Mealworms vs Crickets

Both mealworms (tenebrio molitor) and crickets (Gryllodes sigillatus or Acheta domesticus) can be great for certain types of pets. One crawls and wiggles while the other jumps enticing your animals to pounce.

There are often comparisons between these two feeder insects due to the popularity and market share. I will be going over the differences between the two and recommendations on which ones to feed your reptiles.

The main differences between mealies and crix are meat to shell ratio, fat content, survival rate, chitin levels, and disease-transmitting risks.

Meat Density

All feeders contain a certain degree of nutrients that help sustain your animals. Protein is one of them and correlates directly with growth rates.

Simply put, the more protein the better the feeder in most cases. Meatier bugs tend to have higher levels whereas fattier ones contain lower amounts. In the case of the yellow larvae for example, they have medium levels of protein at 20%. Live crix contain roughly 22%. For the verdict when it comes to this aspect, I would say they are slightly better.

Fats

Another compound that both insects contain is fat. The general consensus is that lower fat results in a healthier item. It provides energy especially for malnourished or breeding reptiles as well as hatchlings and juveniles. Leopard geckos for example can adequately store it in their tails. One worm contains double the amount of fat compared to a cricket. Depending on your lizards needs, this can be a good or bad thing.

Too many mealies can lead to fatty liver disease and obesity amongst other problems. It’s best to feed in moderation due to these risks.

  • Mealies at 12%
    • Great for rehabbing
  • Crix at 6%
    • Low risk staple for most animals

Survival Rates

Acheta domesticus (house crix) go from egg to adulthood in roughly one month eventually dying around two months of age. With a slightly longer life span, the yellow worms can live for about four months.

In my experience, crickets tend to die off much quicker and easier than most feeder insects. They are also ultra sensitive to environmental changes such as fluctuations in temps or sanitation. Larvae on the other hand are hardier and seem to take a wider range of temperatures making it ideal for storage. Adequate air flow is a necessity as too little will kill both species. All things equal, you will experience less die-offs with worms compared to their counterparts.

Fibrous Chitin

Indigestible and found in most bugs that contain exoskeletons. Less is better as high levels can cause impaction or blockage of the intestinal tract. Mealworms are notorious for having more chitin than most feeders. Leos can handle the chitin at all life stages whereas young beardies tend to become impacted especially if husbandry is subpar. I would not advise feeding these to your beardies at all. Instead, I have compiled a list of the best alternatives for your bearded dragon.

Crickets also contain chitin but seem to be digested easier. I have yet to hear a case of impaction as a result of feeding exclusively crix.

Ease Of Feeding

Larvae are easily contained and do not climb glass or smooth surfaces. I noticed that younger reptiles have an easier time catching these as they cannot jump away. You will have less escapees if you do decide to tong feed as well. Because they are contained, you do not have to worry about your animal being bitten or harmed. Leos can be fed exclusively mealies at all life stages.

Animals That Eat Both

  • Various geckos
  • Frogs
  • Tarantulas
  • Hedgehogs
  • Sugar gliders
  • Bluebirds
  • Chameleons
  • Rats
  • Mice

Parasites and Disease

Crickets are known to carry diseases that can decimate a colony rather quickly. It’s important to keep their housing clean and well ventilated to avoid parasitic or bacterial growth. These parasites can also lead to intestinal worms which leech on the nutrients of your reptile. Mealworms don’t seem to transmit viruses to each other and are therefore less risky.

Word Of Caution

As some of you may know, crix are very capable of escaping and infesting your home, especially the Acheta domesticus. When feeding these off, make sure to have a secure lid along with your smooth sided tub. I once had a couple large crickets escape and about a week later I could hear them chirping away in my garage. This drove me nuts and I had to hunt them down which was a daunting task.

Dusting

Whichever insect you decide to utilize, be sure to dust them for added benefits. Dusting is the process of coating your critters with a thin layer of multivitamin powder or calcium. The animal will ingest the feeder along with the healthful powders. I recommend doing this once a week as reptiles can overdose on certain supplements such as D3.

Cost

Both are highly affordable but larvae are a bit cheaper. With shipping included crickets are about $0.02 cents each and mealies are roughly $0.01 each.  This is due to maintenance and ease of breeding. Crix need a bit more maintenance and as stated earlier do not store as well as mealies.

The Verdict

As far as overall nutrition, I would have to give my vote to banded crickets. They are also fun to watch when trying to escape your herps. They do a better job at stimulating the senses of your small animals.

Lastly, they are easily accessible in that you can purchase them from almost any pet store local to you. On a side note however, offering different feeder insects is recommended. Variety in diet will lead to the absorption of different nutrients benefiting overall health.

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