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Are superworms better than mealworms for reptiles?
If you’re new to keeping reptiles, you’re probably learning a lot about feeder insects right now. Turns out there are tons of things you can feed your scaly buddies, depending on what kind of pet you have. For most folks, the standard go-to feeder insect is commonly crickets or mealworms. But why is that? What even is a mealworm, anyway?
Here, we’ll look at some of the reasons people often choose mealworms to feed their reptiles and amphibians. Then we’ll compare with another, less common species: the superworm. If you’re new to animal husbandry, this is a good start to picking a food source for your new pets. Now let’s talk creepy crawlies.
What Are Superworms and Mealworms?
What exactly are these weird bugs? They may look similar to maggots or caterpillars, but both superworms and mealworms are actually the larvae of the darkling beetle. They belong to the family Tenebrionidae, or darkling beetles. Superworms and mealworms are darkling beetle larvae, meaning before they get wings.
Between the two species, superworms (Zobphobas morio) are the largest. They can reach two inches in length, whereas mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) only reach an inch and a quarter or so. They have different native habitats, which means their living conditions vary a little. They also have different nutritional qualities.
How to Feed Your Pet with Superworms
There are a few tips that can make feeding easier. Depending on which worms you choose (and what kind of pet you have), you will probably want to dust your mealworms in calcium and/or other nutrients. Certain herps have different needs, but most reptiles and amphibians need calcium. The best way to coat your feeder insects is to put them in a plastic bag with some of the supplement and shake it gently until they’re coated.
After this, you can present them to your pet a couple of ways. Some folks prefer to use feeding tongs and giving them to their pet one at a time. Others use a high-walled, smooth feeding dish that prevents the critters from getting out. There is a fairly common myth that you have to crush a mealworm’s head before giving it to your pet. If you don’t, people worry, the insect could chew up your pet’s insides. Luckily this is untrue, so you don’t have to go to the extra work of smashing your bugs before giving them to your pet.
Nutritional Facts for Pets
The biggest difference between mealworms and superworms is their nutritional values. Mealworms contain slightly more protein, phosphorus, and moisture in their tissues. However, superworms contain much more calcium, fat, and fiber. Overall the superworm is the more nutritional of the two, with higher scores in vitamins and minerals without sacrificing much protein.
Superworms are also larger, providing more food per bug. However, superworms also contain more chitin, which is indigestible. So while they weigh more, less of the total weight is edible. This added chitin (found in the exoskeleton) can make them hard to digest for some pets.
You can make your feeder insects even more nutritional by “gut loading” them. Gut loading packs your feeder insects with more nutrition before you feed them to your reptiles. All you have to do is feed your insects with a special gut load mix for 24 hours before giving them to your pet. You can find out more and buy dry gut load mix to gut load your feeder insects right here [https://www.thecritterdepot.com/products/gut-load-your-feeders ].
One thing we should always think about is safety. Mealworms are usually the safer option to feed your pet. Superworms have a kind of “spike” or stinger on their heads that can hurt your lizard or frog. This probably isn’t a big issue for older, more cautious animals. But if your pets are younger, you might choose to avoid superworms.
The other consideration here is storage. Mealworms are pretty hardy organisms. They’re able to live for long periods in your fridge. Superworms, on the other hand, don’t live as long and can’t be refrigerated. If you’re starting a colony, mealworms are easier to keep because they require so little attention and tolerate more conditions.
The answer to which feeder insect is better is, as always, “it depends.” Superworms are clear winners for nutritional value. However, they can be hard to digest and will sting animals that aren’t wary of them. They also don’t keep quite as long, but you won’t have to keep as many of them.
Mealworms, on the other hand, aren’t as good nutritionally. You’ll need to coat them in more complex supplements to make sure your pet gets enough nutrients. But they keep longer in the fridge and are far less fussy to keep in a colony. They’re also easier to digest and overall safer.
The best answer to which you should use depends on your pet, its needs, and your home set up. But the good news is now you’ve got the info you need to pick!