We love it when our readers ask questions! Here is a great one from Tiffany W:
“Can baby bearded dragons consume mealworms? Or should we wait until they’re a bit older because of the exoskeleton?”
Mealworms, the larvae of the darkling beetle, are a popular feeder insect for bearded dragons. But are they safe and nutritious for these spiky reptiles?
If you’ve been wondering, “Can bearded dragons eat mealworms?” you’re in the right place. In this blog post, we’ll explore the pros and cons of feeding mealworms to bearded dragons of different ages. And, we’ll provide guidelines for safely incorporating them into your pet’s diet.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms?
If you’re looking for a short and simple answer, it’s yes, bearded dragons can eat mealworms. In fact, many beardies love them and will eagerly seek them out.
Simple answers are only suited to very simple questions. (Like, “do you love your dragon?”)
But the question, “can bearded dragons eat mealworms?” is a LOT more complex than you’d think.
Because the REAL question here is this: “Is it SAFE to feed mealworms to my bearded dragon?” And the answer to that is not simple at all. It depends on a lot of factors.
So whatever you do, DON’T start feeding loads of mealworms to your scaly friend until you’ve read the rest of this article!!
Especially if you have a baby dragon.
Mealworms: Nutritional Powerhouse or Dietary House of Cards?
So let’s start with the nutritional profile of the common mealworm.
Live mealworms contain approximately 20% protein, 13% fat, 2% fiber, and 62% moisture. (For dried mealworms these numbers chage to 53% protein, 28% fat, 6% fiber, and 5% moisture). Mealworms also contain essential fatty acids, a moderate amount of calcium, and phosphorus, all crucial nutrients for bearded dragons.
In short, mealworms are a good source of protein for adult bearded dragons. They are also relatively easy to find and quite easy to care for.
However, it’s important to feed mealworms in moderation. They are too high in fat to make a good primary feeder insect for adult bearded dragons. Even more importantly, too many mealworms in your beaded dragon’s diet can lead to impaction. Trust us, your scaly friend doesn’t want to experience that!
How Can Mealworms Cause Impaction in Bearded Dragons?
Impaction is a serious condition that can occur when bearded dragons consume too much chitin, the tough, fibrous material that makes up an insect’s exoskeleton.
Chitin is difficult for bearded dragons to digest. When too much chitin accumulates in the bearded dragon’s digestive tract, it can form a hard mass that blocks the passage of food and waste. This can lead to a variety of health problems, including constipation, lethargy, and loss of appetite. In severe cases, impaction can be fatal.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms? Preventing Impaction
To prevent impaction, it is important to feed bearded dragons a balanced diet that includes a variety of insects, fruits, and vegetables.
Mealworms should only be fed as a occasional treat. (We highly recommend dubia roaches as your dragon’s primary feeder insect – which is why we specialize in dubias!) In addition, it is a very good idea to dust mealworms (and dubias, too) with calcium and vitamin D3 to help ensure that your bearded dragon is getting the nutrients it needs.
If you notice any signs of impaction, stop feeding your bearded dragon mealworms immediately and consult with a veterinarian.
For more details in answer to the question. “Can bearded dragons eat mealworms,” read on for the pros and cons of feeding mealworms to your bearded dragon.
Pros of Feeding Mealworms to Bearded Dragons
- High in protein: Mealworms are a good source of protein, which is essential for bearded dragons to grow and stay healthy.
- Easy to find and care for: Mealworms are relatively easy to find at pet stores and online. They are also fairly easy to care for, as they only need to be kept in a container with some oatmeal or wheat germ.
- Affordable: Compared to other feeder insects, mealworms are a dollar-stretching deal!
- Variety: Mealworms can add variety to a bearded dragon’s diet, which is important for their overall health.
Cons of Feeding Mealworms to Bearded Dragons
- Potential for impaction if mealworms make up too high a percentage of the diet. Impaction is a serious condition that can be fatal.
- High in fat: Too many mealworms can lead to obesity and other health problems.
