Updated: October 18, 2021 by Jennifer Munsell
Live food plays a huge role in the lives of all bearded dragons and is essential for their overall health and well-being. Whether you want to raise and keep live feeder insects at home or purchase them pre-gut loaded, you’ll need to know what the best insects for bearded dragons are first.
An ideal diet for a bearded dragon must contain live feeders since they are a valuable source of protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients. When fed a balanced and varied diet based on their nutritional needs, bearded dragons stay healthy and thrive.
While to you all bugs and worms may seem the same, they can be miles apart when it comes to their nutrient profile and everything they can offer to your pet reptile. Not knowing what insects are best for your bearded dragon can lead to nutrient deficiencies that can be detrimental to their health.
To help you find the best live meal for your bearded dragon, I’ve compiled a list of my beardie’s favorite live feeders! Keep on reading to find safe, nutritious, and delicious insects for your bearded dragon!
The Best Feeder Insects for Bearded Dragons
As a bearded dragon owner, it is your job to know what bearded dragons eat. Understanding your pet reptile’s nutritional needs is key to providing a healthy, varied, and nutritious diet for them.
Live feeders are an important aspect of a bearded dragon’s diet since they contain all the nutrients your pet reptile needs to stay healthy and thrive.
Before we get any further, though, a word of caution: the best bugs for bearded dragons are those that provide the highest nutritional value and closely resemble or mimic what your beardie would eat in the wild. With that being said, never feed wild caught insects to your pet reptile!
Wild-caught insects can carry diseases and parasites that are extremely harmful to your bearded dragon. Additionally, they are often coated in harmful pesticides and insecticides that are toxic to reptiles.
No matter how much you want to mimic the diet bearded dragons eat in the wild, your pet is much better off munching on store-bought feeders that have been raised in carefully controlled conditions.
If you are wondering what insects are best for bearded dragons, you’re in the right place! Listed below, you will find the most nutritious, delicious, and readily available live insect feeders for bearded dragons.
1. Dubia Roaches — Best Insects for Bearded Dragons
Dubia roaches are one of the best feeder insects for bearded dragons for many reasons! They provide a wide range of nutrients your beardie needs to stay healthy and active. Not only are dubia roaches nutritious, but they are also delicious, and bearded dragons love to eat them.
Dubia roaches are an excellent source of protein, are low in fat, and contain many other essential micro and macro-nutrients. They contain more of the good stuff your pet reptile needs for growth and overall health (protein, calcium, and vitamins) and a minimum amount of bad stuff (fat and excess moisture).
When compared to other popular insects for bearded dragons, dubia roaches contain more calcium than 80% of the most commonly used feeders. Using dubia roaches as staple feeders can be extremely beneficial considering that lack of calcium is a huge concern for captive bearded dragons.
Apart from their amazing nutritional profile, dubia roaches offer several other benefits that make them superior when compared to other insects for bearded dragons.
Compared to crickets, dubia roaches are very quiet and hardly make any noise. Also, when taken care of properly and kept clean, dubia roaches don’t smell at all, while crickets have an unpleasant smell. They are also very easy to keep and breed on their own, thus providing free extra food for your beardie.
Nutritional Value of Dubia Roaches:
- Moisture: 65.6%
- Protein: 23.4%
- Fat: 7.2%
- Ash: 1.2%
- Fiber: 2.9%
- Calcium: 800mg/kg
- Phosphorus: 2600mg/kg
Crickets are, without a doubt, one of the most popular feeder insects for bearded dragons. They offer a good amount of protein, calcium, and fiber beardies need to stay healthy and thrive. Crickets are also readily available at pet stores and online retailers, making them very convenient and fairly inexpensive.
With that being said, avoid buying crickets from bait shops, since they usually carry parasites and diseases they can transmit to your pet reptile.
If you just started caring for a baby bearded dragon, know that they can also eat live crickets, though they should be small in size. Keep in mind that smaller and younger bearded dragons might have some trouble digesting certain parts of large crickets, mainly the insect’s rear legs. It’s also worth noting that crickets have softer exoskeletons when they are young, so the smaller ones are an ideal meal for baby beardies.
