to the yellow mealworm, (T. molitor), buffalo worm (A. diaperinus) has a softer skin (exoskeleton) and the taste of the yellow mealworm (T. molitor) is a bit spicy, while the buffalo worm (A. diaperinus) tastes a little bit nutty. Both species are used as food and feed, but the use of feed is more predominant.
Overall, the buffalo worm is slightly more susceptible in pupation and the breeding is more difficult than the yellow mealworm. Therefore, we and many people at home have chosen the yellow mealworm for rearing rather than the buffalo worm.
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