Best Feeder Insects For Reptiles

January 22, 2021

A Chameleon Eating a Cricket

Choosing the Best Feeder Insects for Reptiles

Unfortunately many commercial pet stores provide new reptile owners with false information on how to care for their new pet. Issues such as nutrition deficiency and metabolic bone disease can be common amongst uneducated and misguided keepers who fail to provide their reptiles with a balanced diet of staple feeder insects. A staple feeder insect is an insect that provides your reptile with sufficient nutritional value without creating health problems. It is important that the insects you are primarily feeding your reptile have a 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio (or as close to 2:1 as possible). All staple feeder insects will provide your reptile with nutritional value, a balanced ratio of calcium to phosphorus, and will be readily available.


Leopard Gecko in a Cave


Can I Feed My Reptile One Kind of Insect?

Whether you have a leopard gecko, a chameleon, or something in between, all insectivores and omnivores need a variety in their diet. Without a balanced variety of feeder insects, your reptile will begin developing problems such as obesity, vitamin deficiency, and organ failure. This is because different insects supply your reptile with different nutrients and benefits. Plus, your reptile’s taste buds will enjoy the diversity!



What are the Best Staple Feeder Insects for Reptiles?


Black Soldier Fly Larvae


Black Soldier Fly Larva
MD-Terraristik – Laut [1] ist Dennis Kress Mitinhaber des Unternehmens, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


The black soldier fly larvae contains an almost perfect 2:1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus, making it the perfect meal for a bearded dragon. Because the calcium content is so high with this particular feeder, no extra dusting is necessary. Black soldier fly larvae is ideal for preventing metabolic bone disease, and there is no worry of calcium overdose since the extra calcium powder is unnecessary. The black soldier fly larvae is also extremely low maintenance to keep, unlike some other feeders — crickets for example.




Silk Worm on a Leaf


Silkworms are good for more than just making silk, they are also nutritional feeders that are great for reptiles. These insects are packed with a high amount of calcium, protein, iron, and vitamins B1, B2, and B3. They only have a 1:2 calcium to phosphorus ratio, but when fed in rotation with other feeders they still make an excellent meal. They have soft bodies that are perfect for young reptiles, as there is no risk for impaction. They have a high moisture content which can give your reptile diarrhea if fed too often, but this high moisture content also makes them perfect for hydrating a dehydrated reptile. When properly cared for, silkworms can last about a month before dying or turning into moths.



Dubia Roaches


Dubia Roach on a Leaf
Drägüs, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons


Dubia roaches make excellent feeders as they are high in protein and can be an excellent source of hydration. These nutrient packed feeders also come in a wide variety of sizes, making them efficient for most insect eating reptiles. They have become quite popular in the reptile feeder market too, because they are very easy to keep, and don’t smell bad like crickets do. It should be noted that dubia roaches have a 1:3 ratio of calcium to phosphorus which isn’t ideal, but with proper calcium dusting, and a variety of other insects they will still make an excellent meal for your reptile.




A House Cricket
Geyersberg, Professor emeritus Hans Schneider, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons


Crickets have been a popular staple insect feeder for bearded dragons, leopard geckos, and spiders for decades now. They are inexpensive and readily available at almost all pet stores. Despite their popularity, crickets do not provide a high nutritional value, and have a 1:9 calcium to phosphorus ratio. This means that they must be dusted or they will not supply your reptile with a healthy dose of calcium. Another cause for concern with crickets is their hard exoskeleton. Without excellent husbandry, too many crickets can lead to impaction, which in serious cases, can lead to death. When fed in rotation with a variety of other insects, crickets can be fed to reptiles without negative side effects.




Hornworm on a Tomato


Hornworms are soft bodied insects, meaning that, like silkworms, there is no risk for impaction. They are very high in moisture content, and therefore should not be fed too often without risking diarrhea. If your reptile is fed a variety of feeder insects in rotation, there is no risk with feeding hornworms. Hornworms are nutritious and have a 1:3 ratio of calcium to phosphorus, meaning that they will need to be lightly dusted with calcium powder. They are also readily available at most pet stores. 



Why Gut Loading Insects is Important

Gut loading insects is oftentimes an overlooked task, especially by new keepers. In order to provide your reptile with the most nutritious food possible, you have to start by providing your feeder insects with nutritious food. After all, you are what you eat. If you provide your feeders with water and calcium packed nutritious food, they’ll in turn provide your reptile with extra nutritious food. If you don’t, your feeder insect’s nutritional value will be mediocre. You should provide your feeder insects with a high quality insect food (there are several different brands to choose from, but always check the reviews before making a decision) which can be found both in pet stores and online. In addition to providing your feeder insects with a high quality insect food, you should also supply them with water, fruits, and vegetables. Reptiles that are fed gut loaded insects tend to live longer healthier lives than those that are not.