Leopard geckos can and will eat mealworm beetles. However, there are some individual leopard geckos who will find that this type of insect is too difficult to eat, whereas others will see it as a manageable meal.
Introduction to Can Leopard Geckos Eat Mealworm Beetles?
Leopard geckos are one of the best starter pets for anyone looking to get into keeping reptiles, this is mostly because of how straightforward they are to care for but also because these striking lizards are incredibly beautiful to look at.
However, one common question among new leopard gecko owners is what the diet of these animals consists of; there are several things that you can commonly feed a lizard but this may vary between species. A lot of pet parents wish to offer their leopard gecko a few mealworm beetles, but many are unsure as to whether these are a suitable component of a healthy diet.
In this article, we are going to be looking at whether leopard geckos can eat mealworm beetles as well as giving you some handy feeding tips when using this type of food.
What Are Mealworm Beetles?
Most pet owners are familiar with the mealworm; this is a common dietary staple for many lizards, amphibians, fish, and even some birds. But if these worms are not eaten before they reach maturity, they will turn into mealworm beetle. However, the correct term for these insects is the darkling beetle, but in this article, we will use the mealworm beetle.
One of the most fascinating things about the mealworm beetle is that, despite popular belief, there are more than one species; in fact, there are known to be more than 15,000 different species of mealworms that are normally native to tropical climates. In the wild, they like to live in fields and woodlands and are considered to be something of a pest, however; where pet owners are concerned, they are anything but, providing leopard geckos and other animals with a balanced diet.
Adult mealworm beetles can grow to be around 1.5 inches in length and have what is known as chitin. This is a hard fibrous substance that makes up their exo-skeleton and for this reason, some leopard geckos find them a little difficult to manage as food.
In some cases, reptile owners who are breeding mealworms will come to discover that some of their colony has turned into beetles and are unsure whether to dispose of these insects or use them as food for their leopard gecko.
Can I Give Mealworm Beetles To My Leopard Gecko?
Leopard geckos will attempt to eat mealworm beetles and these large insects won’t do your pet any harm. In fact, some Leos love chowing down on a hearty meal of mealworm beetles but the problem lies in their size and consistency. Unlike other beetles that you might offer your leopard gecko, the mealworm beetle is particularly large and this may be too much for your pet to handle, although they certainly will give it a go.
Furthermore, the chitin of the mealworm beetle may be too hard for your pet to get his teeth into and this can put off a lot of leopard geckos from wanting to eat them.
One thing that pet owner should bear in mind when choosing whether to use mealworm beetles as food is the smell of these insects. Mealworm beetles are known for their pungent aroma which they use as a defense mechanism in the wild. Of course, if you are feeding live beetles to your pet, the beetle is going to attempt to defend itself and you will be left with the resulting odor. For some people, this is not an issue and won’t be a deal-breaker when it comes to serving mealworm beetles, in contrast, this may be enough to deter other pet parents completely; it really depends on whether you can stomach the smell.
Moreover, you will want to consider the nutritional value of the mealworm beetle. For most leopard geckos and other small reptiles, the main part of their diet will be crickets with the occasional treat of worms and other insects. Crickets are an excellent food source since they are part of the leopard gecko’s natural diet and are high in protein and calcium but low in fat, meaning that your pet will not develop health issues as a result of being overweight.
However, mealworm beetles are not quite as effective in proving the same level of nutrition and so you should keep in mind that if you do decide to treat your leopard gecko to a few, it should be exactly that – a treat. That being said, they are preferable over some other types of foods that could be extremely high in fat such as wax worms.
Can I Feed Wild Mealworm Beetles To My Leopard Gecko?
It is never a wise idea to offer insects that have been caught in the wild to your pet. The main reason for this is because they may carry diseases that your captive pet simply hasn’t had the opportunity to build up a defense to like he would if he were a wild animal. However, since wild mealworm beetles are known to eat foods that may have been treated with pesticides and other chemicals, offering them to your leopard gecko could make him rather poorly.
While it can be tempting to go out and collect mealworm beetles if you live in an area where they are abundant, in doing so, you are running the risk of these insects not having as great nutritional value as they would if they had been purpose-bred.
When any insect or worm is bred with the intent of being used a pet food, they will undergo a process known as gut-loading, which is not nearly as torturous as it sounds. This process is when the insects are offered a diet that is high in calcium and other essential nutrients. This should be done within 24 hours prior to them being offered to the pet as this will mean that these nutrients are stored in the gastrointestinal tract of the insect; hence the term ‘gut-loading.’
Can I Feed Recently Hatched Mealworm Beetles To My Leopard Gecko?
If you are breeding mealworms and find that some have molted into ‘baby’ beetles, this could be a prime time to offer them as food for your pet. This is primarily because at this stage, the beetles will not have developed the hard chitin that makes them so difficult to eat.
At this stage of their life, they will be soft and white in color. Many pet owners claim that this is an ideal food for their pets. In addition to being easier to eat, their jaws will not have fully developed so there is no risk of them causing farm to your leopard gecko as there may be when feeding her adult mealworm beetles.
It is worth keeping in mind, however, that due to the inferior calcium levels of these insects, coating them with a calcium supplement for offering them to your pet is a good idea, especially if you plan to use them as the main part of their diet.
Can I Breed My Own Mealworm Beetles?
The good news is that it is entirely possible to start a mealworm colony and allow the worms to develop into beetles. Getting started is not complicated and is often thought to be less hassle than breeding things like crickets.
You will need to purchase around 500 mealworms, to begin with, but do be sure not to buy the super worms as these will not develop into beetles and if they do, they will not be fertile so your colony will eventually die out.
You can keep the worms in a small container but be sure to provide ventilation holes. Inside the box, you will need a good substrate as well as small pieces of vegetables for the worms to feed on. The food can be changed every few days so it is very low-maintenance. Many breeders will also use a piece of banana peel as a way of keeping the container moist.
There isn’t much else that you need to do in this situation other than ensuring that the container is kept at around 70% humidity and a temperature of between 25-30ºc. This will allow the worms to grow and eventually become beetles.
Leopard geckos usually have a diet that is made up mainly of cricket,s much the same as many other reptiles. However, if you want to expand your diet and offer different foods, mealworm beetles are a viable option. But, unlike crickets and other beetles that are easy to eat, some leopard geckos may have a hard time biting into the mealworm beetle owing to the chitin.
A good way to counteract this problem is by offering the beetles when they are newly hatched as they will be much softer, although it is important to make sure that you provide a calcium supplement along with these to improve their nutritional value.
Furthermore, you should avoid offering wild-caught mealworm beetles to your pet as these carry a risk of infection or chemicals. That being said, it is relatively easy to start a mealworm colony to have a constant on-hand supply of food for your leopard gecko.