Bearded Dragon Diet

What kind of Beetles Can Bearded Dragons Eat?

When you are feeding your Bearded Dragon, it’s only natural to want to make sure that they don’t get bored of what’s on the menu.

This subject is quite the popular one and today we’re going to tell you about the various types of Beetles your Beardies can enjoy, as well as some other nutritious options that can help you to keep things fresh. Without further ado, let’s talk about Beetles and other tasty treats to keep your Beardie coming back for more!

Mealworms – Species: Tenebrio monitor

mealworms for reptiles

Mealworms are one of the most popular options for feeding Bearded Dragons actually quite a lot of other animals love them as well. While they look like worms, however, they are technically the larval form of the Darkling beetle.

That means if you leave the ones that your Beardie doesn’t eat alone, they might actually transform into beetles when you aren’t looking, though the odds are that your Dragon will get them long before this happens.

As the nutrition is a little different in this stage, we’ve given them a separate section from the adults, so let’s take a look at how these popular and wriggly little larvae factor into your Bearded Dragons diet.

Are they good for them?

Beardies love them, but they aren’t all that nutritious and there are some factors that can affect the overall nutritional profile of the mealworms. In general, here is a rough nutritional profile of mealworms, and keep in mind that the remaining content is basically water:

  • 19% proteins
  • 13% fatty content
  • 2% ash

This brings us to an important caveat — Mealworms need to eat well to provide improved nutrition. This is actually not hard to do, and if you get into this habit then your Beardie will get a more interesting meal and your mealies will be less likely to die before your Dragon can eat them.

Instead of just scooping them out of the container and dumping them in a bowl for your Dragon with some of the ‘filler’ that comes in the jar, try adding a thinly sliced piece of apple into the bowl so that the mealies have something to snack on.

This helps to keep them hydrated and also to ensure that they’ll have full bellies when your Beardie eats them – well, at least the ones that live long enough, of course!

How many for an adult vs a hatchling?

Since they are only ‘mildly nutritious’, mealworms are best served infrequently as a fun treat for your Bearded Dragon, and you really want to consider only serving them to adults.

While your baby or juvenile might be fine eating 2 to 3 mealworms, they are actually quite hard to digest for younger dragons, and this can lead to impaction in the intestines. The reason is that they have chitin shells in this stage and the smaller the worm, the stronger the shell.

Even adults can get impacted by eating too many of them, though 5 to 6 worms twice a week should not be a problem for a healthy adult. With juveniles and hatchlings, however, the low nutritional content and that crunchy chitin shell makes mealworms a ‘less than optimal’ option.

Darkling beetles

macro image of a shiny darkling beetle

Now that we’ve established that mealworms are best relegated as treats, what about once they’ve become beetles? Well, from a nutritional standpoint, they are actually a little better than mealworms, with a profile that boils down to this (aside from the water content):

  • 26% proteins
  • 7% fatty content
  • 2% ash

This sounds good on paper, after all, you’ve got less fat and higher protein, and it will hydrate them… what’s not to like? The thing is, that extra protein comes from the beetles hard shell, which your Dragon is going to have a hard time with. The beetles also have some defense capability, as well.

There’s no danger of biting – so don’t worry about that – but these beetles have a chemical defense that they use which is basically a ‘beetle stinkbomb’, and while it won’t stink up the cage, it’s designed to make them less palatable for predators, so it probably doesn’t taste very good.

While your Dragon might well enjoy them from time to time, just for the fun of chasing them down and eating them, the poor nutritional content along with the Darkling’s little stinkbomb trick mean that other insects might well be a much better option for your Beardie.

Are they good for them?

As with mealworms, a lot will depend on what they eat, but they really don’t bring much more than amusement into your Bearded Dragon’s day. Don’t get us wrong – some Beardies absolutely love them and it’s fine to let them have these beetles from time to time, provided that they are adults and moderation is observed.

As far as nutrition, however, the hard shells and chemical spray make these beetles a whole lot of work that your Beardie won’t have to do with some of the more nutritious insect options that are available.

How many for an adult vs a hatchling?

If you’d like to feed your Dragon some beetles, you can certainly do so, but wait until they are older. With the strong chitin shells that the Beetles have, they aren’t very suitable for juveniles and especially for hatchlings, as the shell material can get caught up in and even impact the intestines.

This could be potentially lethal if Dragons of any age eat enough of them, though with that said, giving your Adult Dragon one or two every week should be fine if these beetles are their favorite treat. Just don’t go beyond this, however, as there is simply too much that can go wrong.

