If you’re searching for the perfect insects to feed your bearded dragon, you’re not alone. You want what’s best for your pet, and there are quite a lot of options available. That’s definitely the case with worms—there are wax worms, butterworms, earthworms, mealworms…but the one worm in particular that bearded dragons tend to go really crazy for is superworms. Are superworms good for bearded dragons?
Closely related to mealworms, superworms eventually morph into darkling beetles. They are a great source of protein and hydration, but their fat and phosphorus content can be concerning.
So can bearded dragons eat superworms? Can baby bearded dragons eat superworms? Let’s find out everything you need to know about superworms for bearded dragons.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Superworms?
The answer? Yes, bearded dragons can eat superworms! They are safe for healthy adult dragons, and as a plus, they tend to be one of beardies’ favorite treats. However, they aren’t considered a great staple insect, and baby bearded dragons should never eat superworms—they pose a serious risk of gut impaction.
Here are some of the benefits of superworms for bearded dragons:
A favorite snack. Bearded dragons love superworms. So they can be used to coax picky eaters to eat their greens, and they’re a great way to give your pet a special treat. Because of their fat content, they can also be used to help malnourished bearded dragons put on a healthy weight.
A good chase. At the end of the day, bearded dragons are exotic omnivores. It’s in their nature to chase and devour their prey. Superworms tend to give bearded dragons a run for their money, so to speak, so your beardie should enjoy the chase! (And you just might, too!)
Hydration. With over 50% moisture, superworms can be a great source of hydration for your bearded dragon. Proper hydration can help prevent gut impaction, dehydration, diarrhea, and other health issues.
Protein. Bearded dragons don’t get much protein from their vegetables and plants. So it’s important they eat insects that supply this nutrient. Superworms have about 19% protein, which makes them suitable for bearded dragons.
Along with these nutritional perks, there are a few setbacks with superworms that can have serious implications for your bearded dragon’s health if he eats too many of them:
Calcium deficiency. Superworms contain calcium, but they also contain a lot of phosphorus. In fact, they contain about 13 times more phosphorus than calcium. This can pose a serious health risk to bearded dragons.
As you probably know, calcium is a very important mineral for bearded dragons’ bone health and overall wellbeing. Without sufficient calcium, bearded dragons can suffer from metabolic bone disease, a painful deterioration of their skeletal system that causes paralysis and sometimes death.
This is one reason why you’ll see so many bearded dragon feeding guides looking at the calcium to phosphorus ratio in plants and even insects. When phosphorus outweighs calcium in a vegetable, fruit, or insect, it has the potential to cause metabolic bone disease since phosphorus prevents new calcium absorption and depletes existing calcium in the body.
Because of this issue, it’s best not to feed superworms to your dragon every day, and to dust the worms with calcium powder before feeding them to your bearded dragon. That way, at least some of the damage phosphorus could cause will be minimized.
Obesity. Superworms have a lot of fat! (Which definitely explains why many bearded dragons go bonkers for them.) But just like too many fatty foods aren’t good for humans, they aren’t good for bearded dragons either. Captive bearded dragons (especially adults) are already at some risk for obesity, partly because of the simple fact that they can’t run around free in the desert like they would in their natural habitat. Obesity isn’t too big of a risk if you keep your bearded dragon on a balanced diet and avoid overfeeding treats and fatty foods, like superworms.
Gut impaction. Superworms have a very hard exoskeleton. Exoskeleton on any feeder insect isn’t easy for bearded dragons to digest, but the exoskeleton on superworms is particularly difficult. So when bearded dragons eat superworms, bits and pieces of undigested exoskeleton end up sitting in their bellies for a while. Eventually your dragon will pass the crushed pieces of exoskeleton, but if there is too much that gathers over time, it can cause a painful case of gut impaction.
Gut impaction occurs when undigested substances build up in your dragon’s digestive tract and create a blockage. Sometimes the blockage is small and will be passed out of the body in time. Other times the impaction is quite serious and can press against your dragon’s nervous system, making it difficult for him to walk. In severe cases impaction can be fatal.
If your bearded dragon is not going to the bathroom, he may have gut impaction. Other symptoms can include:
- Weight loss
- Inability to keep food down
- Loss of appetite
- Lumps along spine or belly
- Difficulty walking
Contact your vet immediately if you suspect your bearded dragon is impacted.
Pro Tip: To help prevent gut impaction caused by exoskeleton buildup, make sure feeder insects are no longer than the space between your bearded dragon’s eyes.
Biting. Superworms put up a good fight when they’re being hunted down at feeding time. This includes biting and even stinging. To protect yourself, use tweezers and wear gloves when you handle superworms. And keep an eye on your bearded dragon, especially if this is her first time with superworms. They may be too aggressive for her, especially if she is timid or a juvie who is still learning to hunt live prey.
