9 Insects To Feed Your Bearded Dragon For Optimum Health
You may be asking, what are the top feeders for promoting your bearded dragon’s health? With so many options available, it can be downright confusing to answer this question. After researching, I found that it’s possible to spoil our beardies without jeopardizing their health.
The following are my favorite insects to offer to bearded dragons, ranked from #1 to #9. These include roaches, worms, and crickets. Offering variety is essential to having a happy and healthy reptile. Any of the choices listed below can be offered as a staple diet but be sure to use a combination when feeding.
Please remember that all choices on this list make for fantastic food items. #9 could very well be #1 for YOU and that’s the beauty of it!
Phoenix worms (hermetia illucens, aka calci-worms, black soldier fly larvae, BSFL)
Whether you’re a seasoned breeder or a new dragon owner, you’ll find that most keepers prefer the black soldier fly larvae over any other feeder out there. These have taken the industry by storm and continue to be a popular choice among most reptile enthusiast. Definitely my number one favorite insect to offer especially as a staple.
- Soft bodied which means they are easy to digest and less prone to causing impaction
- Contain not only high levels of calcium but also a good balance of Phosphorus which prevents issues like Metabolic Bone Disease or egg binding in breeder females
- Do not need additional supplementation due to optimum CA:P ratio
- Have a good shelf life and will last around 4 weeks at room temperature
- Great prey item that wiggles and moves restlessly stimulating your dragon to attack
- Can be stored in the fridge at 50F to last a couple months
- Do not have a smell or odor
- Cannot chirp or make annoying noises
- Multiple size options available ranging from 1/8” to ¾” long
- Provide adequate amounts of protein which boosts growth and reproduction
- Little to no maintenance
- Cannot transmit diseases or parasites to your Beardies
- Easy to gutload and dust
How many times to offer per day and recommended sizing:
Hatchlings – 5/16” or “Small” worms
4” to 6.5” long bearded dragons – 7/16” or “Medium” BSFL
Juvenile to Adults – ¾ or “Large”
As a rule of thumb for all insects, be sure to feed only as much as they can eat within 10-15 minutes or whenever they stop before that. For frequency, babies fed 2-3 times per day and adults are 1-2 times per day.
Dubia roaches (Blaptica dubia, orange-spotted roach, Guyana)
Number two on the list are the amazing dubias. These cockroaches are a tropical species and have many benefits nutritionally that make it a quality choice above others. Notably they are high in protein and have a great meat to shell ratio which promotes growth especially in bearded dragons.
Due to being heavier bodied, it takes less roaches to satisfy your pet’s hunger thus saving you money in the long run. They are also available everywhere online and even in some local pet shops.
- Docile bugs that will not bite or scratch your beardies
- High level of protein which encourages growth and repairs cells
- Non-climbing, non-jumping, and odorless
- Noninvasive and will not infest your home if they escape
- Slow growing and can live for about 2 years
- Can be fed at and to all stages
- More calcium and less phosphorus which is good for breeding females
- Voracious eaters which gutload without a problem further boosting nutritional value
- Fairly active
- Inexpensive and readily available online and offline
- Great for rehabbing rescues and malnourished BDs
- Very filling
Quantity and frequency to consume:
Hatchlings – 0.25” in length “Extra Smalls”
Juvis – 3/8” to 0.5” length “Smalls”
Sub Adults – 5/8” long “Mediums”
Adults – 7/8” to 1” long “Large”
Frequency depends on overall size and age of your lizard, feeding 2-3 times per day is generally acceptable.
Discoid roaches (Blaberus Discoidalis, False Death Heads)
These specimens are basically a Florida legal Dubia with the exception that they get about half an inch larger and contain more meat. I’ve also noticed that Discoids will grow faster as nymphs until their final instar which takes a little longer to mature than Blaptica. So they actually grow quicker but breed slower in contrast to dubia roaches. Also, they are much more active and will climb or run around enticing your reptile more.
They won’t “play dead” or hide away as much as their counter parts. Lastly, their frass (poop) is not as irritable as other roach frass in my experience. When cleaning, I do not have allergic reactions such as sneezing or coughing compared to other species. Since they contain more meat, they will take less to feed than other bugs.
Turkestan roaches (shelfordella tartara, lats, rusty reds, Turkestan red runner)
Can you say underrated and underappreciated? The only bug that’s more underappreciated would probably be the orange heads in my opinion. One tiny downside to red runners is their sizing. They only grow to be the length of an adult cricket.
