Bearded Dragons make for a wonderful pet, but if you’ve owned one before you know that feeding them can be a challenge. But one of their favorite treats is mealworms!
So many owners don’t even consider adding mealworms to the bearded dragon’s diet, and that’s why it is important to focus on this topic and discuss their benefits.
Mealworms are loaded with quality nutrition and essential nutrients. In this article, we will take a look at all the important aspects of using mealworms as part of a dragon’s regular diet, such as how much and what kind to feed them.
Mealworms, or more specifically Yellow mealworms, are the larval stage of the Darkling beetle (Tenebrio molitor). They are known to be tasty to Bearded dragons, but contain high levels of fat, making them better for offering as snacks.
Mealworms are omnivorous and can eat all kinds of plant material as well as animal products such as meat and feathers. They are typically fed on cereal bran or flour (wheat, oats and/or maize) supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables (carrots, potatoes, lettuce) for moisture together with protein sources such as soybean flour, skimmed milk powder or yeast. They are quiet, slow-moving, fairly odourless, need little maintenance and relatively small amount of space. Because of their popularity, Mealworms are fairly easy to culture on a small scale at home, but commonly available from specialised pet shops and online retailers (Buy live mealworms from Amazon.com ).
Mealworm life cycle
Like all holometabolic insects, Tenebrio molitor goes through four life stages – egg, larva, pupa and adult. After eggs have been laid by adult beetles, mealworm larvae will hatch within 10 to 12 days and become mature after going through 8 to 20 molting stages – typically taking 3 to 4 months (but as long as 18 months). The pupal stage typically lasts 7 to 9 days (but up to 20 days at lower temperatures). As beetles, they live for 2 to 3 months. The total life cycle of mealworms range from 280 to 630 days.
Commercial mealworm producers sometimes include a juvenile hormone/steroids into the feed to prevent larvae from molting into adults, resulting in ‘giant’ mealworms. These mealworms can achieve a length of 2 cm or more. Avoid feeding these to Bearded dragons.
Mealworm nutritional values*
As a food, mealworm larvae contain high amounts of protein, but also high amounts of fat and have a low calcium availability:
- Moisture 62% (2) (8) (10) (14) (18)
- Total protein 54% (1) (2) (4) (5) (6) (8) (9) (14)
- Total fat 30% (1) (2) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (14)
- Calcium:Phosphorus ratio 1:14 (5) (6) (8) (9) (11) (14) (18)
* Values are averages calculated from sources. Expressed as %DM except for moisture.
When comparing mealworms with other crawling food such as Superworms (Z. morio) and butterworms (C. moorei), they have more or less the same amount of protein (ca. 54% (1) (2) (4) (5) (6) (8) (9) (14) vs. 49% (4) (5) (8) (9) (14) (18) & 39% (8) (18) (19) ), less fat (ca. 30% (1) (2) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (14) vs. 36% (5) (7) (9) (14) (18) & 74% (9) (18) (19) ), are just as tasty and has more or less the same amount of available calcium levels (Ca:P ratio of 1:14 (5) (6) (8) (9) (11) (14) (18) vs. 1:9 (8) (9) (14) (18) & 1:18 (18) (19) ). When compared to crickets (A. domestica), mealworms have less available calcium (Ca:P ratio of 1:5 (6) (8) (18) vs. 1:14 (5) (6) (8) (9) (11) (14) (18) ), less protein (ca. 64% (3) (5) (6) (8) vs. 54% (1) (2) (4) (5) (6) (8) (9) (14) ) and more fat (ca. 21% (3) (5) (6) (8) vs. 36% (5) (7) (9) (14) (18) ).
Can Baby Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms?
No, baby bearded dragons should not eat mealworms. Although their diet should include 80% insects and 20% vegetables, mealworms are a poor choice for baby beardies. Their chitinous exoskeleton is difficult to digest and they can be intimidating to even the boldest of hatchlings, as they have a strong bite and can easily overwhelm them.
Furthermore, the high phosphorus, and fat content, and potential to cause intestinal blockages to make them better suited for only the occasional treatment for adult bearded dragons.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms Beetles?
Bearded dragons are omnivores and enjoy a varied diet, but one food they can definitely eat is mealworm beetles. Mealworms that are kept at a normal temperature will transform into beetles.
Mealworms in their beetle form are low fat, and high in protein, and make the perfect treat for your beardie.
However, it’s important to not overfeed these treats. A good rule of thumb is to give them 5-6 mealworm beetles per week; if they don’t seem to enjoy the taste of these little bugs, simply skip out on that treat!
Are Mealworms Good for Bearded Dragons?
