Best insects for bearded dragons and why

Discussion in 'Bearded Dragons' started by CheriS, Dec 2, 2005.

  1. CheriS

    CheriS Is well known here

    Sorry this is so long, but I could not make it shorter and explain, there seems to be much confusion over some facts of nutritional contents and what they really mean. I am still leaving out lots of things so if anyone wants more detail and study info, contact me off list

    Its more complex than just a listing of fats, and saying oh this one has this much, so its bad. You also have to note the difference between the % of something in content and the % of grams in weight/volume. I have spent a lot of time with a nutritionist and zoologist to try and understand nutritional values of feeders insects. The ranges are so varied and so many factors can make the same food good for one age and bad for another. For starters there are different types of fats and how the body handles those. Beardies we all know can not process most fats well, this is unique to them, where a chameleon or monitor can handle and process them better. They store in a beardie and will haunt them later on in the form of fatty liver disease ) iguanas are also noted for this same storage/breakdown issue. So this is something that is very important for bearded dragons and should be a main factor in finding which insects are better feeders for them.

    Some studies from years ago, did indicate that silkworms have higher % fat contents in overall content and this was misunderstood in nutrition they provided. But for use as a feeder, you have to look at the types of fats, how the animal process those fats and the % of calories from those fats opposed to the % of calories from proteins.. No food is good fed in excess or as a sole diet. Variety is very important to balance and to avail the dragon of a wider range of nutrients and trace elements, but avoiding the poor items such as spinach.

    This will probably shock some people, but as more studies are done we are learning more, our views or understanding of how food contents interact increase and we have to change our thinking. These are not from my studies, but others that I used to do my own study on feeder contents utilized by bearded dragons (what a beardie can eat and use in their body is different from what say a chameleon can) Remember when I say something like mealworms will impact a 2 month old dragons, that does not mean it will impact a hatchling gecko that is 1/2 the size. There are digestive differences that come into play between the two species and make it so the gecko that is 1/2 the size can actually digest something better than a larger beardie. Its physical and has nothing to do with the size difference of the two. Baby dragons have a short digestive tract and paper thin lining in the intestinal walls. They simple can not handle the amount of chitin, especially if other husbandry lacks anything, such as proper temps or poor substrate they may ingest.

    In assessing all the current insects feeders, silkworms have the lowest % of calories from fats of any of them, the highest % of calories from protein. Looking at waxworms they have almost 4 times the % of calories from fats as silkworms... huge difference. It's not just the overall nutritional contents that is important, it's the types (fats or proteins) and % of calories from them

    Silkworms are an ideal feeder insect for not only growing babies (due to the % of fats from protein), but also otherwise healthy animals and specifically they are the BEST feeder for recovering, injured, sick or older bearded dragons due to the enzyme serapeptase in them. I know this as I spent the past 2 years studying this and the effect of this enzyme on a severely injured bearded dragon and have related this enzyme to beneficial effects on them due to the serapeptase. No animal can last long without negative side effects on steroids or antiflammatories and we were looking for a more natural food source to help him and not due damaging side effects, but still give him good nutrition and pain relief. Silkworms with the enzyme serapeptase is a natural anti-flammatory and pain reliever, better than many drugs available and without the poor side effects of some.

    This is beside the point on the question if silkworm are too high in fat, but wanted to explain how I know what the content and interaction facts are and why I was seeking the answers. Some other interesting facts about feeders from the studies:

    2 week old crickets have a higher calorie content from protein than 5 week old crickets or adults. So another good reason to make sure babies are not eating crickets too large for them or to keep them on the smaller size. Yet its adult mealworms that have a higher % of calories from protein then the young mealworms or 1/2 grown ones. Again, another good reason to avoid mealworms, even small one for young dragons, the calories are higher in fats

    Just looking at calories processed from fats here is how they fall: waxworms are the highest, the next closest are tied between superworms and giant mealworms, then close (very close) come young mealworms, next is adult crickets, then adult mealworms, then young crickets and last is silkworms