They are meatier however and a lot more nutritious pound for pound or in this instance gram for gram that crickets. Since they cost substantially less, you can feed more without breaking the bank.
- Hardy and reproduce like crazy
- Easy to digest due to lower chitin content
- Move extremely fast but are easily contained in a food bowl
- Have never had any reptile including beardeds turn them down
- Do not burrow or dig
- Long lifespan (24 Months)
- Grow extremely quick
- High in protein, low in fat
- More nutrients per body weight compared to other roaches
- Very low maintenance
- Will slow down considerably when dusted
Orange head roaches (Eublaberus Posticus)
These grow to be the same size as Discoids but are livelier. Nymphs hatch out smaller than dubia but grow to be bigger in size. It’s hard to find a bug large enough to satisfy adult BDs and this is one of the main reasons why I prefer posticus over the competition. They aren’t as accessible or readily available as other bugs otherwise I would place these at #3 or even #2 on the list.
Orange heads are also more aggressive occasionally nipping at each other’s wings when food is scarce or humidity is low. This does not affect them nutritionally however. Aesthetically they are the most beautiful roaches I’ve seen as adults. I also noticed that most bearded dragons will go directly for the head possibly due to the orange pattern they display. I found that these also weigh slightly more than discoids especially during the nymph stages.
Silkworms or silkies as known in the industry have been around for over 5,000 years! Originally from China, these worms have the highest protein content of any insect on the market.
As previously stated, protein is needed for growth and recovery. They are also easily digestible due to not having an outer shell. Packed with moisture, vitamins, and minerals these guys are great for hydrating and boosting the immune system of your pets. They grow extremely fast reaching adulthood in 30-40 days. Really the only negative to these guys is the fact that they only eat mulberry leaves or chow.
This makes them very expensive as feeders otherwise I would have listed these as #1.
- Naturally produce Serrapeptase which is an anti-inflammatory enzyme beneficial to all animals that consume it
- Extremely high levels of protein and very low levels of fat
- Juicy and very enticing
- Do not hide or play dead
- Good CA:P ratio
- Can be fed to all sizes due to having little to no chitin content
- Slow moving and terrible at escaping which makes them easy to catch
- Do not bite or harass your BD
- Can be fed exclusively as feeders
If you have the money to feed these guys more frequently, I would highly recommend doing so. They are definitely a natural super food for your lizard. You can also feed larger silkies due to the low probability of impaction.
Hornworms (Manduca sexta, Goliath Worms, Tobacco, Hawk Moth Larvae, Tomato Worm)
These green caterpillars are great at stimulating feeding response. Though not as high in protein as silks, hornworms are very high in calcium promoting strong bones. They are also high in water content making them great for hydrating rescues or sick reptiles.
- Great for picky eaters
- Good for restoring calcium after a taxing breeding season
- Very low fat
- Recommended for picky or finicky eaters
- Grow very fast
A longtime favorite, supers can be fed to BDs that are sixteen inches or longer. I do not recommend feeding younger or smaller than this due to a kink in their digestive tract. After 16 inches, you can use superworms to add some variety to their diet.
Many owners will use these as treats. I also feed these regularly but wouldn’t feed them exclusively. They cannot be refrigerated and store much differently than mealworms. My animals are infatuated with them and tend to choose them over other bugs. Place them at room temperature and you’ll have food available for the next couple of months
- Very easy to keep and store
- High fiber and protein
- Move restlessly
- Less chitin
- Gutload very well
- Fairly inexpensive
Last but not least we have live crickets. One of the oldest and established bugs in the market, these guys can be fed to a wide array of animals. Very cheap and easily found at most big chain pet stores, it’s hard to pass up on crix especially when you forget to order or don’t have time to spare. They are fairly nutritious and easy to gutload. Storing is also a breeze but I recommend buying extra as they tend to die off if not cared for properly.
- Very popular feeder
- High protein
- Multiple sizes available
- Gutload well
- Easy to breed
There you have it guys! I hope you found my list of feeder insects for your bearded dragon’s optimum health helpful and useful. I felt that I needed to share content like this as I often wondered which were best for my BD. As always, if you have any questions feel free to email me or comment in the section below. I promise I will provide an answer ASAP. Thanks again for reading!