Mealworms, with their essential nutrients, are a great food for bearded dragons. The table shows the nutrient profile of mealworms:
Here are the advantages explained:
Mealworms are an excellent source of nutrition for bearded dragons,
Excellent Fat Content
Mealworms are an excellent source of fat for your pet bearded dragon. This high-fat content in mealworms can help give them the energy they need to live an active and healthy lifestyle. However, you should not overfeed your beardie with mealworms as this can lead to obesity.
On the other hand, if you don’t include fat as a part of your dragon’s diet then they could end up suffering from weight-related issues. The trick here is to ensure that you feed them a balanced diet so that they get enough fat content in their food without overfeeding them or leading to weight problems.
High Protein Level
Having a high protein level in a bearded dragon’s diet is crucial for its health and development. During the baby stage, it is especially important to focus on providing them with food that is rich in protein.
Insects such as mealworms are an excellent option for this, as they provide proteins essential for bone health and development.
Keep in mind that the wellbeing of an adult beardie depends on their diet from when they were younger, so it is important to make sure they are getting adequate levels of proteins in their meals.
High Moisture Content
Mealworms are an excellent source of moisture for animals that need it, like bearded dragons. Mealworms have an incredibly high water content of 62%, which helps to keep your companion hydrated and healthy. Bearded dragons are used to living in arid climates where water isn’t always available, so the high moisture content in mealworms can be very beneficial to them.
Perfect Calcium Source
If you have a pet that needs calcium in their diet, you want to make sure you give them the best source possible. Mealworms not only provide essential protein for your pet, but they also contain 13.33 mg of calcium per serving – making them the perfect source of dietary calcium for your pet.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that this amount of calcium may not be enough to fulfill your pet’s nutritional needs.
Quiet Staple Insects
If you’re a bearded dragon owner, you know that quiet staple insects are a must. Crickets are great for bearded dragons, but their constant chirping can be quite annoying during the day and especially at night. That’s why mealworms are so popular; not only do they not make noise when eaten, but they also come with some other great benefits.
Mealworms don’t have any strong odors and they won’t try to escape from the bowl when you feed them to your pet, which is great news for anyone who doesn’t want their house crawling with bugs!
Moreover, mealworms are naturally active creatures, so they’re guaranteed to get your bearded dragon into hunting mode—they love pouncing on unsuspecting mealworms!
Here are the Disadvantages explained:
Despite the many benefits of feeding mealworms to your bearded dragon, there are some disadvantages that you should be aware of,
Mealworms Are Addictive
Mealworms can be incredibly addictive to lizards, even though their mineral ratios aren’t the best for them. Once your pet beardie has developed a taste for these little worms, it can become very difficult to get them to eat anything else.
Because of this, once you stop feeding mealworms there’s a real risk that the lizard will only look for mealworms, refusing food like other insects or veggies that you offer instead.
It’s important to note that, no matter how well you dust them with vitamins and minerals, mealworms still aren’t solid replacements for other nutritious insects.
They Are High In Fat
Though tiny, mealworms contain a large amount of fat. It might not seem like a lot, but if you feed too many of these to your beardie, then it could potentially cause your pet to become overweight.
You should always observe portion controls when feeding mealworms and other fatty treats as part of your bearded dragon’s diet. Overweight draggies are more likely to develop issues related to poor health and wellbeing.
So keep an eye on the amount you’re feeding and make sure that none of those mealworms turn into an extra weight for your reptilian companion!
The Mealworms Hard Shell
The hard shell of the mealworm makes it more difficult for bearded dragons (especially babies) to digest and chew. This is why they should only be used as an occasional treat since harder shells can make them harder to eat.
The hard shell of the mealworm has also led to a myth about these bugs being able to survive being eaten by reptiles. While this isn’t true, it’s still important that they are purchased from a reliable source like Bassett’s Cricket Ranch, which guarantees live delivery of high-quality organic worms, in sizes ranging from 7/8″ – 1″ that can last for weeks when refrigerated.
The Calcium To Phosphorus Ratio
When it comes to a nutritious diet for bearded dragons, the calcium to phosphorus ratio is incredibly important. Calcium and Vitamin D3 are needed by a beardie in order for their bodies to properly absorb the necessary ingredients.
However, if there is too much phosphorus present, it can prevent the formation and use of Vitamin D3, subsequently preventing proper calcium absorption.
Experts recommend that a good calcium to phosphorus ratio should be between 1.5:1 and 2:1. Unfortunately, the ratio of mealworms is considerably lower at 0.33:1–which means they should be fed in moderation as part of a beardie’s main insect diet.
