Leopard geckos can eat mealworms, but can they eat mealworm beetles? That’s what we’re going to find out in this article. Mealworm beetles are typically soft and nutritious enough for leopard geckos to enjoy. These beetle larvae can be found at most pet stores that sell live food items or can be ordered online from a retailer like Amazon.
Leopard geckos can eat mealworm beetles although not as well as they eat mealworms. Mealworm beetles are slightly harder to chew and digest compared to mealworms and some leopard geckos will avoid them. The best mealworm beetles are the newly hatched ones as they’re soft and thus easier to chew and digest.
You should be careful feeding leopard geckos with mealworm beetles. While some will readily eat them, some will avoid them due to their hardness and the fact that these beetles release a foul smell when being eaten which might discourage some geckos.
What are mealworm beetles?
Mealworm beetles are the adult stage of mealworms. Mealworms are the larval stage of a mealworm beetle. Mealworm beetles can be found naturally throughout much of North America, Europe and Asia. They can also be grown commercially in large quantities all year around because they can withstand different environments.
They often grow to 1.5 inches in size which can be a bit difficult for leopard geckos to chew and swallow. They have a black color when fully grown and when recently morphed.
Mealworms can be a good and nutritious meal for leopard geckos because they are high in protein, low in fat and contain B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin.
They can also provide vitamin A which is important for night vision so that mealworm beetles can see at night when natural light sources diminish. Mealworms can help keep the tank clean by eating some of the leftover food particles on the ground or climbing up walls. They can even eat non-nutritive substances such as paper towels if there is nothing else available for them to eat.
When left to grow, mealworms turn into mealworm beetles which can be great food for leopard geckos. The mealworm beetles can provide the nutrients that are needed on a daily basis and can also help control pests in an enclosure.
However, mealworm beetles have a hard shell of chitin which may be too hard for some leopard geckos to crush and even digest. The mealworm beetles, also called darkling beetles, will secrete a foul-smelling substance to dissuade predators (like your leopard gecko) from consuming them.
Are mealworm beetles good for leopard geckos?
While mealworms have bad calcium to phosphorus ratio, mealworm beetles can be a better option for leopard geckos. Mealworm beetles are not only high in calcium, but they also provide the vitamins and minerals that mealworms do not have. Leopard geckos can eat mealworm beetles as an occasional treat or supplement to their regular diet of crickets and other insects like roaches and silkworms.
The most important thing when choosing what insect is good for your leopard gecko is making sure it has enough calcium according to its size. Low calcium levels in the body of your leo can lead to metabolic bone disease.
If the adult mealworm beetles are too tough or awful for your leopard gecko, you might consider giving the leos newly-hatched mealworm beetles. They’re white in color, more dormant and softer than fully-grown mealworm beetles. They also have weaker jaws compared to both mealworms and fully grown mealworm beetles thus reducing the chances of biting the gecko.
How to grow mealworm beetles
If you want to grow your own mealworm beetles that your leopard geckos can feed on, you can do so in the following steps:
1. Buy mealworms
The first step is to buy around 500 mealworms from a pet store. They can be found in the feed section and can cost around $12 for 500 mealworms. You will need about 500 if you wish to keep them alive for future leopard gecko feeding sessions or withstanding periods without food. Mealworms can cost anywhere between $12-$20 depending on their size, type, etc., so it is important that you don’t overpay for them.
Avoid super mealworms which have been treated with hormones and chemicals which can be dangerous or inactive. They may also not grow into mealworm beetles or, if they do so, they’ll likely be sterile and won’t reproduce.
2. Create a breeder box for them
Next up, create a breeder box made of either glass or plastic. They can be found fairly inexpensively and can house up to 500 mealworms. The mealworms’ breeder box can be as small as the size of a shoebox or can be as big as a microwave.
Glass breeder boxes can offer better viewing of your mealworms, but they are also more fragile and can break easily. They can’t go into the dishwasher either so you’ll need to clean them by hand with hot water and soap every few days if needed.
Plastic breeders are typically stronger than glass ones, so they’re less likely to crack in half when handled carelessly. It’s just easier to pop them into the dishwasher for an easy cleaning session once per week or two.
If you want some versatility, plastic is definitely the way to go because you can choose from different sizes such as shoebox size or microwavable (although these can be more expensive).
Breeder boxes can also come with dividers that can help you customize the space inside, which can be useful for separating different types of mealworms or other foods.
Mealworm beetles can’t fly so they won’t escape if left in the breeder box during transport unless there’s a gaping hole somewhere on top. Also, their exoskeleton is too thick for most predators to go through and get them (although mice might still climb into your plastic/metal containers).
You’ll need a heat source such as an incandescent light bulb or heating pad underneath your container because mealworms are cold-blooded and can’t regulate their own body temperature. Alternatively, some breeders keep theirs at room temperature (76°F to 80°F) and humidity of 70%.
Mealworm beetles can’t reproduce without a male and female, so it’s important to have females in the breeder box or you’ll just end up with more males as they can do the job themselves.
The best mealworms for leopard geckos will be medium-sized dark-colored ones that are at least an inch long because light colored mealworms might very well be younger than three months old and may still contain undeveloped eggs.
3. Feed the mealworms
You should feed your mealworms canned dog food, fruits or vegetables. Feeding your leopard gecko mealworm beetles that have been grown on a proper diet is a good idea because it is an excellent source of protein and fat for the reptiles that are omnivores in nature.
Mealworms can also feed on cornmeal, and can be fed on dry cat food. You can feed them either way, but it is necessary to keep in mind that they will take a little longer to mature if you are feeding them dry cat food.
They can also eat dog biscuits or other such things that would be used for dogs as well as humans. They can also eat fruit like apples or bananas with the peel removed. Sliced sweet potatoes and carrots also make a great mealworm beetle diet.
Make sure you change the food in the breeder box every few days to avoid decaying and germs.
4. Let the mealworms grow
When the right conditions are provided in the breeder box, the mealworms can grow to be up to an inch long. They are usually brownish in color, but can also appear pink or purple depending on the food they have been given.
In a few weeks, your mealworms will morph into mealworm beetles which start out as white then turn black. Mealworm beetles don’t fly away so don’t worry about them escaping. As stated before, feed them to the leopard geckos when they’re still white.
How to feed mealworm beetles to leopard geckos
Just like mealworms, mealworm beetles need to be gut-loaded before giving them to your pet gecko. Gut loading can be done by soaking the mealworm beetles in a vitamin mix and adding an egg or two, making sure it is all thoroughly mixed together before giving them to your leopard geckos.
The best way to feed mealworm beetles is by placing the insects live in the geckos’ enclosures. Alternatively, you can give your leopard gecko dried mealworms or frozen as well if they are not gut-loaded first.
If you do need to freeze some of these bugs for use later on, make sure that when thawing out any food items given to reptiles like this one they are always at room temperature so no bacteria can form from cold foods going straight into warm bodies. This way, the geckos will always have a clean and healthy meal.
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