Vietnam reaffirms ban feeder worm breeding

By Thanh Duc, Thanh Nien News

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Trays of superworms bred for sale to pet owners in the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long. Photo: Thanh Duc
Agricultural officials have warned the breeders of so-called superworms that while pet owners may want their products, Vietnam does not.
Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper reported Tuesday that the Lam Dong Province Plant Protection Department issued a statement expressly prohibiting the transportation, breeding or release of superworms.
"Superworms" are actually the larval stage of zophobas morio, a darkling beetle species that's renown as a fantastic feeder insect for lizards, turtles, frogs, salamanders, birds, koi and other insectivorous animals.
However, Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture has banned superworm breeding because the beetles, a voracious omnivorous voracious insect, pose great risk to farmers.
The province warned that those caught breeding the worms will be punished unless they can produce a breeding permit issued by the ministry.
A similar statement was issued in late April by the ministry's Plant Protection Department after robust worm breeding operations began cropping up in the Mekong Delta’s Vinh Long Province.
The breeders sold their worms to ornamental fish and bird owners.
Tran Thi Thuy in Long Ho District began the business four months ago after buying three kilograms of little worms at VND300,000 (US$14) following a recommendation from an acquaintance.
The worms have grown to nearly 200 kilograms and she's sold dozens of kilos for VND100,000 apiece.
“I saw my neighbors making profit so I followed to earn extra money,” Thuy told Thanh Nien newspaper.
Besides around VND15 million ($705) for breeding equipment, it doesn’t cost her much to feed the worms, which thrive on bran mixed with rotten vegetables.
Local breeders have sold the worms starting at two weeks old for between VND70,000-200,000 a kilogram.
Thuy said the process is simple. One only needs to put them in stackable indoor trays.
Even after multiplying to maximum capacity, the worms don't pupate due to constant body contact.
Nguyen Van Thanh, a commune agriculture official, said he started noticing the breeding operations in February.
The first operation allegedly began a year ago and now houses more than 300 trays now, each housing about 1.5 kilograms of worms.
“We have issued orders that force the families to destroy their worms.”
A Thanh Nien reporter found that the families never bothered to build enclosures for their breeding operations and frequently guarded waste into their backyard gardens after selling the worms.
Such conduct could result in a release of the worms into the environment.

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