feeder-insects

Are Superworm and Mealworm Beetles Good for Reptiles?

October 22, 2020

Tenebrio molitor darkling beetle

Superworms and mealworms are fairly common as reptile feeders, but those are just the larvae. What about their adult form, beetles? Can you feed superworm and mealworm beetles to reptiles?

As it turns out, beetles are a much more commonly eaten bug in the wild than grubs, which makes sense, since grubs tend to spend most of their time out of sight, making them hard for reptiles to find. Both insectivorous and omnivorous lizards seem attracted to the way beetles crawl and get more excited over a scuttling beetle than a worm. 

Mealworm Beetles

According to ecology records, lizards are natural predators of Tenebrio molitor beetles. And according to this study, they have some great nutrition to offer:

  • 61% moisture
  • 26% protein
  • 7% fat
  • 2% ash

Contrast these numbers with those of the larvae, mealworms:

  • 62% moisture
  • 19% protein
  • 13% fat
  • 1% ash

In other words, mealworm beetles are higher in protein and lower in fat than the larvae, making them a leaner feeder. Furthermore, the higher ash content means that they’re likely to be richer in essential minerals like calcium.

Superworm Beetles

According to ecology records, lizards are among the natural predators of Zophobas morio, too. Superworm beetles have a hard shell and emit an unpleasant-smelling pheromone when they’re in danger, which is intended to deter predators, but many pet lizards seem not to mind this. Like mealworm beetles, superworm beetles also have a good nutrition profile:

  • 62% moisture
  • 26% protein
  • 5% fat
  • 2% ash

Contrast these numbers with those of the larvae, superworms:

  • 58% moisture
  • 20% protein
  • 18% fat
  • 1% ash

Although superworms can be a great source of protein, they also carry a worrying amount of fat. These concerns are greatly reduced post-pupation, though, as the beetles are much lower in fat and are also higher in protein. Plus, the higher ash content means that they’re likely to be a richer source of essential minerals like calcium.

Conclusion

So, can you feed superworm or mealworm beetles to your lizard? Absolutely!

Pupation rearranges an insect and changes its nutritional value without changing its species, making mealworm and superworm beetles an accessible way to create diversity in your pet’s diet. After pupation, both mealworms and superworms (now beetles) remain edible for reptiles, offering more protein, more minerals, and less fat than their larval forms.

Plus, feeding superworm and mealworm beetles to your reptile can function as both sensory enrichment and an enrichment activity. The beetles’ crunchy texture acts as sensory enrichment, and also may help clean the lizard’s teeth and gums. The beetles also give something for the lizard to hunt and chase, rather than being just an easy meal in a bowl, encouraging exercise and problem-solving.

(Oh, and for the record — although they don’t move very much, you can offer mealworm and superworm pupae to your lizard, too!)


Raise your own mealworm and superworm beetles with mealworms and superworms from DubiaRoaches.com!

 

"Tenebrio molitor" by Ryszard I is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


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