Crickets are one of the vital staple feeder insects for bearded dragons. These insects belong to family Gryllidae and should not be confused with grasshopper or bush crickets. Most of these insects are flightless, i.e., they leap, and their males make a musical chirping noise.
What kind of crickets do bearded dragons eat?
With over 900 different species, those that serve as feeder insects include the following:
- House crickets or Acheta domestica, which unfortunately are vulnerable to the CrPV virus.
- Banded, Indian house or tropical house crickets or Gryllodes sigillatus which are more palatable as they have a softer exoskeleton, have a longer lifespan, and immune to CrPV virus.
- Black field, two-spotted, African, Mediterranean field cricket (Gryllus bimaculatus)
- Jamaican crickets (Gryllus assimilis) which are commercially available in Europe and North America and immune to the CrPV virus
There are many others. However, don’t confuse them with many insects that have the name ‘cricket’ that are not true crickets.
Are live crickets a better choice?
Crickets are an excellent choice of feeder insects for your bearded dragon. Both the live and free dried ones are ok with most of these pets preferring the live ones for apparent reason. They move.
They are nutritive. For instance, house crickets have 69.2% moisture, 20.5% proteins, 6.8% fats, 2.2% fiber, 40.7 mg calcium per 100 g and 295mg phosphorus per 100 g while their nymphs have 77.1% moisture, 14.5% proteins, 3.3% fats, 2.2% fiber, 27.5 mg calcium per 100 g and 252 mg phosphorus per 100 g.
Also, they provide the best feeding response, i.e., they will stimulate your beardie into activity as they try to catch them. You will be surprised how fast these reptiles are.
Thirdly, they are soft-bodied, making them easy to eat by even baby bearded dragons when compared to cockroaches such as Dubia cockroaches.
Other reasons why they should be part of your staple breaded dragon food list include the following:
- They gut-load very effectively
- They are easily available
- They come in various sizes
- They are quite affordable
- They are easy to keep
- You can raise them on your home
- They have an excellent amount of iron
While most owners of these reptiles use them, they also have a few drawbacks which you should one that includes:
- They can stink or have an odor
- They can be noisy – they make a chirping noise, especially at night.
- They can quickly jump to escape
- If you compare them with cockroaches like B. Dubia, they have lesser calcium and not as nutritious as roaches.
- Carefully vet your source as these insects or any other depending on the source may carry parasites, especially pinworms.
Pick correct cricket size
The first step is choosing the right size. They should be less than the distance between the eyes of your bearded dragon to avoid chocking and impaction. If you depend on commercially sold ones, their sizes are as follows:
- Pinhead crickets – These are small, wingless, whose size is comparable to that of a regular pin and about two days old. They are best for hatchlings and baby bearded dragons.
- Small crickets – Larger than pinheads but less than a centimeter long and are suitable for older baby beardies and juveniles.
- Medium crickets – The are about 1/2″- 5/8″ inches long. However, this will depend on their species as some may be slightly bigger or smaller.
- Large crickets – These are grown-up or adults whose length may be from 2-4 cm or larger depending on their breed.
Besides size, you need to consider their quality too and settle for a well-fed stock if they are to offer maximum nutritional benefits.
Gut loading crickets
Afterward, gut-load them by feeding them well 24-48 before giving them to your beardies so that they benefit from the various nutrients in these insects’ gut.
When gut-loading, you can use an adequately ventilated plastic container that they cannot jump out of or have a lid. Also, you can go for cricket keepers such as Lee’s Kricket Keeper designed to keep these insects.
Use pulverized collard greens, mustard greens, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, apples, spinach, cornmeal, oranges, rolled oats, and other cereals to minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients.
Alternatively, there more nutritious options of commercial gut-loading foods such as Zilla Gut Load Cricket Drink, Repashy Superload, and Nature Zone Total Bites for Crickets & Feeder Insects Soft Moist Food. They will increase calcium and nutrients in your feeder insects.
Dust them with minerals and multivitamins
Since they are low in calcium, dust them with calcium, vitamin D3, and other multivitamins. Usually, you should dust or spray them with calcium on the days you don’t sprinkle them with multivitamins as they may mute each other’s effectiveness.
To dust them, place them in a small plastic container, add some mineral or multivitamin powder, and shake them until these supplements coat them lightly. How often to dust these feeder insects depends on the age of your beardies.
A typical schedule is as follows:
- For baby beardies, all their foods should be dusted with calcium for five days while for vitamin, dust 2-3 of their meals in a week.
- For juveniles, dust all their meals 3-4 times a week while you should dust with multivitamins only in a single food for 2-3 times a week.
- Finally, adults require calcium dusting only in a single meal, three times a week, and vitamins on a single meal for 1-2 days a week.
Feeding cricket to beardies
Feeding involves picking the right size, gut-loading them, dusting them, and offering them to your reptile in a suitable feeder or hand-feed them, including with a long tong or tweezers.
1. Best beardie cricket feeder and tongs
Hand-feeding will be ideal if you have time. It will encourage more interaction and might help you bond well with this pet. Also, tweezers are suitable if you don’t want to touch these insects or avoid accidental bites.
