STYRO-FARM – Science for the classroom
Mealworms eat what??
Mealworms can live on a diet of 100% styrofoam. No additional food or water source. Really.
Styrofoam is really expanded polystyrene a substance which once used- usually only once- will remain in the landfill polluting soil and water for millions of years. The most successful recycling methods for Styrofoam simply reduce the size of waste by removing air. Still, polystyrene – expanded or expanded and reduced are substances that will not breakdown in millions of years and will continue to pollute the soil and water for that time. This is not a “little environmental issue.” This is big! and Bad!
Along comes the lowly mealworm. Usually the mealworm is a pest invading our storage of grains. Sometimes the mealworm is a treat for wild birds or pets. Now, the mealworm is truly useful.
Here we will be posting information about potential experiments you can conduct with your students. Please feel free to contact us with ideas for curriculum, your curriculum stories and images, etc.
StyroFarm is the home or classroom science experiment to observe mealworms living on Styrofoam alone.
Many classes or groups start by simply observing the amazing ability of mealworms to live on Styrofoam alone, but there are many more experiments that you can do if you are interested.
Do the mealworms get sick from eating toxic materials? (nope. Their gut acids can break it down)
Do mealworms live normal lives living on styrofoam? (yes…they really do. amazing!)
What affect does “temperature” play in the eating habits of mealworms? Do mealworms eat more Styrofoam in warmer or cooler environments?
What affect does “light” play in the eating habits of mealworms? Do mealworms eat more styrofoam in light or dark environments?
You and your students will observe and learn that mealworms seem to do equally well whether they eat oats or wheat or corn or styrofoam. The go through their life-cycle from egg to larva to mealworm to darkling beetle at the same speed and with no apparent differences regardless of diet.
If mealworms ingest styrofoam, what do they excrete?
Observation shows they excrete a substance that looks and feels like sand. It is non-toxic and organic. It seemingly has no nutritional value but it has lost it’s toxicity.