Can Bearded Dragons Eat Black Soldier Fly Larvae?
In this post we learn why black soldier fly larvae (calciworms / BSFL) are an excellent food source for bearded dragons and how to prepare and feed them
AKA Calciworms, BSFL or Phoenix Worms
Can bearded dragons eat black soldier fly larvae? Are black soldier fly larvae for bearded dragons OK? Bearded dragons can eat black soldier fly larvae regularly as part of a balanced diet. Black soldier fly larvae are also known as Calciworms because they are a significant source of calcium – which as we know is essential for healthy bones and staving off metabolic bone disease in bearded dragons.
In this post we’ll use the following terms interchangeably – Black Soldier Fly Larvae, Calciworms, BSFL.
What Are Black Soldier Fly Larvae For Bearded Dragons?
The Black Soldier Fly is a common fly with the Latin name of Hermetia illucens. It’s approximately 1.5cm long when an adult and is common across much of the world. Before becoming an adult fly it is, of course, present in it’s larval stage – which is the form of a worm or grub.
The worms emerge from eggs laid by adult black soldier fly, approx 4 days after being laid. At this point they are tiny and would not be of any use to a bearded dragon at all, measuring only approx 1mm in length. They feed on decay matter of many different organic varieties but commonly on manure or compost. Over a period of about 3 to 4 weeks they will grow to up to 2.5cm in length, after which they’ll pupate and become adult black soldier flies.
Black soldier flies are not considered a pest to humans, and they don’t appear to carry any significant pathogens which would cause disease in humans. This is largely because, unlike blowflies and other houseflies, they do not regurgitate digestive enzymes onto food – indeed they only consume sugary water or nectar as adults. They’re smaller than most normal house flies and certainly smaller than blowflies and the like. They have an almost wasp-like look about them. Aside from being used as reptile food, the larvae also make excellent composting creatures, breaking down food scraps or agricultural waste quickly and efficiently.
Although many might consider BSFL to be maggots, they are significantly more sanitary than the larvae of other flies. They’ve been proven to break down Salmonella and E.Coli in chicken huts and don’t smell bad like the larvae of other flies.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Black Soldier Fly Larvae?
Black Soldier Fly Larvae are an excellent bearded dragon insect food due to their fantastically high calcium content. They’re easy for even the laziest bearded dragon to catch and their soft bodies make them perfectly suited for babies and adolescents too. Calciworms have a good moisture content which will help keep your bearded dragon hydrated. Their only downside is that they are quite small and you’ll need a fair amount of them to satisfy an adult.
But even as a mixer meal they’ll go down well and they don’t need to be dusted with calcium because they’re already rich in it. Which is why Black Soldier Fly Larvae are also known as Calciworms.
Advantages Of Black Soldier Fly Larvae For Bearded Dragons
Disadvantages Of Black Soldier Fly Larvae For Bearded Dragons
How Should I Feed Black Soldier Fly Larvae To A Bearded Dragon
BSFL are easy to feed to a bearded dragon because they’re really quite slow. They are however quite adept at climbing out of almost any bowl should they so desire. They are often also covered in the dirt substrate they’re kept in. This dirt substrate is usually a compost type formula specifically chosen for the black soldier fly larvae.
Your bearded dragon is unlikely to come to any harm from ingesting the calciworm substrate, but it’s not necessarily all that pleasant tasting. We tend to advise brushing as much of it off as possible before feeding. BSFL don’t appear to do very well after the dirt has been washed off with water, in our experience. But maybe we used too much water or water that was too cold.
Place the black soldier fly larvae in a large plastic tub into which you can also place your bearded dragon. You’ll want to keep the feeding area supervised because the larvae will climb the walls if your beardie doesn’t eat them quick enough. But an active bearded dragon will pick off the wiggly little critters fairly quickly once they decide they’re good food.