On the other hand, if you have a reptile cricket feeder, they can eat by themselves as they do in their natural habitat. These feeders work by ensuring insects do not come out at once as they may confuse, slow down, or leap on these reptiles, something that may stress them. Furthermore, they may bite your beardie fi they are hungry.
Some of the best feeders and tongs you can buy include the following:
a). Exo Terra automatic Reptile Cricket Feeder
If you have this Exo Terra automatic feeder, you can use it to dust these insects. One advantage it has is reducing the amount of calcium, vitamin D3, and other multivitamins used in dusting your insects.
Secondly, it looks natural, will allow a few to come out, and cleaning it is a breeze. Your pet will eat as it does while in the wild.
To use it, you will add a powdered supplement, put 10-20 crickets, cover it, shake it a little, put it in your terrarium, and open its plug. Your beardies will eat these insects as they crawl out.
b). Extra Long Tweezers 18.9 Inch – Stainless Steel Feeding Tongs
This long stainless-steel tong is a must-have. It is ideal for hand feeding fish in an aquarium, reptiles like snakes including your phyton, bearded dragon and other lizards, scorpion, frog, and so on,
It comes with either a straight or curved tip, its clips are anti-slip, and its long size minimizes chances of injuring your pet.
c). Exo Terra Termite Hill
It is easy, leaves no mess, will make the coating of calcium and multivitamins very easy. Any excess powders are reusable. If you want something so natural, get this feeder.
d). Zoo Med Laboratories Feeding Tongs
These Zoo Med Tong are suitable in feeding your beardie as well as reptiles, birds, aquarium fish, aquatic turtles, marine invertebrates, large cichlids, and small animals.
While made from plastic, they are durable and a perfect choice if you don’t want to touch the feeder insects with your hand as you hand-feed these pets or any other.
e). Exo Terra Cricket Pen
This feeder is not just a feeder but also a keeper with has a bowl for water and a feeding dish. It dispenses them easily via tubes after removing its ventilating pipe. There will be no mess, and feeding will be much easier.
f). Rep-Cal Cricket Shaker
This shaker is suitable for dusting and feeding live insects to your bearded dragon. It will help save on supplements and features a bug catching pipe, which you will use to catch these insects and feed them to your reptiles.
2. Remove any uneaten
While feeding, some of these insects may hide in places where your beardies cannot reach them, such as behind or beneath the décor. Also, some may drown inside their watering bowls.
Pick them if they drown in your bearded dragon water bowl, cover the water dish or remove it while they are eating.
Once you finish feeding your beardie, remove any uneaten cricket as they may bite your pet, causing an open wound. Such an injury can be a site for infection. Also, don’t forget to pick nay that may have hidden on the various terrarium furniture or décor, including on the hammock, live or artificial plants, beneath your climbing branches or logs, hiding cave, and so on.
How do you get crickets out of bearded dragon cage? The easiest way will be to buy a bug catcher. Two great brands that will do the work well are My Critter Catcher – Spider and Insect Catcher or BugZooka WB100 Bug Catcher Vacuum. However, if they are dead, a tong will do.
Alternatively, you can have a different feeding area such as ventilating a big Rubbermaid or something like the Large Durable Storage Box 24 Gal depending on your pet size
3. How to keep crickets alive
Unless you are raising crickets yourself, you need a keeper to keep them alive since you cannot be ordering live crickets every day. It will be costly. Instead, order in bulk and keep them for a few days to a week as you feed them to your pet.
Remember, these feeder insects must be kept in good health and nutritious with required minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients.
To keep alive, go for a keeper. Alternatively, you can use any open container that they cannot jump out of or have a metallic screen covering them.
While keeping them, give the water but ensure they do not drown such a using a shallow dish and placing a sponge inside or using water polymer crystals or Fluker’s Cricket Quencher.
Secondly, feed them with organic foods, including what brand, cornmeal veggies, and fruits to keep them healthy and nutritious for the next feeding round. There are also nutrient-rich commercial cricket foods and chows that you can buy.
Finally, maintain their humidity at 50% or 50-70% (if they are very young) and their temperature at between 75 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperatures will kill them or make them eat one another while too high will reduce their lifespan.
4. How many crickets should a bearded dragon eat?
Since crickets and roaches are some of the best staple insects for bearded dragons, you may want to know how many to give to these pets. How many they can eat will depend on their age and how much of the other staple feeder insects they are having.
a). Hatchlings and baby bearded dragons 0-4 months
Baby bearded dragons should eat feeder insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, or roaches 3-5 times a day since they account for 80% of their diet.
The number of crickets to feed baby beardies is what they can finish in 10-15 minutes. Some sources put it 5-10 minutes, and this will depend on how many times you feed them feeder insects.
For instance, if you are offering small ones, your baby bearded dragon can eat 30 to 80 in a day. Some will cap them to 50 a day served in 2-3 meals. The best way is to let them eat for a specified duration and not a number since they vary in size.
b). Juveniles and sub-adult 4-18 months
Since the ratio of feeder insects is reducing while veggies increase, you need to also reduce the on the frequency or how often you feed them as they grow.
