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Feeder Insects: Nutritional Facts For Reptile Keepers

Are you paying attention to your reptile’s nutrition? Read this article to learn more about the nutritional needs of reptiles.

Tips on caring for reptiles

If you are reading this article, you likely have a reptile as a pet or thinking of getting one. Just like we strive to keep our nutrition and diet balanced and adequate, it is crucial to watch what you are feeding your reptile and what nutrients that food contains.

Your reptile can be omnivorous or insectivorous. Either way, you have to feed them insects to provide them with a balanced diet. In this article, we will discuss how different insects can have different nutritional values and how you can choose which bugs you should feed your reptile. From wax worms to crickets, the plethora of insects can be broad, and each has different nutritions. So it is essential to know what and how much nutrition you can get in each of them.

Nutrients

Food nutrients can be classified into various groups, but for reptiles, you should focus on protein, carbohydrate, fat, and ash (more about ash later). Different insects have different nutritional values, so it’s important to know which insect to choose for your pet.

Protein

Besides providing energy, proteins are essential building blocks of any organism. They are used to build muscles and ensure proper organ function. They are also used to repair and replace damaged cells. It is important to feed different types of insects, especially insectivores, as different insects have different protein content to receive exactly the amount they need.

Carbohydrates

The chitin in insects is the main source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy in organisms. So keeping it in your reptile’s diet is a must.

However, insects have a low carbohydrate content. Feeding too much can also lead to digestive issues. So there needs to be a balance.

Fat

Like in humans, a limited amount of fat is required for energy and keeps them warm. Fats also help to create fat stores, which are important for laying eggs. However, excess fat can lead to obesity. Obesity can be extremely problematic since animals in captivity already have limited movement, less exercise, and more food than in nature.

Ash

Ash is the part of insects that is mostly salts, minerals, and metals. Minerals are crucial in the diet as they help in keeping the animal healthy. Different minerals play different roles. Some keep the heart healthy, while others ensure healthy bones and brain. Salts maintain a balance between different electrolytes, which is necessary for a healthy nervous system. Higher ash in the diet means a higher amount of salts, minerals, and metals.

Dry Matter VS As Fed

As previously mentioned, some insects have higher nutritional values than others. Dry Matter Basis, or DMB, is mostly used to measure insect nutrition. Here, the insect is dried and the nutrition value is calculated.

In As Fed, the insect is not dried and contains moisture. This value is more accurate.

Let’s see how we can convert one from another.

As Fed to Dry Matter: %of nutrient As Fed/ % Dry Matter= % nutrient by dry weight

Dry Matter to As Fed: % of Dry Matter x % of nutrient

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Insect Nutrition Chart

This chart is tabulated, gathering information from various reliable and credible sources.

Item

Calcium

Phosphorus

Ca:P ratio

Protein

Fat

Source *

———%———

———%———

Blackworm

0.11

0.85

1:8

47.8

20.1

1

Bloodworm

0.38

0.9

1:3

52.8

9.7

1

Cockroach, American

0.2

0.5

1:2.5

53.9

28.4

1

Corn.borer.larvae, European

0.23

0.64

1:3

60.4

17.2

1

Corn.borer.pupae, European

0.22

0.67

1:3

64.2

17

1

Cricket,domestic

0.14

0.99

1:9

64.9

13.8

1

Cricket,domestic, hi-Ca

0.9

0.92

1:1

65.2

12.6

1

Cricket,domestic, pinhead

0.22

1.27

1:6

*

*

1

Earthworm

1.72

0.9

1.5:1

62.2

17.7

1

Fishfly

0.23

1.07

1:5

63.9

19.5

1

Fruitfly

0.1

1.05

1:10

70.1

12.6

1

Fruitfly.larvae

0.59

2.3

1:4

40.3

29.4

1

Fruitfly.pupae

0.77

2.73

1:3.5

52.1

10.5

1

House.fly.larvae, dry

0.41

1.13

1:3

56.8

20

1

Housefly.pupae, dry

0.42

1.18

1:3

58.3

15.8

1

Mealworm.beetle

0.07

0.78

1:11

63.7

18.4

1

Mealworm.pupae

0.08

0.83

1:10

54.6

30.8

1

Mealworm.larvae

0.11

0.77

1:7

52.7

32.8

1

Mealworm.larvae, king

0.16

0.59

1:3.5

45.3

55.1

1

Mealworm.larvae, king, hi-Ca

0.69

0.57

1:1

38.9

45.4

1

Mosquito,adult

0.82

1.24

1:1.5

N/A

N/A

1

Mosquito.larvae, dry

0.79

1.07

1:1.5

42.2

16.1

1

Night.crawler

1.52

0.96

1.5:1

60.7

4.4

1

Tubifex.worm

0.19

0.73

1:4

46.1

15.1

1

Water.flea,dry

0.1

1.17

1:12

55.2

6.6

1

Waxmoth.larvae

0.11

0.62

1:6

42.4

46.4

1

Waxmoth.larvae, hi-Ca

0.5

0.33

1:1

*

*

1

Butterworm

16.2

5.2

6; 9

Phoenix worm

2.33

1.53

1.5:1

17

10

4; 6

Silkworm

0.21

0.54

1:2.4

64

10.6

5; 6; 7

Superworm

124

2320

1:18

17.4

17.9

6; 8

Hornworm

1:3

9

3

6

Termite

0.26

0.38

1:1.7

42

15

2

Source: https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0AntsLN7QCkLldDNLM1FLX2xySUtBSEgwaHVXVEJUdWc&hl=en&gid=2

Creating Variety in Diet

Having a variety in the reptile’s diet helps to maintain optimum health. Even in nature, animals have to eat different kinds of foods to survive. If they ate only two or three food sources, they’d surely starve and die.

When it comes to pet reptiles, you have to create this variety at home. And this sure can be difficult as you have to actively arrange for different bugs. But once you get a hold of it, it gets easier. You can easily get a wide range of insects from the wild.

To make lives easier, you can also find various insects online.

You may get a few varieties in reptile pet stores, but the range is limited there.

Canned insects are also a great meal for reptiles and are available at pet shops. They may not look or smell the best but can be a tasty and nutritious meal for your pet.

See what animal conservationist Anne has to say.

Gutloading and Dusting Insects

You are what you eat. Sometimes insects are fed with nutritional food so that when they are consumed by the reptile, they get all the nutrition too. This is called gut loading.

In most cases, insects have a high concentration of phosphorus but a lower concentration of calcium. This results in a calcium deficit. For example, crickets have a 1:9 calcium to phosphorus ratio. Insects are oftentimes “dusted” with calcium powder before being fed to a reptile.

Now that you know how to determine insect nutritional values for your pet reptile make sure you always keep their diet in check to ensure a healthy and happy animal.

(Link of picture: Reptile feeding)

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