If you have reptiles, chickens, or any insectivore pet, there are a few things you should know about feeder insects!
Not all feeders are equal. With different nutrients, husbandry requirements, and life cycles, it's important to know what insect species you're feeding your pets.
None of these feeders should be your sole source of nutrients for pets; it is important to give them a variety of feeders while meeting their other specific dietary needs.
Here are some facts and tips for maximizing your live feeders!
The most common, and most readily available feeder, are mealworms. However, they aren't the best nutritionally for your pets.
Mealies have a hard outer layer, called chitin, that isn't easily digestible for some pets, like your reptiles, and can sometimes cause blockages.
Feeder mealworms are best kept in the fridge, where they become dormant and can't pupate or breed. Before feeding to reptiles, like leopard geckos or bearded dragons, it is best to gut-load your feeders with veggies for a half an hour. The better fed the feeders are, the more nutrients your pets are getting.
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Superworms, or zophobas morio, are more active than mealies and have less chitin, making them a better feeder choice.
Supers are very active, making them highly enticing to pets that enjoy hunting or foraging for their food.
You can gut-load supers with slices of potato which provide more nutrients and moisture. Note that chickens should not eat raw potatoes. Superworms do not need to be refrigerated and have a very long shelf life.
House crickets, achetus domesticus, are another readily-available and common feeder, and a very healthy choice for pets.
Crickets are harder to maintain, and must be fed and have a water source if you plan to buy in bulk. The water source needs to be a sponge or food that contains moisture, because feeder crickets will drown in standing water.
They are easy to gut-load, and active, which is good for pets that like to hunt. Crickets should not be left in an enclosure with reptiles because they nibble. Only feed your reptile as many as they can eat, and remove the rest.
These soft white worms should only be fed as an occasional treat, as they have a very high fat content.
Wax worms should also be kept dormant in the fridge, allowing any moisture to dry out when necessary.
Waxies are great for animals that are malnourished or need to put on weight. They are great for breeder females and rescues.
These black soldier fly larvae are the best nutritionally for your pets.
Phoenix worms are very active and have very high calcium levels, which is great for your pet. If they do pupate and you see flies, they can be eaten by your reptiles as well.
Phoenix worms are very low maintenance. They are kept in the substrate they come in, do not need to be fed or refrigerated.
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Dubia are a great addition to your pet's diet as they have a very high meat to shell ratio.
Dubia roaches are another great feeder for pets that like a bit of a chase. They are easy to maintain in the container they come in, and can be gut-loaded easily.
Dubia can be ordered from feeder websites and purchased in some local pet stores.
Horn worms are the best choice for a pet on a hunger strike. Horn worms are bright green and work great for enticing picky eaters.
Horn worms have a high water content which makes them great for rescues or dehydrated insectivores. The warmer they are kept, the faster they will grow.
They are high in calcium, low in fat, and don't have hard chitin, making them easily digestible. If allowed to pupate, you will have a large hawk moth on your hands, so make sure to only purchase as many as you need.
Silk worms, or Bombyx mori, are the best choice for your insectivores, but aren't as easy to come by.
Found on feeder websites, these worms have a very short life cycle (18-30 days) and grow up to three inches long. They are low in fat and high in calcium and protein, making them a very well-rounded feeder.
Some other insects that have good nutrient composition include the: mealworm beetle, American cockroach, and even wild-caught insects.
Make sure that no matter what you are feeding your insectivore pets, they're getting a variety of feeders to achieve the best nutrition possible.
Just like we get bored with eating the same thing, so do they!
Whether you are a chicken owner, a reptile enthusiast, or an amphibian keeper, the nutritional value of feeder insects as an essential food source is undeniable!
Tell us what you feed your pets in the comments below!
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