Juveniles can have crickets 2-3 times a day while younger, and as they grow, it can go down to 1-2 times a day. Let them eat as much as they can in 10-15 minutes of feeding time.
Depending on their size, juveniles can eat 20 to 40 crickets in a day served in two feedings, but this is subject to the amounts of other feeder insects they are having.
c). Adult beardies 18+ months
By this age, their diet is 80% veggies and fruit treats and 20% feeder insects, and they can eat up to 50 crickets in a week or 10-20 once a day or every other day.
As a rule of thumb, when feeding live feeds, including crickets, silkworms, black soldier fly larvae, grasshoppers, locusts, or any other staple insects, the best advice is to let them eat freely for 10-15 minutes or until they stop if they do so before this time.
How often should they eat crickets
You already have the answers. However, let us summarize it for you. The feeding frequency should be as follows:
- For baby dragons should eat crickets or feeder 3-5 times in a day
- For juveniles 2-3 time a day
- For adults not more than once a few times in a week.
Can bearded dragons eat dead crickets, including frozen ones?
Do bearded dragons have to eat live crickets, or is it ok to give them dead ones, including the canned, frozen, freeze-dried ones? Are they good or bad?
The answer to these questions has two aspects. The first one is whether these pets can eat them while the second will be on whether it is safe or not.
1. Can a bearded dragon eat dead crickets?
Yes. Beardies can eat dead crickets and other bugs. There are commercial foods with pre-killed bugs sold for reptiles and amphibians. They include freeze-dried, frozen, and canned ones.
They last longer, have added ingredients, you do not have to care for these bugs, among other benefits. Therefore, they are suitable for these pets.
However, this may present some challenges as beardies may not easily recognize the dead bugs. In such a case, use plastic tipped tongs tweezers to help these pets identify the dead bugs.
When using tweezers or tongs, grasp your cricket, move it around with your tong as it is still alive to help it catch recognize the bug.
Secondly, a vibrating bowl will be useful as it will make the bugs appear as if they are moving. Remove the dish when they finish eating. The Exo Terra Vivicator Vibrating Feeding Dish is a perfect vibrating bowl that is remote-controlled, stimulates live insect movement, and it is easy to clean.
Thirdly, you can also hide them in their veggies or use a water gun while in their drinking bowl to push them around to make them appear to be alive.
2. Is it ok for beardies to eat dead crickets?
Unless frozen or sold as dead, discard any cricket that is dead. You probably do not know why it died. You cannot just pick a dead bug and offer it to any of your pets.
Sometimes, if you buy them online, during shipping, especially where there is a variation of weather, some may die. If that happens, inform your vendors, they will send you another package free of charge.
Do not assume they are ok if they died on the way. Additionally, once they die, they will lose moisture, making them dried and hard to eat, have fewer nutrients, attract parasites or bacteria, or may have started decomposing.
Discard them unless they are designed by their manufacturers to sell them as dead bugs.
Not eating crickets
Sometimes, your bearded dragon might regurgitate crickets or refuse to eat them. You need to determine if it happens to these feeder insects alone or all foods.
Possible causes include wrong temperature setup ( it should be 35oC – 43oC for the basking area while for the colder side, keep it at 27oC – 32oC), they are too big, your beardie is sick or shedding, is under brumation, is impacted, has parasites or stress, is a selective eater, among other reasons.
However, it is normal for adult beardies to take a whole day or more without eating, and this should not worry you unless you notice some symptoms of sickness.
Also, boredom might be the cause, especially if they have been eating crickets every day. Try changing to other healthy feeder insects like cockroaches, grasshoppers, Phoenix worms, silkworms, and so on or mix them.
Finally, it may be an issue of taste, i.e., they don’t prefer crickets or has outgrown them. As they grow, some of these pets may incline more to veggies. Do not force them to eat these feeder insects.
Where to buy crickets for bearded dragons
While it is possible to raise your feeder insects, including crickets, ordering in bulk will help down on their cost as well as other expenses that may come along with the frequent buying.
You can get them at your local pet store or buy them online. Some of the trusted brands and reputed vendors include:
- BuyFeederCrickets – You will get then in packs 250, 500 or 1000 crickets with small 0.25″, medium 0.5″, large 0.75″ and 1.0″ They also have Dubia roaches, goliath worms, mealworms, and so on.
- Josh’s Frog – They have packs of 250, 500, and 1000 packs that are small, medium or large, foods, and other times for reptiles.
- Assett’s Cricket Ranch – You will also get them here, but they commonly sell live mealworms and superworms.
- Fluker’s – Have mainly freeze-dried crickets, feeder gut loading foods, commercial foods, lighting, terrariums but do sell live ones too.
Raising feeder crickets
Raising your crickets is an easy task. However, do not forget they are noisy, may have some odor, and it will need some effort if they are high in numbers. Instead, order bulk feeder crickets and keep them for a week or so.
While crickets are a vital part of your bearded dragon’s diet, avoid those you pick from the wild just as you would for any other feeder insect or food. They bear a risk of carrying parasites, having insecticides, or pesticides. Always buy farm-raised ones.