Feeder Insects for Reptiles and Amphibians
Live feeder insects are an important part of many captive reptile and amphibian diets. Providing variety is important to ensure your pet is receiving adequate nutrition. This article will summarize the different options available for feeder insects in order to provide you with the information you need when purchasing them for your pet.
Unless confined to a dish, it is important to remove uneaten live insects from your reptiles cage after a few hours. Insects left in the cage longer can chew and bite at your pet causing serious injury and infection to the skin.
Domestic crickets, Acheta domestica, are a mainstay of the feeder insect industry. They are bred in vast quantities and are easy to find at most local and chain pet stores. They come in a variety of sizes from pinhead (newly hatched crickets) to 1 inch long adults. They are very active insects and most reptiles do appear to enjoy hunting and chasing them. The appear very palatable to most reptiles as well. They are relatively inexpensive. Nutritionally, they are relatively low in calories compared to other feeder insects. However they are high in phosphorus and low in calcium. They are also low in vitamins A and D. Both calcium and multivitamin supplements are recommended when feeding crickets.
One downside to crickets is that it's more challenging to keep a supply of live crickets on hand. They eat a lot and produce a lost of waste, which can be smelly. They require regular cage cleaning or the unsanitary conditions they create will rapidly kill them.
Just like crickets, most pet stores that carry feeder insects are going to carry mealworms. Mealworms are the larvae of a species of darkling beetle, Tenebrio molitor. These have similar nutritional value as crickets, except they are also very low in vitamin K. So just like crickets, supplements are necessary. Unlike crickets, these are relatively easy to keep on hand. Mealworms go dormant when placed in a refrigerator and can be stored that way for weeks without needing food or water.
Giant mealworms are actually the same species as regular mealworms that have been treated with insect hormones to delay them from forming a pupae and instead growing into larger than normal larvae.
Superworms, like mealworms, are also a beetle larvae. These are larvae of the Zophobas beetle, Zophobas morio. These are significantly larger than mealworms. On a dry matter basis, these worms are also higher in calories than both crickets and mealworms. Because of this you have to be careful not to overfeed your pet or they could become overweight. Otherwise, they are similar to mealworms nutritionally and supplements are necessary when feeding these as well. These store very well long term as long as they are provided moist vegetables for food. As long as they are housed in groups they will not pupate into beetles. Do not place them in the refrigerator, they will die.
Waxworms may look similar to maggots, but are actually the chubby larvae of the wax moth, Galleroa mellonela. While considered a pest to bee keepers, these fat little feeder insects are often tasty treats for reptiles and amphibians. Be careful, these little guys are high in calories, even higher in calories than Superworms. Feeding too many of them to your pet can quickly cause your pet to become obese. Just like with mealworms, these are high in phosphorus and low in calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin K. They can be stored in the refrigerator, but won't last as long as mealworms.