Ask the Hive Explorer Team!

Answering your questions about the team that created your new favourite gadget

It all started when founder Katharina left her little home village on the border between Austria and Hungary to venture into the world as an industrial designer. She ended up in Hong Kong where she realized that most of the food there was imported and almost no one knew where it came from. That’s why she started to investigate the current food system and looked into alternatives. Insects were one of the future proteins that were very promising and seemed to be very exciting as an upcoming food. The goal was to empower people to become independent of the intransparent food system and grow their own food in their homes. Insects were ideal for this as they can be grown in small spaces with little resources. She developed Farm432, a device breeding the black soldier fly and its larvae, as part of her master thesis. This took her all around the world. After more prototyping and a Beta manufacturing trial for a research institute in Malaysia earlier this year, she founded a new company together with Julia, Livin Farms, dedicated only to growing edible insects. The redesign and development of the Hive followed and now Livin Farms is ready to manufacture it and carry on with its mission to bring insects into everybody’s homes!

Almost! We cannot sell you something that we do not personally try, right? And we are super healthy!

We believe that insects have the unique opportunity to bridge cultures and people. A lot of developing nations have a rich insect-eating culture already but some of it is stigmatized too. Trends have shown that eating more meat in the West has increased meat consumption in the developing world too. If we start eating insects, we could help improve insects’ reputation as a food and therefore shift the consumption from unsustainably produced meat to worms, who have super low environmental damage potential! We appreciate that we can source some of the traditional knowledge and combine it with safe technologies to grow insects as food.

Ask the mealworms!

All you need to know about your wormy friends, their needs and how can they end up on your plate

Typical kitchen scraps that we would feed our mealworms are for example carrots, apples, potatoes, some cheese scraps, tomatoes, different fruits, roots, salads. They also love grain such as oats or bread. Basically, you can feed them anything. Just make sure that you don’t put in: moldy or rotten foods, soups or very greasy, oily or liquid substances, dishes that are very spicy or acidic. Also do not feed too much cellulose heavy foods (salads, grass). In general, just make sure that you feed a good proportion of moist and dry foods. We recommend against feeding meat scraps, mealworms can be considered vegetarian! Please also take care you don't feed them things with pesticides on it. You have the power to control how healthy your food is!

This depends very much on the type of feed that you add as well as at which life stage your mealworms are. Mealworms have a great appetite, beetles will need a bit less and pupae do not eat anything during their pupation.  Rule of thumb is about half of a big apple and about two hands full of oats per drawer. You will soon find out how fast your mealworms eat. Just check in the first weeks of having it, as soon as the food is gone, you can feed again. Never let any food get moldy in there!

Mealworms can live for several weeks without feeding. However, mind that this is a stressful situation for your mealworms and they won’t be growing at the same speed as they would with normal feeding. If you go on holiday, treat your Hive like an aquarium- have your neighbor come by once a week at least to check if everything is all right. Another option is to put your worms and beetles in the fridge at about 8°C (CAUTION: putting them into the freezer, will kill them). They will fall asleep (hibernate) and wake up even after several weeks. Eggs, Babies, and Pupae can be more sensitive to this.

Mealworms and beetles don’t need an external source of water. They can absorb the water contained in the fruits and vegetables. 

We have handled thousands of mealworms and they are totally harmless animals!

We have handled thousands of beetles and usually, they never fly. Still, in very rare situations it happens that a beetle flies up for a few centimeters.

You can put your food scraps in a bag and refrigirate it to avoid the smell. When the worms finish the first portion of your scrapes, you can then serve the rest.

Every organism has to be treated with respect, no matter how large or small it is.

We are concerned with animal welfare at Livin Farms and want to act absolutely protective of all the species that we deal with.

We designed the Hive in a way that the worms can be happy in there. Insects in nature occur in large amounts on small and densely populated spaces. They actually need contact with their buddies to develop their skin. Therefore, we can assume that they feel well when held like this, totally opposite from a cow or pig!

We designed the Hive so that the worms will be very well contained in the device and can not escape. That being said, they are still living beings and in some very unlikely case, it could happen that one or the other one finds its way out somehow. But don’t worry, unless they are a huge hoard, they won’t start breeding somewhere unwanted in your house and they are also not that hard to catch. They are all in all very lovely beings, relax!

You can harvest your mealworms directly from the bottom part of the Hive. If you feed them for too long they will transform to the pupae phase, so keep your eye on them, if you want to harvest! Usually, adult mealworms get from 1,25 cm up to 1,8 cm.

