- Prepare a suitable rearing container. Waxmoth cultures need
good ventilation, but the caterpillars can chew through paper
or cloth. A solution would be to cut a hole in the lid of the
rearing container, then glue fine metal screen over the hole.
Waxmoth larvae (or waxworms) like to be crowded, so the container
shouldn't be very big.
- Mix up some culture medium. I use wheat bran, mixed with brewer's
yeast to boost the nutritional content, glycerin (also called
glycerol-- can be purchased at a pharmacy), and honey. The
exact proportions aren't too important, but the resulting medium
should be moist but still crumbly. The glycerin seems especially
important for newly hatched larvae, because I've experienced poor
survival rates when I skip adding it. Excess medium keeps well,
as long as it is protected from stray larvae and other insects.
- Loosely wrap a small lump of medium with a bit of crumpled
wax paper, and put the package in the culture container. Add some
large healthy waxworms from the pet store. It's important to choose
healthy caterpillars that don't show any sign of black spots or
darkening, because dead caterpillars can spread disease and ruin
a culture. They also smell bad! Keep the culture warm, at
85°F. The caterpillars will burrow into the medium to eat,
then pupate. At this point, trap a sheet of paper toweling under
the lid of the culture container.
- After the moths emerge, they will mate and the females will
lay their eggs in the folds of the wax paper. The adult moths
don't eat, so no special feeding will be needed. Keep the culture
in a dark place, to allow the moths to be active and mate. After
they lay eggs, the moths can be fed to herps that like to hunt
flying insects. The eggs will hatch in a few days, and the young
larvae will be seen crawling around the sides of the container
before burrowing into the medium. The paper napkin cover
inserted earlier will keep the tiny larvae from escaping through
the screen. They'll be too small to chew through paper at this
- The adult moths will die after they breed, and can be removed.
I seldom bother to do that, because the larvae seem to eat the
bodies anyway. Keep adding little lumps of food as the medium
gets consumed. If you see larvae crawling around the sides of
the container, it means they need more food. The larvae can be
harvested at this stage, using forceps to pick them out of the
medium. Compared to store-bought waxworms, cultured larvae are
very active and fast. The larvae actually heat up the medium,
but they still need to be kept warm. I keep them on top of my
- Move some large larvae to a new culture container or two, or
transfer the cocoons when the larvae pupate. This is much easier
than moving the moths, which can fly pretty well. Large larvae
can be stored for a couple of months at 60° F.
and breeding Wax Worms