While crickets have a good nutritional profile overall, they can be difficult to keep and also develop a foul odor that is hard to ignore. If left in your bearded dragon’s enclosure for too long, crickets can attack smaller beardies and stress them out.
Nutritional Value of Crickets:
- Moisture: 77.1%
- Protein: 15.4%
- Fat: 3.3%
- Ash: 1.1%
- Fiber: 2.2%
- Calcium: 275mg/kg
- Phosphorus: 2520mg/kg
3. Goliath Worms (Hornworms)
Also known as hornworms, goliath worms are another popular insect feeder for beardies. These big, juicy green caterpillars are one of the best bugs for bearded dragons, and your pet reptile will love to eat them! The thing I like the most about hornworms is they are high in calcium and have a decently high water content, which can prevent dehydration in bearded dragons.
While these insects aren’t particularly high in protein, they are low in fat and can be fed as a staple feeder as long as you feed them with another staple such as Dubia roaches. Remember, variety is key to a healthy diet!
Another great thing about hornworms is that they grow quickly to four or five inches in length. So, even if you purchase them when they are small, they can grow to their full size in a matter of days, so you’ll have to feed them quickly, depending on the size of your bearded dragon.
Hornworms are often used as a hydration booster due to their high moisture content. However, be careful when feeding them to your beardie, since too much can result in diarrhea.
Nutritional Value of Goliath Worms:
- Moisture: 85%
- Protein: 9%
- Fat: 3.07%
- Ash: 1%
- Fiber: 1%
- Calcium: 464mg/kg
- Phosphorus: 1394mg/kg
Often mistaken for giant mealworms, superworms are a fantastic insect feeder when fed alongside other staple feeders such as Dubia roaches or crickets. Superworms have a softer outer shell than mealworms that is made up of a material known as chitin, which makes them easier to chew and digest. Because of this, superworms make a great feeder insect for baby, juvenile, and adult bearded dragons alike.
Nutrition-wise, superworms are an excellent source of protein and phosphorus but are high in fat. However, your beardie can eat up to 10 superworms per day when they are fed alongside another less fatty staple insect.
Nutritional Value of Superworms:
- Moisture: 57.9%
- Protein: 19.7%
- Fat: 17.7%
- Ash: 1%
- Fiber: 2.7%
- Calcium: 177mg/kg
- Phosphorus: 2370mg/kg
No list of best insects for bearded dragons would be complete without mealworms! Mealworms are a commonly used insect feeder for beardies and can grow to a length of around two inches.
Keep in mind, though, that they have a hard, chitinous outer shell, which can be difficult to digest for baby and juvenile bearded dragons. Due to the risk of impaction, only feed mealworms to adult beardies.
Bearded dragons should eat mealworms only as a part of a more varied diet. Although they are an excellent source of protein and moisture, mealworms are high in fat. Therefore, adult bearded dragons should only eat around five or six mealworms per day.
Nutritional Value of Mealworms:
- Moisture: 61.9%
- Protein: 18.7%
- Fat: 13.4%
- Ash: 0.9%
- Fiber: 2.5%
- Calcium: 169mg/kg
- Phosphorus: 2960mg/kg
Small in size and white-colored waxworms can be a great occasional treat for bearded dragons. However, waxworms aren’t a good staple feeder due to their very high fat content, which can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Furthermore, you should avoid feeding your beardie waxworms if they are overweight or have other health problems.
Ideally, waxworms should be a part of a varied diet and fed with other less fatty staples. To prevent weight gain and other issues, feed your beardie two to three waxworms once or twice per week as a treat.
Nutritional Value of Waxworms:
- Moisture: 58.5%
- Protein: 14.1%
- Fat: 24.9%
- Ash: 0.6%
- Fiber: 3.4%
- Calcium: 243mg/kg
- Phosphorus: 1950mg/kg
7. Black Soldier Fly Larvae
Best known for their high calcium content, black soldier fly larvae, also commonly known as Phoenix worms, are great staple feeders for bearded dragons. Unlike crickets, mealworms, and superworms, they contain the perfect amount of calcium, so you don’t have to dust them with calcium before feeding them to your bearded dragon.