    Now, on top of this above, you have to consider not only the fats from calories as mentioned above, but how other things in food, interact with that fat absorption. I will try to explains this briefly so it is easy to understand. EXAMPLE: Most know high oxalate foods can bind with Calcium and even if the animal is eating high calcium food, they are not getting much if any calcium since the oxalates are binding it and the animal can not absorb it (this is why you should avoid Spinach as a green for lizards). The same thing happens with fats in superworms and mealworms due to the chitin in them. The chitin binds with the fats and blocks the absorption of some of the fats. So even if the reptile is eating a higher fat food, they may actually be taking in and using less fat
    than a lower fat content food.

    Does that come across clear? It's not just what is in something that is valuable or harming, but how all the other things interact with them in the digestive process. Also, that digestive process can shange some betwwen the ages of the feeders and also the season they are eaten in. There are also other things to take into consideration in nutritional content and I have in the below list, but it would take pages to explain them all

    Due to the above and all other food content interactions, silkworms are a good food source due to lower % of digestible fats and enzyme found only in them. Superworms are a good food source (if the beardie is old enough) due to the meat to chitin ratio (better to avoid impaction) and the
    chitin actually blocks fat absorbtion. Mealworms are an okay feeder for the reason of chitin blocking fats (still not as good a food as supers if they are old enough) but should never be fed to baby dragons. Crickets are great for all the reasons including iron content that the others are low in and no bad ones. most important is that very young drickets have very high calories from proteins. Wax worms are the worst thing you can give them..due to all the bad reasons of little nutrition, loads of bad unprocessable fats and little protein calories... truly a junk and harming food

    * REMEMBER that some feeders should NOT be used due to animals too young or unable to digest them, such as the super and mealworms.These SHOULD NEVER be given to very young bearded dragons who have not reached the development stage where the digestive tract has lengthened from a hatchling stage. Also remember, greens are very important for all beardies and a better food source for mature bearded dragons than a heavy diet of insects.
  2. Thank you! This information is wonderful! It's too bad we have so many sticky's cuz this would be a perfect sticky thread.
  3. Eric4242

    Eric4242 Embryo

    Great read CheriS, really puts things into perspective .
  4. smiley

    smiley Embryo

    Great info. I have printed it off to give to others and future reference. I have one question though. At what age would you even consider the bd old enough to handle more adult foods?A year old or etc?
    What are the factors with roaches?
  5. CheriS

    CheriS Is well known here

    Crickets should remain no bigger than the space beteen their eyes their whole life. Smaller crickets usually have softer shelling as they shed almost daily when young. SO even thought they have a shelling, it is mostly soft.

    Superworms we start offering at 6 months or 12inches, whichever comes first and we only give them 2 at first and wait til they go poo and we can see they are digesting the chitin shelling, you will see some "rings" of the shelling in their poo, easier to see if they go in baths) Once you know they are digesting them fine, you can increase them, but we still only let them have them like every other day and only 4-6 then. They get circkets, silks, or pellets on the other days. Once they are eating supers, the cost of their food and the hassel of the cleaning cricekts does go down. AS adults there often will cut back on insects themselfs once they are grown and they only need 3-5 supers every other day to maintain their weigh.

    they can eat silks at any age, but again , they are very moist so we do limit them on those or they have have really loose poos. The adult dragons get 2 large silks(these are like 2.5- 3 inches each) every other day to every 3 days. but the adults get all the greens and pellets they want all day.