We very explicitly recommend to cook them before processing further. Please consider mealworms like any other type of meat. If raw or undercooked, people can react sensitively to it. If you cook them thoroughly (in boiling water for a few minutes), they are totally safe to eat and process further. You can then fry them, roast them, mix them into sauces, or try all kinds of recipes. Be creative and have fun with this new type of meat! Dried and ground can also be used them as a protein source in sweet dishes like granola or cookies. We gathered some tips for recipes here and on our Instagram and Facebook pages, make sure to check them out. 

The best way is to put them into your freezer. Insects are very dependent on their outside temperature. In freezing them, their body temperature comes down and they start hibernating and die without stress. There is no slaughtering here, they go take a winter nap, something that they are used to in nature. Before preparing them for food, make sure they are deeply frozen for a reasonable amount of time (minimum one hour), so they are not in the hibernation mode anymore.

This depends on how meat-heavy you make your meals! Once the colony is established you can expect to harvest 150-250 of mealworms weekly.

We made lots of cooking experiments and will share some of them with you throughout the course of the campaign. See some of our best cooking tips here. Also, do not forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, where we occasionally share our cooking endeavors! We have also built a community platform where you can share your recipes with other mealworm breeders all around the world!

You can make them crispy and light to have as a snack while watching TV but you can also make them into many sweet or savory dishes. Whether crispy or juicy, if you get full from 500g of meat, you will get full from 500g of worms too!

A typical serving of traditional meats like lean beef, pork, chicken, and fish ranges from 60-100g. We recommend a similar serving size for mealworms, although it may be less when used in a mixed dish.

Dry mealworms contain about 50% protein, which is more than raw beef! Together with a healthy and diverse diet, mealworms can easily help you fulfill your dietary needs as a healthy meat substitute. Source for our information on the protein content of mealworms can be found here.

Dried mealworms contain around 50 grams of protein per 100grams. That’s approximately the same amount as other high-protein foods such as beans, meat, or fish. They also contain essential fatty acids, carbohydrates, and minerals. But that’s not all, some of the most notable nutrients in mealworms include:

• Fiber, not usually found in meats, making mealworms special!

• Vitamin B12, a nutrient mostly only found in meat.

• Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), which is important for many bodily processes.

• Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5), a nutrient known for improving hair and skin health.

And of course, protein, as described above!

We will add a nutrition table soon, it is difficult to format it onto the FAQ section, thank you for your patience!

Source for the numbers can be found here.

Disclaimer: People with shellfish allergies might react sensitively to eating insects too! For more information, please read our blog post here.

The only allergies that have been reported to come from mealworms were from people sieving mealworms from their frass, getting in touch with a lot of the dirt and fine excrements. This is not the case when harvesting with the Hive.

Anatomically, mealworms are very different from humans, it is very unlikely that there are any diseases transmitted - unlike with other livestock like pigs which are related to us closer and therefore can transmit their diseases easier. You are in charge of growing your mealworms healthy and feeding them responsible. Livin farms does not take any responsibility or liability for the consumed harvest.

Mealworms are fascinating!

Some cool facts:

• They are grown in space by Chinese astronauts as space food!

• A reference to the composition of the mealworm can inhibit the BACE enzyme, which is a key enzyme to cause Alzheimer's disease.

• The dried mealworm can be made into powder, which is called Hanxia powder in China and added to many foods to make it taste fresh.

• The essential oils of the mealworm are often extracted in order to be used as a skin oil for humans. It contains lots of Vitamin B5, vital for skin renewal.

If the mealworms are exposed to lower temperatures their life cycle will slow down and they will not be as active. Check if the Hive is plugged in correctly and if the heating plate is working. Another reason for the stillness is pupating - when your worms are preparing to turn into pupae. If you do not want them to turn into beetles, it is about time to harvest them!

Unfortunately, that means your pupae died. That usually happens because the worms weren't given enough moisture with carrots or potatoes at the end of the larval stage. During their pupae stage, they do not eat or drink, so they need to store the moisture to last through pupation and will dehydrate and die if they didn't get enough. Next time make sure your mealworms get enough of both, nutrition and moisture from the food.

At first, the newly emerged beetle is white/light beige with a soft shell, and then it darkens and hardens to red, brown, and finally turns dark brown/black after about 2-7 days. You can expect them to stroll around their tray in the Hive and lay eggs for about 2-3 months before they take an eternal nap. When your beetles die, you can follow the few next steps:

• remove any dried fruit/vegetables by hand/utensils

• tilt the tray so that the dead beetles will be collected at a corner (live beetles will grasp on the surface)

• use a spoon (preferably) to remove dead beetles

Firstly, many pets adore mealworms: geckos, bearded dragons, turtles, lizards, frogs, some snakes, chickens, ducks, and carnivorous fish to name a few. Leopard geckos for example, should eat 6-7 mealworms 2-3 times a week. Fish love crushed dried mealworms and you should serve them the same portion as you would of the usual fish food.

