Insect Experiments

Buggy Shape Changers

Make your own buggy shape changers in this insect experiment. You'll watch mealworms change shape and form right before your eyes. What will they be next?

What You'll Need:

  • Mealworms
  • Large plastic container
  • Bran meal
  • Ruler
  • Plastic knife
  • Potato
  • Paper plate

How to Make Buggy Shape Changers:

Step 1: Purchase mealworms from a pet store or from a biological supply company. Pet stores sell them inexpensively as food for reptiles.


Step 2: In a large plastic container, pour in 1 inch of bran meal. With help, cut a 1/4-inch-thick slice of potato and place it into the container.

Step 3: Add mealworms to the container, and watch them crawl around. Now, pick up a mealworm. Don't worry -- it won't hurt you. How does it react when you pick it up? What does it feel like?

Step 4: Place a mealworm on a plate, and blow on the worm. How does it respond? Put a drop of water on the worm. What does it do?

Step 5: Every few days, throw away the old potato and add a new slice.

Step 6: In about a week, the mealworms will seem to have shrunken in size and curled up into waxlike tombs. All the living mealworms will eventually enter this state. In another week, start looking for what emerges out of the waxy tombs. It will be a good surprise!

Safety Tip: Adults should cut the potato.

What Happened?

Your mealworms eagerly explored their new home when they arrived, but they were a bit skittish. If you blow on a mealworm, it will probably freeze and not move. Mealworms don't appear to like water; when a drop falls on one, it moves away quickly.

When you lift a mealworm, it may wiggle a bit, but it will soon rest calmly in your hand. It feels a little hard on the outside, due to its exoskeleton, but it is actually soft. When it moves, a mealworm may tickle your hand a little bit.

You may notice, when you look at your mealworms, that some are on the potato. The potato adds some nutrition to their diet, but more important, it acts as a source of moisture.

When the mealworms enter the "waxlike tomb" state, they have become pupae. As mealworms, they aren't really worms -- they are insects in the larva stage. After a while, larva forms pupa.

What emerges from the pupa? A black beetle -- the adult form of the mealworm! The beetles lay eggs, and the cycle of larva to pupa to adult repeats.

Next, find out which bugs are afraid of the dark.

For more crafty fun and animal-related activities: