Feeding superworms to bearded dragons is something that many owners consider at one point. Providing a varied diet is important for these reptiles, and you also want to do what you can to make feeding time fun!
But can bearded dragons eat superworms? And if they can, how many should you feed them?
This guide covers everything you need to know.
Table of Contents
- Can Bearded Dragons Eat Superworms?
- How Many Superworms Should You Feed Bearded Dragons?
- Are Superworms Good For Bearded Dragons?
- The Right Way To Feed Superworms To Bearded Dragons
- Can Baby Bearded Dragons Eat Superworms?
- Where Can You Buy Superworms For Your Beardie?
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Superworms?
Bearded dragons can eat superworms, but only in moderation.
These reptiles are natural omnivores and do well on a varied diet that includes high-protein and plant-based foods. Insects serve as a valuable source of protein. Most reptile enthusiasts utilize crickets, mealworms, Dubia roaches, and other readily available insects.
Superworms are a unique alternative that beardies seem to love! Ask anyone who’s fed these critters to their bearded dragons, and they’ll tell you that the lizard loves the chase. They’re often a favorite among beardies, and many owners use them to encourage their lizards to eat other foods.
What exactly are superworms? They’re the larvae of darkling beetles and go by many other names. They might be called “king worms” or “morio worms.”
Superworms look similar to standard mealworms at first glance. But when you put them side by side, you’ll notice that superworms are substantially larger. The larvae are also more active, which is why so many beardies love pursuing them as prey.
For the most part, superworms are a healthy food to provide in moderation. That said, they shouldn’t be a diet staple for your bearded dragon. Think of these foods as more like snacks instead of everyday meals.
How Many Superworms Should You Feed Bearded Dragons?
Bearded dragons love to eat superworms, but you have to practice moderation. They cannot eat them every day (more on that later in the guide).
A good rule of thumb is that adult bearded dragons can eat superworms once or twice a week. During those feedings, you can provide two or three superworms. Any more than that, and the food can present potential health problems.
Older juvenile bearded dragons can enjoy superworms as well. They can have about the same amount as adults. Your older juveniles may be able to handle a little bit more than mature adults, but consult with your vet to be on the safe side.
Are Superworms Good For Bearded Dragons?
Superworms have a lot to offer, but they’re not the perfect food by any means. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages these larvae have to offer beardies.
Benefits Of Superworms
When you look at the benefits of feeding your bearded dragon superworms, it’s hard not to want to add them into your lizard’s dietary mix.
From a nutritional standpoint, superworms are great. They have a protein content of about 19 percent. It’s not the highest around, but protein is always good.
Bearded dragons don’t get much protein from the leafy greens and vegetables they eat. High-protein foods like superworms are necessary to meet the lizard’s nutritional needs. When used as a snack alongside mealworms, wax worms, Dubia roaches, and crickets, superworms are a fantastic addition.
But that’s not all.
Superworms are also an excellent form of hydration. The larvae are about 50 percent moisture. Bearded dragons get a lot of hydration from the plant-based matter they eat, but they’re not keen on lapping up water. As a result, any additional source of hydration is welcome.
Keeping your lizard hydrated helps prevent the effects of dehydration, improves digestion, and promotes better overall health. Who doesn’t want that?
On top of those nutritional benefits, bearded dragons enjoy the act of eating superworms. These reptiles like to eat protein-based food, but there’s something special about these particular larvae.
It’s more active than mealworms, and its sheer size makes it a tasty treat. Superworms also have a good amount of fat that likely creates tons of flavor for the lizard.
All combined, it’s the perfect snack for beardies. They love chasing these tiny larvae around, and they provide greater stimulation than other live foods. Bearded dragons love them so much that many owners use them as a tool for encouragement.
Expert Tip: If your beardie’s appetite isn’t the best or they refuse to eat leafy greens, adding a superworm or two into the mix encourages them to eat more.
Downsides Of Superworms
Now, let’s talk about potential downsides. As mentioned earlier, superworms can’t be a dietary staple. You must only provide them in moderation. There are a few reasons why.
One of the biggest concerns with superworms is how it affects calcium intake. As you probably know, bearded dragons need calcium to stay healthy. When they don’t get enough, their risk of metabolic bone disease and other health complications rises.
Metabolic bone disease is a particularly nasty health issue that can lead to a slow and excruciating death. That’s why it’s so important to use calcium supplements and provide a balanced diet.
Superworms contain calcium, but they have way more phosphorus. There’s about 13 times more phosphorus than there is calcium.
That’s a concern because of what phosphorus does to calcium. The mineral can cause existing calcium in the body to deplete while preventing new calcium from being absorbed into the body effectively. The key to feeding bearded dragons is to provide the right balance of calcium and phosphorus.
Feeding too many superworms can throw that balance off, creating dietary problems that eventually lead to metabolic bone disease.
Another thing you have to worry about is the fat content. Superworms are about 14 percent fat. For a bearded dragon, that means plenty of flavor. But from a health standpoint, it’s potentially dangerous.
Fat is fine in moderation, but bearded dragons already have a high risk of obesity when living in captivity. If you were to make superworms a diet staple, your beardie would quickly gain weight and suffer the health consequences.
On top of all that, eating too many superworms could cause gut impaction. Impaction occurs when undigested food gets stuck in the system. The lizard is incapable of processing impacted food, so it stays in the digestive tract.
Eventually, the impaction causes bearded dragons to lose their appetite. They may become sluggish and have challenges keeping food down. It can lead to weight loss, severe health complications, and death.
For the most part, bearded dragons have no problem eating tough insect exoskeletons. They do it all the time, and impaction is rare when eating common foods like mealworms and roaches. But superworms have a particularly tough exoskeleton.
It’s significantly thicker than a standard mealworm, increasing the risk of impaction. After eating superworms, bearded dragons will digest most of the meal. But tiny bits and pieces will take a little longer to process.
With the recommended portions of two or three superworms a couple of times a week, your beardie will have no problems. There’s enough time without the superworms to eliminate the extra undigested bits. But when you feed superworms, that’s not the case, resulting in gut impaction.
Finally, let’s talk about the larvae’s active nature. One of the things bearded dragons love most about superworms is that they provide a genuine chase. They move around, and your beardie has to “hunt” them down.
It’s a great form of enrichment and play.
However, superworms will fight back! Superworms can bite your beardie as they chew on them. The larvae also have tiny pins on their backs that they can use to attack like scorpions.
Injuries are possible. If your bearded dragon isn’t used to eating super-active prey, the larvae may be too aggressive for them. Infection is always possible, so you must be wary of how your lizard responds.
The Right Way To Feed Superworms To Bearded Dragons
Feeding superworms to your bearded dragon requires a little more attention and care. Because the larvae can bite and move, you must be cautious about handling them.
First, gather your supplies! It’s wise to wear a pair of gloves and use long tweezers to deliver them to your beardie. You can use the tweezers for direct feeding or place them on your lizard’s food dish. Either way, you want to avoid handling superworms with your bare hands!
Before giving your beardie two or three superworms, dust them in calcium. Earlier, we discussed the high phosphorus levels that can throw off the delicate ratio of minerals these lizards need. One way to overcome that is to use calcium powder supplements.
Ideally, you should dust every live insect you feed your dragon in the calcium. It makes the food more nutritious and helps avoid metabolic bone disease.
After dusting the larvae, they’re ready for your excited beardie to eat!
If you have an enclosure with a substrate, feed your bearded dragon directly or use a dish. Never let superworms roam free in a substrate-filled habitat. They will quickly bury themselves in the substrate material, and you’ll have a tough time finding them after that.
The larvae could eventually transform into the darkling beetle in your dragon’s home.
Expert Tip: There’s a myth that you have to squish the heads of superworms before feeding them. Many people believe that the larvae are capable of biting their way out of bearded dragons after they’re eaten.
Don’t worry: That’s nothing more than a myth. The stomach acid in your bearded dragon’s system will kill superworms. There’s no doubt about that.
Superworms can bite your beardie’s mouth as it eats. Fortunately, those bites usually aren’t a big deal. Regardless, it’s wise to keep an eye on your lizard and take action if you see them struggling.
Can Baby Bearded Dragons Eat Superworms?
Baby bearded dragons cannot and should not eat superworms.
The larva is safe for adult bearded dragons and older juveniles. However, they’re unsafe for babies.
Baby beardies have weaker digestive systems. Their bodies are still developing, and their systems are more sensitive. It’s not strong enough to handle the already tough exoskeleton of the superworm.
Adults can handle the worms with moderation and avoid gut impaction. But with a baby, it’s almost guaranteed.
The fat and phosphorus levels also present problems. You don’t want to take risks with your baby beardie’s development. Too much fat and phosphorus can cause early obesity and musculoskeletal issues.
On top of all that, superworms are far too aggressive for young babies. They don’t have those hunter-like instincts yet, and the biting of a superworm can present problems.
Avoid giving your baby bearded dragons superworms, and stick to gentler alternatives.
Where Can You Buy Superworms For Your Beardie?
Finding superworms for bearded dragons is quite simple. In fact, they’re readily available at many pet stores! You can often find them alongside crickets and mealworms. If you don’t have a local pet store that offers them, you can also purchase superworms online.
Expert Tip: An alternative option is to find local breeders and other reptile enthusiasts that raise superworms as feed.
Superworms are easy to keep. They don’t need special living arrangements or complex enclosures. You can keep them in a smooth-sided plastic container with holes for fresh air.
Keep the larvae at temperatures around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also line the container with overturned egg crates to give the superworms room to roam.
Offer some potato slices or carrot pieces to keep the superworms hydrated. If you keep the larvae in relatively warm conditions with ample hydration, they shouldn’t change into darkling beetles.
No matter where you buy them, make sure to gut-load your super worms before feeding the larvae to your bearded dragon. Gut-loading should occur at least 24 hours before meal time. In many cases, you can buy gut-loaded superworms.
If you’re storing the super worms for more than a day, toss some nutritional vegetable scraps into their container. The superworms will eat plant-based foods, void their systems of anything toxic, and become more nutritious for your lizard.
Bearded dragons can eat superworms in moderation, so you shouldn’t be worried about introducing them into your pets diet. As long as you follow the instructions above, you’ll be just fine!
If you have any questions about feeding superworms to your bearded dragon (or anything else that comes to mind), send us a message. We’re always happy to help.