In fact, what we generally call “mealworm” is not a worm but larvae of a flour beetle. The Latin name of the beetle is the “Tenebrio Molitor”. It belongs to the Coleoptera order just as the ladybug or the rose chafer. The distinctive attribute of the Coleoptera is the hardened front pair of wings call “elytra”. The mealworm is a non-invasive species and can be found almost everywhere on the planet. They prefer living in the dark and enjoy living in relatively high density in closed space. Its ideal environmental conditions are a temperature ranging from 26 to 29 degrees and an approximate humidity of 70%.

The Tenebrio Molitor is a holometabolous insect. It means that the life cycle goes through 4 distinctive stages:

The egg

The larvae

The pupae

The imago (or adult beetle)

It all starts with an egg that hatches into tiny larvae after 1 to 2 weeks. These tiny larvae will grow through several 'instars' (development steps) into a mealworm of the size you like to eat (ca. 3cm long). With every instar, the mealworm peels off its old skin in order to grow.  After 10 to 14 weeks with 9 to 25 instars, it then turns into a pupae. For approximately one week, it will stay immobile. As the pupae evolve, you’ll start to distinguish the premises of the future eyes, legs, and wings. At the end of this period, the beetle is ready to emerge. The beetle will live a few weeks and a female can lay between 200 and 300 eggs during its life span.

This might be the first question you’re asking yourself. If it’s the case don’t worry you’re not the only one, we met thousands of people and this question came up often. We are more and more aware of food’s impact on our health and on the planet. Our current habits and consumption patterns are not sustainable; whether small or large scale. That’s where our mealworms come in as a solution! But, let’s be honest, we eat them because we love to. More than sustainable and nutritious, we find them delicious. The question should rather be: Why NOT eat insects?

For now, we recommend you to simply get more than one Hive. We are thinking about modular solutions for scaling up production. If you have a commercial restaurant project, please get in touch with us and we can design a solution tailored to your needs!

In contrast to cattle, mealworms do not use a lot of space or food and therefore present one of the most sustainable sources of protein. The Global Warming Potential of mealworms per kg of edible protein is low compared to milk,  chicken, pork or beef-these all have 1-12x higher potential than our friendly mealworms! (Source: Oonincx DGAB, de Boer IJM (2012) Environmental Impact of the Production of Mealworms as a Protein Source for Humans – A Life Cycle Assessment). The total CO2eq of mealworm production per kg of edible protein is 2.65kg, which is drastically lower than what cattle, pork and chicken emit.

Since you are the one in charge of your mealworms' nutrition, you can make sure your mealworms are healthy and strong. However, with the ones bought in the store, you cannot be sure what kind of food were they fed and their quality can be compromised. The mealworms in the store can also vary in their age and you cannot be sure how old are they - with your own little farm you can make sure to harvest them when they are the most nutritious.

Questions related to the device

Anything you want to know about the Hive Explorer device and about the process of growing in the Hive

Previous models focused on producing bigger amounts of mealworms as future food. The Hive Explorer can be a helpful gadget to improve STEM education. The lid is transparent and therefore allows you to observe what is going on in the Hive. Additionally, we designed a magazine as a guide for all your experiments and progress tracking.

You can expect a very mild humming from the ventilation and occasional vibration that is happening in the device. Apart from that, you will not notice your Hive. Of course, if you get really, really close you might be able to hear a tiny bit of mealworm wriggling ;)

There are really only two sources where the smell could come from: the fine excrements of the mealworms and the food that you place in the trays. Ideally, you will never overfeed your worms which should prevent any unwanted smell from rotten foods. The excrements are usually very dry which makes them almost odorless. Make sure you never feed too moist substances, then smell should be contained. The Hive has carbon filtration pads in the back and front of each growing tray though which air is ventilated. Therefore, occasional smells should be very well contained.

You can plug your Hive into your normal power supply in your house, just like any other device (220-240 V or 110-127 V voltage). You will receive a plug compatible with the socket of the country of your delivery address. 