Due to their maggot-like appearance and small size, these larvae are a particularly great choice for younger bearded dragons. That’s not to say that you can’t use them for adult beardies, but because of how small they are in comparison to other feeder insects, most adult beardies find phoenix worms uninteresting.
In addition to packing a nutritious punch, black soldier fly larvae are easy to take care of. Simply keep them in the container they arrived in and don’t offer them any food, as they are usually gut-loaded prior to sale.
Nutritional Value of Black Soldier Fly Larvae:
- Moisture: 61.2%
- Protein: 17.5%
- Fat: 14%
- Ash: 3.5%
- Fiber: 3%
- Calcium: 9340mg/kg
- Phosphorus: 3560mg/kg
Butterworms are another small worm-type insect feeder that can be a delicious treat for bearded dragons. Usually, around one inch long, butterworms are a good source of protein and calcium, but they are also high in fat. Due to their size and nutritional profile, butterworms can be fed to baby, juvenile, and adult bearded dragons occasionally, though they aren’t the best choice of a staple insect because of their high fat content.
Use these small worms to offer some variety to your pet reptile’s diet and combine them with other less fatty staple feeders. Most bearded dragons love eating butterworms, and they are a great choice if your beardie is a picky eater.
Nutritional Value of Butterworms:
- Moisture: 60.2%
- Protein: 15.5%
- Fat: 29.4%
- Ash: 0.8%
- Fiber: 1.4%
- Calcium: 125mg/kg
- Phosphorus: 2250mg/kg
Silkworms are small and soft-bodied worms that typically grow to around one inch in length. Since silkworms don’t have a hard shell, they are very easy to digest, so you can safely feed them to baby, juvenile, and adult bearded dragons.
When it comes to nutrients, silkworms are high in moisture and contain a good amount of protein. They are also low in fat and contain calcium and phosphorus. If you decide to feed silkworms to your bearded dragon, be sure to purchase them from pet stores or reputable online retailers.
Nutritional Value of Silkworms:
- Moisture: 82.7%
- Protein: 9.3%
- Fat: 1.1%
- Ash: 1.1%
- Fiber: 1.1%
- Calcium: 177mg/kg
- Phosphorus: 2370kg/mg
FAQs on Feeder Insects
What insects should I feed my bearded dragon daily?
It is recommended that pet bearded dragons be fed dubia roaches, crickets, and various types of worms as a part of their regular diet.
Ideally, you should choose one feeder insect to be a primary source of protein and then supplement your bearded dragon’s diet with other feeders. This way, you’ll provide a varied and nutritious diet to your beardie and make sure that they are eating all the nutrients they need to stay healthy and thrive.
Do bearded dragons need to eat bugs every day?
Insects are a valuable source of protein and other nutrients, and bearded dragons should eat gut-loaded insect feeders every day. Adult beardies should be fed one to two meals per day and given as many insects as they can consume during a 10 to 15-minute feeding session.
Hatchlings and juveniles will need to eat a bit more often, or at least two to three times per day, to accommodate their rapidly growing bodies. An average juvenile bearded dragon can eat anywhere from 15 to 20 insects per day!
After each meal is done, you should remove all the remaining uneaten feeder insects from the tank to prevent them from injuring or stressing out your beardie. Furthermore, insects can pick up bacteria from fecal matter or decaying fruit inside the tank and infect your bearded dragon as well.
Understanding what the best feeder insects are for bearded dragons is essential for your reptile’s health and well-being. Like all other living creatures, beardies have unique dietary needs, and live feeders provide them with all their essential nutrients.
When it comes to feeding live insects to your bearded dragon, remember that store-bought always tops wild-caught! If purchasing live insects isn’t convenient for you, you can always raise your supply at home.
Now that you know what insects bearded dragons can eat, go ahead and start preparing your pet’s next meal!