As bearded dragon owners, we have to make sure our beardies have a healthy diet with a variety of foods to meet all their needs. Bugs are part of a well-balanced diet for these reptiles, but what bugs can a bearded dragon eat and which ones should we avoid feeding them? And we can’t forget the baby beardies and what they should and shouldn’t eat. So let’s get into all the info you need to know about live feeders, including where to get them and tips for feeding!
What Bugs Can a Bearded Dragon Eat?
Bearded dragons are omnivorous reptiles that enjoy a varied diet of live insects, vegetables, and fruits. Here’s a list of the best feeder insects that are safe for bearded dragons to eat, along with brief descriptions of each and why they are suitable:
Crickets are a common and readily available feeder insect. They are an excellent source of protein and easy for bearded dragons to catch. They’re a good source of energy for your younger dragons and adult dragons alike.
Dubia roaches are nutritious insects with a soft exoskeleton, making them easy for bearded dragons to digest. They are rich in protein and have a good calcium-to-phosphorus ratio.
Mealworms are beetle larvae and are a popular choice, although they should be fed in moderation due to their higher chitin content. They are rich in protein but should be part of a varied diet.
Superworms are the larvae of darkling beetles and are larger than mealworms. They are a good occasional treat. They provide a different texture and are a good source of protein.
Phoenix Worms (Black Soldier Fly Larvae):
These soft-bodied larvae are high in calcium. They have a naturally balanced calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. Since they’re an excellent source of calcium, suitable for maintaining proper bone health.
Soft-bodied caterpillars that are highly nutritious. They are easy for bearded dragons to consume. High in protein and low in fat, with a good calcium content.
Hornworms are large, soft-bodied caterpillars with a high moisture content. They are a good source of hydration and are lower in fat compared to some other feeder insects.
Soft and brightly colored caterpillars. They are high in fat and should be fed as an occasional treat. Their high-fat content makes them a good source of energy when given in moderation.
Can Baby Bearded Dragons Eat the Same Bugs as Adult Beardies?
While the primary types of live food that baby and adult bearded dragons eat are generally the same, there are some considerations to keep in mind due to differences in size, nutritional requirements, and ease of consumption. Here are some factors to consider with younger beardies:
1. Size of Insects:
Young or baby bearded dragons may struggle with larger insects that are suitable for adults because of their small size. It’s important to choose appropriately sized insects that are easy for them to catch and swallow. As the bearded dragon grows, you can gradually increase the size of the insects.
2. Nutritional Needs:
Baby bearded dragons have higher protein requirements compared to adults for growth and development. So the best insects for their diet would be a higher proportion of smaller, protein-rich insects. As they mature, the ratio of vegetables and other plant matter in their diet can gradually increase.
3. Variety in Diet:
It’s essential to provide a diverse diet to ensure that both baby and adult bearded dragons receive a broad range of nutrients. While the types of insects may be similar, you should also offer a variety of vegetables and occasional fruits as part of a balanced diet.
4. Calcium and Vitamin Supplements:
Both baby and adult bearded dragons require a calcium supplement like calcium powder and vitamin supplements. However, the amount and frequency may differ. Baby dragons, during periods of rapid growth, may need more frequent supplementation compared to adults. Follow the recommended guidelines from your veterinarian.
Common insects suitable for both baby and adult bearded dragons include crickets, dubia roaches, phoenix worms, silk worms, and appropriately sized mealworms and superworms. Always make sure that the insects are appropriately sized for the age and size of young bearded dragon’s diet.
Bugs a Bearded Dragon Shouldn’t Eat
While bearded dragons are generally opportunistic feeders, there are some bugs that should be avoided due to potential health risks. Here is a list of bugs that bearded dragons shouldn’t eat:
Fireflies (Lightning Bugs):
Fireflies contain toxins called lucibufagins that can be harmful or even lethal to bearded dragons if ingested.
These bugs can produce a foul-smelling liquid that may be toxic to bearded dragons.
Ladybugs can secrete a substance that may be toxic to bearded dragons.
Stink bugs can release a pungent odor and may contain chemicals that are not suitable for consumption.
Centipedes and Millipedes:
Some centipedes and millipedes can secrete toxins or defensive chemicals that can be harmful to bearded dragons.
Bees and Wasps:
The stingers of bees and wasps can be dangerous and cause adverse reactions if a bearded dragon is stung.
While some spiders may not be directly harmful, their bites can cause irritation or discomfort. Additionally, some spiders are venomous.