If any should escape the worst that will happen is that in a few days / weeks they may pupate and turn into a black soldier fly. As we’ve talked about above, black soldier flies are quite sanitary and pose no infection risk to humans as they don’t eat the nasty things that other flies do. If you find an escapee that has converted you can feed the black soldier fly to your bearded dragon instead if you like.
How Many Black Soldier Fly Larvae Should I Feed A Bearded Dragon?
Black soldier fly larvae can be fed very regularly to adult bearded dragons, as they contain an immense amount of calcium for their size and weight. You may find though that their size makes it difficult to feed enough to an adult dragon to keep them satisfied. Indeed, one of our fussy girls won’t even entertain the idea of calciworms because they’re too small and insignificant. She looks at us questioning why she should waste her time on something so trivial.
But you can generally use the principle of feeding as much as they’ll eat in 10 – 15 minutes. You can give them this once or twice a week on average. That’s the normal feeding regime we’d recommend for an adult bearded dragon, but when it comes to BSFL, they’re that small that you can pretty much feed them any time you want.
BSFL should be given to babies every day if possible. Baby bearded dragons will require insects 2 to 3 times per day and black soldier fly larvae are highly recommended on every occasion. You can mix the insects up so they’re not eating the same old thing every day. Mixing in this way also means you can feed things like mealworms because the chitin poses less impaction risk if it’s mixed in with softer bodied insects too.
It’s worth remembering when asking about how much one should feed to a bearded dragon that the ultimate test of whether they’re being fed enough is whether they are thriving without becoming fat. Weighing them regularly can help and for babies, making sure they’re gaining weight at the expected rate means you’re feeding them appropriately.
Can I Feed Dried Calciworms To My Bearded Dragon?
We recognise that many new bearded dragon owners are squeamish about feeding live insects to their dragon. Many people don’t like the ‘creepy crawlies’ that are needed. This can be further exacerbated when people think about the black soldier fly larvae because, fly larvae are generally known as maggots.
However, we would say that it’s much better for your bearded dragon to feed live insects, not dried. The nutritional value of dried insects is far less than those of live insects and the water content is important for maintaining your bearded dragon’s hydration.
It’s worth remembering that BSFL calciworms are significantly more hygienic than blowfly larvae, and are much cleaner and less smelly. Handling them is a simple matter of washing your hands afterwards. They’ll be in a compost substrate which does not involve them eating other animals poo – merely some composting vegetable material.
So our answer to this question is no, preferably don’t feed any dried insects to your bearded dragon. However, if you really must feed dried calciworms to your bearded dragon then it would be better than nothing. Mix the dried food in with some other insects if possible and remember you’ll need to help hydrate them by encouraging them to drink while having a bath or by dropping little drops of water onto their noses periodically so they lick it off. Or if they’ll eat watery vegetables then they’ll be fine too.
Nutritional Data For Calciworms For Bearded Dragons
|Calcium (mg/kg)||9340 (0.93%)|
|Phosphorus (mg/kg)||3560 (0.36%)|
|Potassium (mg/kg)||Unavailable from source|
It should be noted that, like every other insect nutritional data table, the Calciworm data does depend to some extent on the substrate on which the insect being investigated was fed. The difference though isn’t all that significant for the items we’re interested in. Finally, one other beneficial nutrient of the Calciworm is the level of Lauric Acid which is known to be a strong antibiotic and anti-viral substance.
In answering the question of “Can bearded dragons eat black soldier fly larvae?” we’ve looked at the nutritional details and other aspects and decided that Calciworms are an excellent insect for bearded dragons to be fed for a variety of reasons.
For this reason, we consider calciworms to be a staple insect suitable for babies and adults alike.
Frequency: Babies – staple / Adults – staple.
2: Cíntia Almeida, Patrícia Rijo and Catarina Rosado, Biomolecules 2020 10(7) 976. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom10070976
3: The Silkworm Store, fetched 24 January 2021 from Calci Worms Nutritional Info – Silkworm Store