The same goes for giant mealworms and kingworms which have similar ratios when it comes to calcium and phosphorus.
Keeping mealworms is simple. To promote growth and reproduction, store them in their container at room temperature. If you want them to last longer, put them in a refrigerator.
Mealworms are popular with pet owners which drives up the demand for these wriggly critters. So if you want to get your hands on some, you’re usually able to find these worms at most pet stores for a reasonably low price.
Just make sure that if any of the mealworms die, don’t feed them to your bearded dragon!
Do Bearded Dragons Like The Taste Of Mealworms?
Mealworms are a tasty snack for bearded dragons because of their high fat content, as well as their unique movement and appeasing smell which stimulate their appetite.
In fact, having mealworms on hand can actually help you get your pet beardie to eat healthier foods. If you place a single mealworm atop other healthy vegetation, it may catch your dragon’s eye and they just might end up eating some of that healthy food too!
Make sure to offer your bearded dragon plenty of these mealworms so they have the opportunity to try new things without feeling forced into it. They’re sure to love them!
How Often Should I Feed My Bearded Dragon Mealworms?
Mealworms are a popular treat for bearded dragons, but they shouldn’t be a regular part of your pet’s diet. Once they reach five months old, you can feed them mealworms up to twice weekly.
However, it’s important to note that the shell of a mealworm makes it more difficult for your pet to digest, so while baby bearded dragons should not consume them at all.
If you do provide mealworms as an occasional treat, make sure it is only in moderation and never exceeds two worms per week.
How Many Mealworms To Feed A Bearded Dragon
For a bearded dragon, mealworms should be fed in moderation. You don’t want to overfeed them since they are not the most nutritious food options out there. The general guideline is that smaller juvenile dragons need around 75% proteins and 25% greens while adults should have the opposite – mostly greens and fewer proteins.
When it comes to mealworms specifically, one or two of these should be enough for even adult beardies. However, it’s important to remember that mealworms should only be fed once or twice per week for an adult dragon and more often (but still in moderation) for those between 5-15 months old.
Since mealworms are more of a treat at this point, we generally suggest feeding them during the protein days and towards the end of each meal. That way your dragon won’t fill up on just the treats!
Feeding mealworms to Bearded dragons
Mature mealworm larvae are typically light yellow-brown in colour and 20 to 32 mm long. Their high fat content makes them a poor choice as a staple for Bearded dragon food and will lead to obesity and poor growth, especially in growing Bearded dragons.
If the occasional mealworm is fed, they should be fresh. Mealworms can be fed in a shallow, escape-proof dish with calcium supplementation to stimulate its intake. Uneaten mealworms should be removed immediately after feeding is over. Other higher protein feeder insects such as crickets, silkworms, and/or Dubia roaches should make out the bulk of a Bearded dragon’s food.
Additional mealworm larvae can be offered to breeding female Bearded dragons on a daily basis to improve the body condition between egg batches.
At what stage can mealworms be given to bearded dragons?
When a bearded dragon is between 5-18 months old, it’s the best time to begin feeding them mealworms. This is known as their juvenile stage.
Which type of worms is best for bearded dragons, wax worms, or mealworms?
Waxworms are an ideal snack as they contain 28.3% calcium, much higher than the 13.3% found in mealworms. Nonetheless, they have a relatively high fat content of 21%, making them best used as an occasional treat.
What types of worms are good for bearded dragons to eat?
Mealworms are the most common type of worm that bearded dragons can eat and they provide them with an ample supply of protein and calcium.
Hornworms, super worms, butterworms, and silkworms are also great options, each providing different levels of nutrition to your beardie. Whatever type you choose, make sure it’s organic and free from pesticides or any other harmful substances.
Carefully read all labels before feeding any type of worm to your beardie for optimal nutrition!
Is it safe for Bearded Dragons to eat dead mealworms?
When it comes to feeding your bearded dragon, it is important to make sure that the insects you provide are not dead or dying. Dead or deteriorating mealworms should be thrown away as they have lost their nutritional value and can also be difficult for your dragon to digest due to their dried out state.
If you’re looking for insect options for your bearded dragon, then ask yourself what insects do bearded dragons eat. There are plenty of alternatives out there that can provide proper nutrition – just make sure to steer clear of any dead or decaying mealworms!
Bearded dragons can be a great pets to have, but understanding their dietary needs is key to making sure they stay happy and healthy. Mealworms are an excellent food source for bearded dragons, providing them with essential proteins and vitamins.
As long as you provide the proper portion sizes and feed your dragon mealworms in moderation, this can be an excellent treat for them!