Superworm beetles – Species: Zophobas morio

Superworms are another Bearded Dragon favorite that are touted as having more protein and calcium in them, and they certainly do, as well as a good amount of fat that makes them juicy and tasty for your Beardie.

That said, like mealworms, they really are better as an occasional treat than they are as a staple part of your Bearded Dragon’s diet and we’ll tell you why. We’ll give you a hint first – it’s all about those shells and the superworm’s diets.

Are they good for them?

On the surface, they do have a little more protein than mealworms, and they also have more chitin in their shell, and just a little more fat than mealies. Add in that Beardies definitely love the wriggly things and it certainly seems like something that you’d want for them as a regular treat.

The thing is, while those shells are good for your Bearded Dragon’s teeth and they do get some calcium from them, we’re back to the question of impaction. The chitin shells of the superworms are hard to digest – keep in mind that chitin is the same stuff that your fingernails are made of.

As such, while they provide a small amount of nutrition from their bodies, plus whatever they’ve got in their stomachs, it’s really a minimal benefit from a nutrition standpoint. DO include them in your Beardie’s diet, as long as they are an adult, as they certainly love the things and they are harmless in small amounts.

We just want to stress that the difficulty in digesting them means that too many superworms can actually pose a risk of impacting your Dragon’s intestines and a trip to the vet. As such, you need to dole them out responsibly so that these delicious treats are going to be completely safe.

How many for an adult vs a hatchling?

Hatchlings and juveniles should definitely not have superworms. Yes, you may have some friends who feed them to their Dragons, but ultimately the facts are the facts. Those chitin shells that protect this type of beetle larvae are hard to digest and can ‘clog up the works’ if your Dragon is having an unlucky day and too many worms.

Both superworms and mealworms are members of the Darkling family of beetles and while your Beardie certainly loves them, they are hard to digest, so you just have to keep that in mind.

Adults can have 1 or 2 a week and it should be fine, but avoid any Thanksgiving or Birthday ‘Beetle feasts’ —  that could turn a happy day for your Dragon into a stressful and panicked vet visit that you can easily avoid with moderation.

How to feed beetles to your Beardie

If you’d like to feed beetles to your Beardie, then the optimal way to serve them up is going to depend on their current stage of life. Here is how you do it:

  • Larval stage(mealworms or superworms) – In their wriggly larval stage, mealies and superworms are easy to feed to your Dragon. Simply scoop up the amount that you’d like and put them in a bowl for your Dragon with a thin slice of apple present. Beardies love both apples and mealworms and the apple will help keep the worms alive until consumption and fill their bellies.
  • Beetle (matured stage) – To feed beetles to your adult Bearded Dragon, the best approach is to enclose two in a plastic bag that you seal with a little air and place in the refrigerator for 5 minutes. This will reduce their temperature and while they’ll be alive, they’ll be a lot slower and easier for your Dragon to catch.

Foods better for Beardies than beetles

While mealworms and superworms are the most popular, check into options that don’t happen to be the larval stage of beetles – with real worms being an excellent choice. Nightcrawlers, for instance, make for a healthy treat, but you need to raise them yourself or get them from the petstore – never the garden.

Insects from the garden can sometimes absorb pesticides that you don’t want to expose your Dragon to, so this is something to be careful about. Aside from nightcrawlers, red worms are also good, as well as silkworms, waxworms, and black soldier fly larvae is excellent enough to feed to them regularly.

Black soldier fly larvae are sometimes sold as ‘calciworms’ and as they are soft bodied, it helps to address the chitin problem and ensures that your Beardy can still enjoy some wriggly foods.

Some closing words on beetles and your Beardie

Today we’ve taken a closer look at mealworms, superworms, and darkling beetles in order to determine their suitability as a regular food. Unfortunately, while they have some nutrition, they are quite a lot of work with their chitin shell and the fact that it’s hard to digest doesn’t really help.

As such, while they may be fed as treats in small amounts, beetles really aren’t suitable for an everyday part of your Dragon’s diet. Soft bodied worms and options such as soldier fly larvae are much better, as they can provide comparable or even better nutrition in an easier-to-digest package.

Now that you know the facts, however, you can diversify your Beardie’s diet and be happy in knowing that they’ll always look forward to seeing what’s for dinner today – just don’t overdo it with the mealworms, of course!


Chris is a reptile enthusiast, breeder, and blogger from the Milwaukee, WI area. After breeding hundreds of bearded dragons to supply local pet stores and owning many other types of reptiles, he is now focused on sharing knowledge to help owners properly care for their little reptiles friends.
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