As you can see, there are quite a few benefits along with risks associated with superworms for adult and juvenile bearded dragons. What about baby beardies? Can baby bearded dragons eat superworms?
Superworms for Baby Bearded Dragons
With all of that information, you might be left wondering if superworms are good for baby bearded dragons.
The answer is no. Because they have such thick exoskeletons and are quite aggressive when being hunted, superworms are not good for baby bearded dragons. Baby bearded dragons have even more delicate digestive systems than adult beardies, which means they are at a higher risk of gut impaction; they also tend to be more timid hunters than adults, and can’t effectively attack and devour an angry superworm like an adult.
In addition, the fat content in superworms isn’t helpful to a growing baby dragon’s nutritional needs. Given that a baby’s diet consists of up to 80% feeder insects for protein, you’re better off choosing a more substantial feeder insect, even for a treat.
Superworms are usually safe for older juvenile dragons, but keep a close eye on them during feeding time to see if your beardie is fast enough to catch the worms before they have a chance to bite him. If he isn’t quite there yet, choose another feeder insect for the time being.
How Many Superworms for Bearded Dragons?
Due to the fat content, phosphorus, exoskeleton, and aggressive nature of superworms, they aren’t suitable as a staple insect for bearded dragons. However, you can follow these guidelines to determine how many worms to offer your bearded dragon when it’s time for a treat:
Adult. Two or three superworms once or twice a week should be sufficient for your adult bearded dragon.
Juvenile. A juvenile dragon who can handle the aggressiveness of the worms might be able to eat more superworms in one feeding than an adult. Sometimes it’s best to check with your vet first especially if your dragon has had any digestive issues in the past.
How to Feed Superworms to Your Bearded Dragon
You may have heard a myth floating around that superworms can chew their way out of a bearded dragon’s stomach, so you have to crush their heads or tear them off before feeding these worms to your beardie. This is not true. Stomach acid definitively kills the worms if they’re not already dead from your beardie’s munching, so no need to worry about that horrific scenario!
At the same time, superworms do tend to be aggressive, and have been known to bite bearded dragons inside the mouth while being eaten. This shouldn’t be as much of an issue if you supervise feeding time and only feed worms that are no longer than the space between your bearded dragon’s eyes.
With that in mind, you can crush the worms’ heads before feeding them if you feel more comfortable doing it that way, but it’s not necessary.
Pro Tip: Regardless of the insect, don’t let your bearded dragon enjoy live feeding time unsupervised. It’s best to err on the side of caution to make sure your dragon is safe.
Ways to Feed
Before feeding superworms to bearded dragons, dust them with calcium powder first. This is a good habit to practice any time you feed your dragon live insects.
To feed superworms to your dragon, you can use tweezers and feed them one by one, or you can place them into a feeding bowl.
You can also place the worms in an enclosure so your bearded dragon can hunt them down, but do not let worms roam free in a terrarium with substrate. Superworms can quickly and easily bury themselves in the substrate and it can be very hard to find them again.
Plus, you definitely don't want your bearded dragon swallowing substrate in an attempt to eat the worms. Substrate can cause gut impaction.
How to Keep Superworms for Bearded Dragons
Luckily superworms are quite easy to store. Since they’re more of a treat than a staple, you most likely will not need to worry about long-term arrangements.
Just follow these simple pointers to successfully store superworms.
- Don’t refrigerate superworms, since it will kill them. Instead, store them between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep them in a large plastic container with smooth sides.
- Provide some potato slices or pieces of carrot for hydration. You don’t need to provide food unless you want to keep the worms for over two weeks. If you do want to keep the worms longer, you can feed them bits and pieces of vegetables that you would normally use for compost or throw away, like the ends of celery stalks and the tops of bell peppers.
- The worms won’t turn into beetles if they are stored together with adequate hydration.
- Provide egg crates or the bottom half of egg cartons so the worms have some space to crawl around.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Darkling Beetles?
So now that you’ve got the scoop on superworms for bearded dragons, you might be wondering if it’s safe for bearded dragons to eat darkling beetles, which superworms eventually turn into.
A more mature insect, darkling beetles contain more protein and fiber and less fat than superworms. Your baby, juvenile, or adult bearded dragon can eat darkling beetles, although they aren’t nutrient dense enough to be staple feeder insects. Bearded dragons typically don’t like the taste of darkling beetles, so you may not have too much success with these. But they are an option for your beardie’s menu.
Superworms for Bearded Dragons: A Favorite Treat
Next time you want to treat your adult or juvenile bearded dragon, superworms are an excellent option. Ready to try them out? Select a size and order your superworms today.