- Not a complete diet: Mealworms should not be the only food that bearded dragons eat. They also need to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other insects.
How to Feed Mealworms to Bearded Dragons
- Adult bearded dragons: Adult bearded dragons can eat 10-20 mealworms per day.
- Juvenile bearded dragons: Juvenile bearded dragons can eat 5-10 mealworms per day.
- Baby bearded dragons: Baby bearded dragons should not eat mealworms until they are at least 8 weeks old.
Can Baby Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms?
OK Tiffany, if you’re reading this, here’s our answer to your excellent question!
Baby bearded dragons are more susceptible to impaction than adult bearded dragons. For this reason:
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND FEEDING MEALWORMS TO BABY BEARDED DRAGONS.
(You were spot on!)
Mealworms can be safely fed to bearded dragons once they reach the subadult stage, typically around five to eighteen months old. However, it’s important to limit their intake due to their high fat content and potential for impaction. A good rule of thumb is to offer mealworms as a occasional treat, rather than a staple food.
If in doubt as to whether your bearded dragon is ready to safely enjoy mealworms, consult your veterinarian. Once you get the green light, here are a few tips for introducing mealworms to your beardie for the first time:
- For a young dragon, start with soft-bodied mealworms. Hard-bodied mealworms are more likely to cause impaction. Like all insect larvae, mealworms shed a few times as they grow. A newly shed mealworm will be lighter in color and softer – ideal for a first meal of mealworms.
- Cut mealworms into small pieces. This step is optional but can make it easier for your dragon to chew and digest her mealworms.
- Only feed a few mealworms at a time.
- Watch carefully for signs of impaction (loss of appetite, straining, lethargy, abdominal swelling, dark or discolored feces, regurgitation, paralysis). If you notice anything unusual, call your veterinarian immediately.
Once your bearded dragon reaches maturity (3-4 years old),
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms Everyday?
Adult bearded dragons vary in their ability to digest foods. While some bearded dragons may handle daily mealworms just fine, we don’t recommend it. A better practice is to limit mealworm intake to one or two times per week.
Tips for Safely Feeding Mealworms to Adult Bearded Dragons
- Dust mealworms with calcium and vitamin D3 supplements to ensure your bearded dragon is getting adequate nutrients
- Use mealworms as supplemental food only. The number of mealworms that can be safely fed to an adult bearded dragon at a time depends on the size and age of the dragon. As a general rule of thumb, you can feed your adult bearded dragon 5-10 mealworms per feeding, 1-2 times per week.
- Monitor your bearded dragon’s weight and adjust their mealworm intake accordingly
- Offer a variety of other food sources, such as crickets, vegetables, and fruits, to provide a balanced diet
- Keep an eye out for impaction and call your vet right away if you suspect it.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms? How Many to Feed Per Day
The number of mealworms that can be safely fed to an adult bearded dragon at a time depends on the size and age of the dragon. As a general rule of thumb, you can feed your adult bearded dragon 5-10 mealworms per feeding, 1-2 times per week.
Here are some factors to consider when determining how many mealworms to feed your adult bearded dragon:
- Size of the dragon: Larger dragons will need more mealworms than smaller dragons.
- Age of the dragon: Younger dragons are more active and need more food than older dragons.
- Activity level of the dragon: A more active dragon will need more food than a less active dragon.
- Health of the dragon: A healthy dragon will be able to process more food than a dragon that is not feeling well.
If you are unsure of how many mealworms to feed your adult bearded dragon, it is always best to err on the side of caution and feed them less rather than more. You can always add more mealworms later if needed.
Remember, always consult with a veterinarian if you have any concerns about your bearded dragon’s diet or health.
“Can Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms?”: Wrapping it Up
In conclusion, mealworms can be a nutritious and convenient food source for bearded dragons when fed in moderation. By following the guidelines outlined in this blog post, you can ensure your pet enjoys a healthy and balanced diet while minimizing the risks associated with overfeeding mealworms.
Is your beardie hungry for mealworms? Buy him some here today!