Bearded dragon crickets
Crickets are very popular to feed to pet Bearded dragons and other insectivorous lizards. These insects contain most of their requirements, namely proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins and moisture.
Their practicality, availability and ease of breeding put crickets in the number one spot when it comes to feeder insects for Bearded dragons. Various cricket species can be bred at home or can be obtained from specialised pet shops and online retailers (Buy live crickets from Amazon.com ).
Types of crickets
The two main cricket species fed to Bearded dragons in South Africa are (1) european house crickets, also called the grey cricket (Acheta domestica), and (2) common black crickets, also called the field cricket or the two spotted cricket (Gryllus bimaculatus). Tropical house crickets (Gryllodes sigillatus) are also popularly fed to Bearded dragons in other countries. All three these cricket species are high in protein and energy.
European house cricket values*
With their high protein and calcium availability, crickets are among the best insects to feed to Bearded dragons:
- Moisture 73% (5) (6) (8) (18)
- Total protein 64% (3) (5) (6) (8)
- Total fat 21% (3) (5) (6) (8)
- Calcium:Phosphorus ratio 1:5 (6) (8) (18)
* Values are averages calculated from sources. Expressed as %DM except moisture.
When comparing the European house cricket with cockroaches (B. dubia), crickets are more proliferous and softer. They have more protein (ca. 64% (3) (5) (6) (8) vs. 50% (9) (15) (16) ), less fat (21% (3) (5) (6) (8) vs. 36% (9) (15) (16) ), but less available calcium (1:5 (6) (8) (18) vs. 1:1 (9) (18) ).
Feeding crickets to Bearded dragons
Crickets are easy to dust and gut-load. When compared with grasshoppers and many other feeder insects, they are easier to breed, their legs are more reduced and the thorax is easier to digest, which, more importantly, makes them safe to feed.
Crickets should always be gut-loaded 24 to 48 hours prior to being fed to Bearded dragons. Because feeder crickets have a less favourable Ca:P ratio (1:5 (6) (8) (18) ) it is also recommended that they are dusted with an appropriate Bearded dragon calcium supplement two to three times a week.
In order to prevent the spread of diseases such as Bearded dragon coccidiosis, uneaten crickets should be removed after about 20 minutes. By removing free-roaming crickets after each meal, stress and possible physical bite injuries can also be prevented.
Different sized crickets are fed to different sized Bearded dragons. As a rule of thumb, the crickets should be no larger than the length of the space between the eyes of the Bearded dragon that is being fed.
Commercial crickets are sold as large, medium, small or pinhead sizes. Hatchling crickets, or so-called pinheads, are wingless and literally the size of the head of a standard pin. Pinheads are usually fed to very small and baby Bearded dragons.
Small crickets are larger than pinheads, but still only a few millimetres long. Medium crickets are about 1 cm / 0.4 ” in length and depending on the species, adult crickets grow up to about 2 – 3 cm / 0.8 – 1.2 ” in length.
Selecting the correct crickets for Bearded dragons
There are various criteria used to select crickets for Bearded dragons. It is strongly recommended to only feed commercial crickets bought from reputable cricket breeders or pet shops. Apart from their size, other factors will include quality and price. A ‘fresh’, well-fed cricket will be more nutritious and probably also taste better.
How many crickets to feed
As a general rule of thumb, only the amount of crickets that can be consumed within ten to twenty minutes should be given per Bearded dragon. Depending on the size of the Bearded dragon, the size of the cricket and the frequency of feeding, this can be anything from one or two to more than fifty crickets per feeding. By removing free-roaming crickets after each meal, stress, spreading of diseases and possible physical bite injuries can be prevented.