Ticks and Parasitic Insects:
These can transmit diseases and parasites to bearded dragons.
Caterpillars with Warning Colors:
Caterpillars with bright colors often use these as a warning sign for predators. They may be toxic or unpleasant for bearded dragons to consume.
Wild-Caught Insects from Pesticide-Treated Areas:
Insects collected from areas treated with pesticides or herbicides can contain harmful chemicals that may negatively impact the health of bearded dragons.
It’s essential to ensure that any bugs offered to bearded dragons are from a safe and pesticide-free environment. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to consult with a reptile veterinarian or do thorough research to confirm the safety of a particular insect species for bearded dragons.
Where to Get Live Insects for Your Bearded Dragon
If you’re wondering what bugs can a bearded dragon eat, you might also be wondering where you would even get those bugs. There are several places where you can get live insects for your bearded dragon. Here are some common options:
1. Local Pet Store:
Many pet stores carry a variety of live feeder insects, including crickets, mealworms, superworms, and more. Local pet shops or chain stores with a reptile section are likely to have a selection of live insects.
2. Online Retailers:
Numerous online retailers specialize in providing live insects for reptile owners. You can order a variety of feeder insects in bulk and have them delivered to your doorstep. Ensure that the online supplier is reputable and guarantees the health of the insects upon arrival.
3. Reptile Expos:
Reptile expos and shows often have vendors selling live feeder insects. These events provide an opportunity to not only purchase insects but also to learn more about reptile care from experts and enthusiasts.
4. Local Breeders:
Some reptile breeders or enthusiasts breed their own feeder insects. Local reptile clubs, forums, or social media groups may connect you with breeders in your area. This can be a good way to get insects that are raised with care and potentially at a lower cost.
5. Farmers’ Markets or Specialty Shops:
Some farmers’ markets or specialty pet shops may carry live insects or insect colonies suitable for feeding bearded dragons. Ensure that the insects are raised in a clean and safe environment.
6. Home Breeding:
Consider breeding your own feeder insects at home. This can be a cost-effective and convenient way to ensure a steady supply of live insects. Common insects for home breeding include crickets, mealworms, superworms, and Dubia roaches.
Tips for Feeding Your Bearded Dragon Bugs:
Now that the question what bugs can a bearded dragon eat has been answered. Let’s talk about some tips and tricks that make feeding easier or better. Feeding live bugs to your bearded dragon is an essential part of providing a balanced and nutritious diet, so we want to make sure you don’t skip it. Here are some tips to ensure a safe and healthy feeding experience for both your bearded dragon and the live insects:
1. Selecting Live Bugs:
Choose a variety of feeder insects to provide a well-rounded diet. Crickets, dubia roaches, mealworms, superworms, phoenix worms, and silk worms are popular choices. And don’t forget the size matters, as mentioned above.
2. Gut Loading:
Feed the insects a nutritious diet before offering them to your bearded dragon. This process, known as gut loading, enhances the nutritional content of the bugs. Common gut-loading foods include fresh vegetables, fruits, and specialized gut-loading commercial diets.
Dust the live bugs with calcium and vitamin supplements before offering them to your bearded dragon. This helps ensure that your dragon receives essential nutrients, especially calcium, which is crucial for bone health.
4. Feeding Schedule:
Establish a regular feeding schedule. Young bearded dragons may require multiple feedings per day, while adults can be fed once a day or every other day. Adjust the frequency based on your dragon’s age and individual needs.
5. Observe the Hunt:
Bearded dragons often enjoy hunting their prey. Allow them to actively pursue and catch live bugs. This not only provides mental stimulation but also helps maintain natural behaviors.
6. Monitor Eating Habits:
Pay attention to your bearded dragon’s eating habits. If they consistently refuse to eat a particular insect or show signs of distress, it’s essential to investigate the issue. Consult with a veterinarian if you have concerns.
7. Quarantine Live Insects:
If you purchase live insects from external sources, consider quarantining them for a brief period to ensure they are free from parasites or diseases that could potentially harm your bearded dragon.
Some feeder insects, like phoenix worms, have a high water content, contributing to hydration. However, it’s crucial to offer fresh water to your bearded dragon regularly, especially if they primarily consume insects with lower moisture content.
There you have it! All the information you need about feeding your pet reptile bugs! It’s crucial to monitor your bearded dragon’s growth, behavior, and overall health. If you have concerns or questions about their diet, consult with a reptile veterinarian who can provide guidance tailored to your specific bearded dragon’s needs for proper care throughout its lifetime.
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