    We do not feed mealworms (I think supers are a better buy) with a more meat to chitin ratio and supers can be kept at room temp in gutload bedding.
  6. pdragon

    pdragon Embryo

    Hi Cheri, I don't post very often, but I am always looking at this forum. I have been working with dragons for a long time, and I would like to share some of my experiences and info. This may not be for everyone, and as we all know, what works for one person may not work for others. Over the years, I have tried all kinds of feeders for my colony of dragons. I learned the hard way that regular mealworms are the death of baby dragons. Even if the temps are optimum, they just can't seem to pass them. Crickets work well, but for babies, you have to worry about the dragons getting eaten at night. Roaches, unless you produce a million of them, is hard to feed them out exclusively. There seems to be virus problems with silkworms, if you don't keep them clean enough, they turn to mush. Other than that, they work very well. I have an account with the worm farm here in southern California. They suggested that I try using mini superworms. I tested some on some babies, fed them in the morning so they have the whole day to digest them. Because they move quickly, the babies went for them immediatley. They ate as many as they could handle, and were as fat as could be. I made sure they were hydrated, and the temps were good. Not one got impacted, or had back leg paralysis. Because the food was new to them, and they gorged themselves, I had two out of fifteen regurgitate them. Other than that they did very well. I have been feeding my babies primarialy mini supers for the last two years now, and had no problems at all. Don't get me wrong, I also feed small crickets and roaches too daily. I also have noticed a faster growth rate since I switched over. You can put a bunch of baby supers in a small dish with gutload, and they can eat them at will. Also, cannibalism is very, very low because of the constant access of food. Once the dragons are full size, I really slow down on the high fat foods, unless it is an breeding female. Just like people, too much high fat foods results in obesity and a short life. I really believe that if you want your dragon to live a long time, it needs to eat mostly vegetation when it is adult size. The same goes for veiled chameleons. I talked to a guy from Austrailia who was very knowlegeable about wild dragons. He said that the stomach contents in wild adults were about 85% vegetation. He also said that the dragons would sit on termite hills and pick them off one by one. I remember seeing one adult dragon that was in an outside pen picking termites off an old piece of wood. It just sat there patiently over the hole as if it were instinct. Horned lizards here require harvester ants in their diet in order to survive. I can't remember the name of the acid from the ants, but I guess it has an effect on their digestion. Do you think that termites might have something in them that may keep coccidia and diseases down? Has anyone tested termites on dragons? I would love to find out, maybe we have something better. This forum is great, thanks for everything, and sorry I am all over the place. Josh
  7. CheriS

    CheriS Is well known here

    HI Josh, nice to see you post, how are those transleucents doing?

    I have heard before that termites were a favorite insect of the beardies in the wild and also ant larva. I think no one here has really pursued it as termites are so destructive I do not think anyone rasies them commerically.

    There are soldier ant larva now for sale at some suppliers.
    We always recommend that people not feed their babies in the same enclosure they live in, due to nibbling on babies when they sleep too. I have seen some owners with some nasty bite marks from crickets on their babies and they infect so bad too.

    I have not tried or recommended the mini supers as I am still so leery of new owners that may not have otherwise perfect temps and hyfdration. and then inmpacting babies... I have seen too many impacted ones from mealworms brought to us, mostly form PetCo and once bought from there. The owners buy them and follow the stores advice (and the store itself sees them dying off impacted) but they say this is what their corporate office and corporate vets states to feed them..... its so pathetic!

    Have you tried goliath worms?
  8. smiley

    smiley Embryo

    I am learning so much from this post and I appericate the info. But what are your thoughts on feeding roaches to juvies? You may have answered my question when you stated all the things they could eat but if you could reinstate wether they can or should not have roaches.I thank you again.
  9. Janice

    Janice Embryo

    How bad are butterworms for beardies? Are they comparable to silkies, or to waxworms? I have also seen hornworms, and although expensive, would these be a good occasional feeder for a beardie?
  10. CheriS

    CheriS Is well known here

    smiley, I have this thing about roaches, ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww. At my prom, two dropped down the back of my dress while we were on the stage... I freaked!

    To this day I can not handle them and could never feed them. So I am a poor source for any info on them.

