Want your bearded dragon to be healthy? It’s important to give them a varied diet, including different kinds of feeder insects. But when you are looking for bugs for bearded dragons, be aware: not all insects are safe for your pet to consume!

In this article, we’ll explore six types of insects you should never feed to your bearded dragon, and why. Understanding the potential risks associated with these insects is crucial for the health and well-being of your beloved pet.

Do NOT Feed These Types of Insects to Your Beadie:

Let’s delve into the details to ensure that you’re making informed choices when selecting bugs for bearded dragons!

Fireflies:

Also knows as lightning bugs, fireflies (and other insects that glow) are highly toxic to pet reptiles. Their bodies contain chemicals called lucibufagins which are what helps them to phosphoresce or light up. Ingesting just one firefly can kill a bearded dragon. Do not feed these insects to your pet!

firefly

Box elder bugs:

The jury is out on these colorful insects that often congregate in great numbers on south and west sides of buildings in the fall, and often enter homes at this time. They do excrete a foul-smelling (and presumably bad-tasting) substance when threatened.

Some experts say box elder bugs are toxic to pets. Others say they are safe to feed to bearded dragons in small quantities. We believe it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid feeding box elder bugs to your reptiles.

box elder bugs

Asian lady beetles:

Like box elder bugs, Asian ladybugs also like to gather en masse on the outsides of buildings in the fall. If you find a number of them in your home, you may be tempted to feed some of them off to your lizard. But we don’t recommend it.

Just like box elder bugs, these insects secrete a foul substance when threatened. While there are mixed reports on its toxicity, we don’t think it’s worth testing out on your pet.

Also, Asian ladybeetles can deliver a painful bite. Why give them the chance to bite your pet when there are plenty of other bugs for bearded dragons (like dubia roaches!) that don’t bite at all and are much more nutritious for your beardie to eat?

Ticks:

Bearded dragons probably consume ticks in the wild. However, there are several good reasons not to feed them to your bearded dragon:

  1. Ticks are well-known as carriers of disease, both for reptiles and people. The CDC lists well over a dozen tick-borne diseases in the United States, including Lyme’s disease and rocky mountain spotted fever. Ticks can also carry protozoan parasites that can infect your pet reptile.
  2. Ticks can bite your pet (and you!). If you have ever had to remove a tick from your skin, you know how unpleasant it can be. Can you imagine having to subject your beardie to that process?
  3. Ticks have a very tough, hard exoskeleton which is very difficult to digest. Why feed your pet something that is built like a miniature battle tank when we know that too much chitin can cause impaction in bearded dragons?
tick

Anything that can sting:

For obvious reasons, stinging creatures are not good bugs for bearded dragons. These include:

  • Bees
  • Wasps
  • Hornets
  • Fire ants
  • Scorpions
  • Venomous spiders
  • and similar creatures

A sting from some of these animals is enough to kill a beardie. Others can simply inflict a lot of unnecessary pain. Either way, you will want to keep these critters out of your bearded dragon’s reach.

Wild-caught insects (including hornworms):

Unless you live in a very remote, pristine area, any insect caught in the wild may have ingested or been sprayed with any of a number of pesticides or herbicides that could harm your pet if they eat it.

Sadly, this includes wild-caught hornworms.

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If you grow tomatoes in your garden, you may sometimes find HUGE, fat, smooth green caterpillars munching on their leaves. These are tobacco hornworms, which love to eat plants in the nightshade family. And yes, these are the same hornworms that are commonly sold as feeder insects for pet reptiles.

Natural hornworms are wonderful bugs for bearded dragons to eat and the ones sold in pet stores as feeder insects are generally safe. However, we suggest thinking twice before scooping them up from outside and feeding them to your beardie, unless you know without a shadow of a doubt that they have not been exposed to chemicals. Even if you don’t spray, your neighbor might – and the results could be tragic.

Bugs for bearded dragons: better safe than sorry!

If you want your bearded dragon to enjoy a long and healthy life, it’s critical to understand which insects to avoid feeding your pet. By steering clear of potentially harmful insects like most of the bugs mentioned in this article, you can prioritize the safety and well-being of your reptile companion.

Instead, opt for commercially bred and approved feeder insects to ensure that your bearded dragon receives a balanced and nutritious diet. By staying informed and making mindful choices, you can help your bearded dragon to thrive and lead a fulfilling life in your care.

Looking for the BEST bugs for bearded dragons?

Most reptile nutrition experts consider dubia roaches to be the best primary feeder insects you can give your dragon. Ready to stock up? Shop dubias here!