Zophobas morio is a species of darkling beetle, whose larvae are known by the common name Superworms, King Worms, Morio Worms or simply Zophobas. Superworms are common in the reptile pet industry, not to be confused with giant mealworms, which are Tenebrio molitor larvae sprayed with juvenile hormone.
The insect’s larvae resemble very large mealworms, about 50 to 60 mm (1.7–2.25 in) long when full size, but unlike mealworms, the ends of their bodies are very dark, almost resembling a black color. They have 6 small legs and two rudimentary hind prolegs. Once they reach adult size, the larvae pupate, and later emerge as large, light coloured beetles, which in time darken to black beetles. The larvae will not pupate if kept in a container with many other larvae and plentiful food, where they receive constant bodily contact. Keeping superworms this way is commonly used to hinder pupation. To mature the superworms into darkling beetles, they must be kept alone for about 7–10 days. They will then, upon maturation, emerge from their pupal stage as darkling beetles.
Superworms are accepted by lizards, turtles, frogs, salamanders, birds, koi and other insectivorous animals. Their tendency to bite with strong mandibles can pose a danger to pets, but this can be averted by crushing the head. Their nutritional values are similar to those of mealworms, so it is possible that supplementation with calcium is necessary if they are used as a staple food item. In some cases they are preferred over mealworms due to their softer exoskeleton, making them more digestible to some reptiles. The larvae are odor-free (but the beetles possess a pungent chemical defense that may be released when provoked), and can be easily contained, making them ideal for raising at home to feed a collection of captive insectivores. In Brazil, the main insects in captivity are intended to feed animals only. The nutritional profile of the Zophobas morio is, “46.80% proteins, 43.64% lipids, 8.17% ashes and 1.39% carbohydrates.”
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- Prado, R. A.; Santos, C. R.; Kato, D. I.; Murakami, M. T.; Viviani, V. R. (2016). "The dark and bright sides of an enzyme: a three dimensional structure of the N-terminal domain of Zophobas morio luciferase-like enzyme, inferences on the biological function and origin of oxygenase/luciferase activity". Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences. 15 (5): 654–665. doi:10.1039/C6PP00017G. PMID 27101527.
- Latney, La'Toya V.; Toddes, Barbara D.; Wyre, Nicole R.; Brown, Dorothy C.; Michel, Kathryn E.; Briscoe, Johanna A. (February 2017). "Effects of various diets on the calcium and phosphorus composition of mealworms (Tenebrio molitor larvae) and superworms (Zophobas morio larvae)". American Journal of Veterinary Research. 78 (2): 178–185. doi:10.2460/ajvr.78.2.178. PMID 28140633.
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