The maximum power consumption of the Hive is 10W but this can be reduced by keeping the Hive in a cool, dry place. Taking an average energy price of 0.10USD/kWh in the USA – this results in a maximum running cost of $1.092USD per week down to $0.08USD per week. In Austria the cost is €0.08 to €1.06 per week, in the UK the cost is £0.07 to £0.84 per week. Prices according to this site.

Since the mealworm tray is layered with mesh, eggs that are laid will be likely to filter down into the white collection tray. The best practice in such a situation would be to transfer your frass into a separate container, and wait a few weeks to rescue any baby mealies that may start to grow.

Make sure your beetles are well fed - they often go through their scraps overnight and become quite restless. Keep a check and provide them with a bed of dry oats regularly. Also, try to avoid putting food on the pupae tower - keeping it free of food will prevent from any nibbling.

Often, too many insects develop in your Hive Explorer because the mealworms were obtained at the same life stage. Simply put, this is sometimes not avoidable.

Two things you can try to do in this case are to either a) Put the insect of the prior life stage in the refrigerator to slow down their development (eg: If you have too many beetles, put the pupae in the fridge, if you have too many pupae, put the mealworms in the fridge) or b) Harvest your insects, feed them to your pets or compost them.

Mites typically get into a colony through food scraps. This can be prevented by only feeding the colony the amount of food that they can eat within a few days. Apart from that, the microclimate can play a big role too. Humidity and temperature are controlled in our system and it is closed. Therefore the risk of infestations is much lower than if you have an open system. Other insects that might be driven to pay a visit to the mealworm farm are pantry moths, however, Hive is well sealed and we have not had any moth visitors reported.

Currently, we have only tested our system with the mealworm, Tenebrio Molitor. Therefore, we only recommend using this species in the Hive. Different kinds of insects have different requirements in their lifecycles. We will update you in case of future modifications that might allow other species too. Please let us know in case you get experimental and try something new. We are always happy to hear your stories and experiences!

Anyone that has an interest in growing their own little wormy friends can learn with the Hive. The educational material is adjusted to suit children from around 8-13 years old.

All the healthy mealworms in our Taste Packs are grown sustainably in Vienna, Austria by no one else than Livin Farms!

It is a valuable plant fertilizer! Put it into your plant bins and see your plants flourish and bloom. Almost nothing that comes from your Hive is waste.

You can compost the dung, offer your super fertilizer to your neighbor, or simply dispose of it as you would any other biological waste.

If taken care of appropriately, the Hive is very resilient and will last you about 4-5 years for sure. You also receive a 1 year warranty.

The filters can be hand-washed and re-used but should be replaced after no more than 6 months.

Insects are the perfect survivalist, that's how they became the most successful living creatures on planet earth. Each species of insect adapted to fulfill a special niche. In the Hive™, we created an optimal niche for our mealworms and beetles. With our technology of micro-controllers and sensors connected to a set of heat plates and fans, there will be the perfect climate condition at any time. With the dimensions of our trays, mealworms and beetles will live in high density surrounded by their feed, as they are in their natural habitat.

We have developed a system with sensors, fans and heating elements. The sensors measure temperature and humidity and control the airflow in the trays accordingly.

What else could we possibly answer?

All other questions that might come up

Let’s be honest, vegans and vegetarians are “allowed” to eat anything. The question would rather be: “Do I accept to eat mealworms?” The choice is upon them! If you just simply don’t want to eat any animal, it’s your choice and we respect it! If you don’t eat meat or animal products for environmental reasons, you might find it suitable to eat insects. If it’s for health reasons, as said previously mealworms are very nutritious and contain few saturated fats. If it’s an ethical choice, the current scientific consensus emits some doubts regarding insects’ pain and emotion, so it might also be okay for you.

In Europe, 1kg of organic red meat can range between 15-40 EUR. Say we calculate with 30 EUR. 500g would be 15 EUR- this is the amount you could potentially save every week in eating mealworms instead. This makes up to 60 EUR per month.

Shipping

Yes, we ship worldwide!

If ordering from USA, China, Hong Kong or European Union, there will be no applicable customs fee. Outside of these regions it can happen, that you receive a notice from the customs office and will need to pay a charge before you can get the product. Livin Farms does not cover any import/custom fees.

Orders from European Union are dispatched from Austria, orders from Asia are sent from China and orders from USA are shipped from, you guessed it, USA. 

Transfer the contents of the white baby mealworm tray into a separate container, make it your mealworm ‘nursery’. Here, you may allow the mealworms to grow and then transfer them back into the mealworm tray once you see visible older mealworms. Once the mealworms have been moved, you may use the remaining frass as a fertilizer for your plants.