    Janice, i have never used butterworms either and would have tolookup the nutritional content and other properties, like I said above, its not just how much fats etc, but what types and other properties mixed together
  11. smiley

    smiley Embryo

    i myself have reservations about using the roaches and I haven't tried yet but I was told they were easy. I was considering it but I'm not surd I could touch them either.
  12. pdragon

    pdragon Embryo

    The transluscents are doing great. There should be some interesting stuff coming along this year. I accidentally bred trans to trans a few months ago when I was organizing my breeders. I hatched an entire clutch of PERFECT 100% trans. The tails were nice and fat, and the bodies were proportionate. They have been growing evenly, and pretty fast. It's been three weeks now, and they all look great. A few years ago I bred trans to trans, and had no survivors by three weeks. I guess it's a good thing that this happened, it's showing me that they are getting stronger, and that I am on the right track. The blue female dragon is about 15 inches now. She has yellow and orange spots all over her body. I origionally thought that it may have some sort of fungus. The spots only got larger when the dragon grew, but never progressed, or caused damage to the scales. It may just be a strange freckeled mutation. Randy from Alpha Dragons has been a great help with taking pictures. When they are done, I will post them.
    I haven't tried soldier fly larvae in large amounts. I had some a long time ago to try out. The dragons loved them, but never had enough too see a difference in health or growth. Hornworms are great! I highly reccomend them. A little messy though. It keeps the dragons hydrated, but they tend to squirt all over the place when eaten. Before the dragons went down, I was feeding them out like crazy. Like the silkworms, they are great for poor eaters. Not one dragon refused them. I suggest feeding them out before the skin gets leathery(before coccooning), or else the dragons seem to have a more difficult time eating them. There is another new feeder that is used in Europe with great success. It's supposed to be some kind of silverfish. Also, B. Lateralis(roach) are an excellent feeder for baby dragons. They are kinda disgusting, they resemble house roaches. They are a non climber, little smell, soft, and a perfect small size for baby dragons. I have been using these with great success.
    The problem with Petco is that the employees can only feed the reptiles what is on the shelf. When I was 19 years old(11 years ago), I used to work there. I had a dispute with the store manager because you could only feed the green Iguanas what was on the shelf. I remember it being a wet dog food type stuff. She refused to buy greens because any loss to the store would tap into her bonus. It just showed me that there is no concern for the animals and/or their quality of life. That was the end for me.
    Thanks for responding, I love to talk reptiles. There is so much to learn about these guys. This website is great! Thanks, Josh[/b]
  13. kephy

    kephy Moderator Staff Member

    Hey Josh, we're glad to have you here, sounds like you have a lot to add to this forum! I can't wait to see some pictures of your dragons! :)
  14. wsttxguy

    wsttxguy Embryo

    I have thought about trying some horn worms. My only concern is the horn. Does the horn not hurt them? Or do you have to remove it before feeding?
  15. Vertigo

    Vertigo Embryo

    I would like to say, I'm trying to breed silks now, and so far, I dragon would eat 100 silks in a day... it's expensive and you do have to limit them, but they are good and for most it would be best to use silks if your dragon won't eat crickets.

  16. tmx

    tmx Embryo

    CheriS, You need to make this post a stickie!!! Read it when you first wrote it, and now having to refer to it since it's on page three! This has a wealth of info in it, so in my opinion it needs to be a stickie!!!
  17. CoolBreeze

    CoolBreeze Embryo

    What combination of insects do you think would be best nutritionally for young beardies? I was thinking Crickets and Red wigglers. Now that I have read you post I would add Silks. I definitely want to include red wigglers since I have started raising them.
  18. RobertII

    RobertII Embryo

    For young Dragons I would say.
    Discoid Roaches
    Phoenix Worms
    Thats what I recommend for young dragons.

  19. revgav

    revgav Embryo

    So I'm the only person who feeds my beardie locusts?
    He loves them.
    they are not actually listed as having lots of fat as they're the insect equivalent of michael jordan.
    My little fella has been eating them since he was about 5 months. DUE TO ADVICE I GOT ON HERE I MAY ADD and now they're completely discounted?
    Is there something I've missed that all the people I buy from aren't telling me or what?
  20. RobertII

    RobertII Embryo

    I dont have locust available to me. (I dont think)
    and I dont know much about them.
    All I know is people in the UK and the east side of the world seem to use them alot.
    I am sure they are fine.


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