Insect Enthusiasts Venture Into Reptile Territory
Taking care of a pet is a full-time job, and we know it's not always easy. Sure, watching them go about their daily life can be oddly satisfying and playing with them can be pretty fun but cleaning up after them, and taking care of their nutritional needs can get pretty stressful sometimes.
Not to worry, us insect-enthusiasts at Livin Farms have ventured into reptile territory and are ready to give you a quick-guide to remind you why mealworms are the perfect snack for your reptilian children.
Please remember that are not reptile-experts, nor reptile vets, so we advise you to always consult with an expert before drastically changing your pets diet, and if questions - you can let us know via firstname.lastname@example.org and our Biology team will do their best to guide you.
Reptiles can eat Mealworms?
Yes, Ja, Sí, 是的, Mealworms can in fact be eaten by most Reptiles. We call these types of animals Insectivores, meaning that their diet consists completely or partially of insects.
What is a Feeder Insect?
Mealworms fall into a group loosely known as Feeder Insects. As the name suggests, feeder insects are insect species that are commonly used as animal feed for livestock, aquaculture, and in this case - pet food. This specific term is one you’ll find common when talking about birds & reptiles.
Common reptiles that are known to eat mealworms include:
- Bearded dragon
- Leopard gecko
- Crested gecko
- Veiled chameleon
- Blue-Tongue Skink
- Green Basilisk
Why are Self-Grown Mealworms the best option?
This is one we want to answer first, because there’s so many edible insects available in the market such as crickets, grasshoppers, wax worms, superworms, and hornworms (yes, hornworms)...so what makes the mighty mealworm special?
Two main things: Their nutritional profile & the ease and simplicity of farming them by yourself.
Nutrition wise, it’s pretty basic: Mealworms are high in protein and considered a good food staple for pets. Protein is important for energy, muscle building and cell maintenance. They also contain roughly ±15% fat, useful for absorption of vitamins, fat stores for egg laying, and maintaining body temperature.
If you'd like to know more about mealworms as a source of nutrition, read our previous blog.
Why Should I Grow Them?
Purchasing feeder insects at pet stores is definitely possible, but buying mealworms occasionally is not adequate to support the reptilian diet, nor is it budget-friendly.
Mealworms are super low maintenance creatures that don’t bite, don’t fly, and bonus: they can eat your food waste scraps thereby making you a sustainability ally without much effort.
On top of that, you don't have a lot of control on what is being fed to the mealies when purchasing them from external sources. This is important because healthy insects themselves must have a full digestive system with nutrients, vitamins & minerals in order to carry them forward to our reptile counterparts.
Find out about the Mealworm Diet in our Mealworm Menu Blog.
We're not saying that growing your own mealies is a walk in the park, but it's not that bad either. There are certainly some concerns but you'll find that they are mostly surrounding the maintenance of a suitable temperature & micro-climate or natural odor of the insects.
That is why, we kept the odor & microclimate in mind when designing our mealworm home, the Hive Explorer. Our creation comes with two types of air filters, preventing odor from escaping the mealie home. Also, it has a fan and temperature & humidity sensor in-built, which can optimize the internal climate for the insects. Lastly, it doesn't take-up too much space, and doubles as a unique centerpiece for modern homeowners.
What precautions do I need to take?
There are a few things you want to pay attention to, because it is absolutely essential to prioritize your pet, their personal preferences and their needs.
Personal Preference & Variety
If you were asked to eat pizza everyday, you’d be pretty happy at first. Days later, you’d still be pretty happy. But months later - I’m sure you’d reach a point where you’d never want to eat pizza again.
The same-ish concept goes for feeding your pets with insects like mealworms. Apart from finding out whether your gecko or chameleon buddy even likes mealies, you want to ensure they are provided with a range of nutrients depending on their individual needs. Think of mealies as one of few snacking options, not breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day - what a nightmare.
P.S. Not all lizards, chameleons, geckos or turtles eat mealworms - so research the type of animal you are hoping to feed so that you are aware of their nutritional needs.
Bearded dragon owners should control how often mealworms are fed to their dragons as mealworms have a higher fat content and can cause a drastic weight gain.
Similar to eating fast food, mealworms are a delicious treat to bearded dragons but should be accompanied with fruits or vegetables to keep your dragon healthy. Other more protein rich insects like crickets should also be used to maintain a good protein balance as well as prevent obesity.
Mealworms are known to have a relatively high phosphorus to calcium ratio - which means, they typically lack a sufficient amount of calcium when feeding to reptiles.
This is nothing to be too worried about, because the easiest way to safely feed mealies is to lightly dust them with calcium powder during feeding to optimize their profile. After all, calcium is necessary for healthy growth & development, so we want to be taking adequate care of our kids.
💡Pro-tip: Place your supplements into a container or bag containing calcium powder and lightly shake it to coat (shake-shake fry style). Remember to verify the frequency of calcium & other vitamin consumption with your local vet or expert.
Impaction: Gut Health
Long story short: almost anything can affect an animal's stomach and cause the accumulation of debris in the gut or intestine. This particular secondary condition is referred to as impaction and is a common term you will want to familiarize yourself with.
Bringing mealworms into the picture: mealworms have an exoskeleton of chitin, a pretty complex carbohydrate. When fed in excess, the abovementioned digestive issue can come into play.
To help prevent impaction one can:
- Place mealworms in a bowl to prevent your reptile from snapping up substrate along with their mealworms.
- Feed the reptiles newly molted mealworms as their exoskeleton will be more easily digested.
- Ensure your pet is always well hydrated, with a well-balanced diet of fresh cuttings, as impaction can be more serious due to dehydration.
💡Pro-tip: Keeping in mind that mealworms will try to escape by borrowing into the substrate, so a bowl or plate is highly recommended
And there you have it, our mealworm feeding guide is complete. I bet you're just itching to go out and get some for your pets to enjoy!
💡Pro-tip: If you've got some extra mealworms farmed, you can feed them to other animals including (but not limited to) chicken, dogs, cat and fish!