Mealworm vs Buffalo Worm - What is the Difference?

We often get the question: “Why did you choose to work with the mealworm and not a different type of worm?” This article should explain the differences between the mealworm and the buffalo worm. The two species look quite alike but they do have some differences that are 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 beetles of the buffalo worm reach a size of 6 mm while the adult of the yellow mealworm reaches a size of 12 mm, so they are approximately half the size of a yellow mealworm.

Table 1: Comparison of the life cycle of the yellow mealworm and buffalo worm.
Table 1: Comparison of the life cycle of the yellow mealworm and buffalo worm
Figure 1: The difference in size of the yellow mealworm and the buffalo worm.
Figure 1: size differences between mealworm and large 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, which is an extremely large amount of eggs to lay for such a small beetle. 

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Temperature & Pupation

The optimum temperature for the yellow mealworm is between generally between 25-27 °C. Moreover, in another research paper, it states that the optimum temperature for growth is 31 °C for both species. Findings in literature may vary, but it seems as though 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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Pictures: [2018.07.23] [2018.07.23]