Can Bearded Dragons Eat Superworms?

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Superworms

With high levels of fat, fiber, and calcium, it’s not uncommon for bearded dragon owners to ask if bearded dragons can eat superworms.

The quick answer is yes, bearded dragons can eat superworms. What’s more, they can eat them quite regularly.

While they’re not massively nutritious, they aren’t bad. However, you shouldn’t feed them to baby bearded dragons.

One of the great things about these creatures is that they’re pretty easy to breed, so you can save yourself some money too!

What Are Superworms (or Morio Worms)?

Superworms are also called Morio worms, King worms, or Zophobas worms. This is because they’re the larvae of the darkling beetle species Zophobas morio.

In bearded dragon communities, most people call them Morio worms or superworms, and these two terms are used interchangeably.

These worms shouldn’t be mistaken for super large mealworms. The latter are just overgrown mealworms that have had hormones sprayed on them for larger growth.

Superworms grow to two inches in length and have a dark tail, unlike large mealworms. Morio worms often walk backward too!

Bunch of Zophobas Morio larvae

If superworms are left on their own (without consistent body contact with their fellow superworms, they will pupate to become an adult darkling beetle. If they have contact with other superworms, they will even eat each other!

Morio worms are often fed to fish, birds, and reptiles, including bearded dragons.

They should be stored at room temperature, unlike mealworms. Don’t worry – they will remain in the pupae stage for three months. Mealworms only stay in this stage for three weeks.

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Superworms (Morio Worms)? the In-Depth Answer!

We’ve already mentioned that bearded dragons can eat superworms and that many bearded dragon owners use them.

Superworms can be included in a beardies diet alongside other insects and greens. In terms of nutrition, they’re a little too fatty and don’t have enough calcium to be the sole insects fed to your bearded dragon.

They do, however, have a good amount of protein and moisture.

Compared to mealworms, these worms move more quickly, which makes them fun for bearded dragons to catch.

Their outer shell is chitinous but because they’re larger than mealworms, the shell percentage in the meal isn’t as high, which means it doesn’t pose a high risk of causing impaction.

That said, Morio worms shouldn’t be given to baby bearded dragons as this shell could be a choking hazard or could cause impaction.

What Are the Advantages of Superworms for Bearded Dragons?

To summarize, superworms are:

  • More satisfying due to being larger.
  • Higher in calcium and protein than mealworms.
  • Less fatty than waxworms.
  • Less high in phosphorus compared to mealworms.
  • Harder to catch and more active (which makes them fun).
  • Hardy and easy to keep.

Here are some of these benefits in more detail:

They’re Well-Liked

Bearded dragons simply love superworms. This means they’re a great staple insect that will encourage picky eaters as a special treat.

Since they’re high in fat, they’re also good for underweight or malnourished beardies to encourage them to be a healthy weight.

They Give a Bearded Dragon a Good Workout

Since bearded dragons are exotic creatures, it’s natural for them to want to chase their prey a little.

Compared to other bugs, superworms will move around a lot and your beardie will likely enjoy chasing them before eating them. It’s also pretty fun to watch too!

They Contain a Lot of Water

Superworms are over 50% liquid, which means they’re great for hydration. Without good hydration, bearded dragons can experience health issues like diarrhea, dehydration and gut impaction.

Related: Can Bearded Dragons Eat Tomatoes?

They’re a Good Source of Protein

When bearded dragons eat plants and vegetables, they don’t consume a lot of protein. Superworms are almost 20% protein, which is fantastic for bearded dragons.

Disadvantages of Superworms for Bearded Dragons

If we’re going to mention the positives, it’s important to also mention some of the negatives too. Here is a summary of the main disadvantages superworms for bearded dragons:

  • They’re not recommended for baby bearded dragons or younger bearded dragons.
  • They don’t have a high level of calcium (even if they are better than feeding mealworms).
  • Their outer shell is hard, which can cause impaction.
  • Eating too many of them can cause health problems in your bearded dragon.

Health Problems Caused by Eating Too Many Superworms

  1. Calcium deficiency. If a bearded dragon eats too many superworms, they could end up being deficient in calcium. This is because these worms contain thirteen times more phosphorus than they do calcium.

    This is a health risk when eaten in large quantities. Calcium is a really important mineral for a bearded dragon.
  2. If they don’t get enough calcium, they can develop metabolic bone disease, which is a painful condition leading to paralysis and even death.

    If you’ve ever read a feeding guide for bearded dragons, you might have seen analyses of the phosphorus to calcium ratio.
  3. This is because if phosphorus levels are higher than calcium levels in food (whether insect, fruit, or vegetable), it can cause metabolic bone disease. Phosphorus prevents calcium from being absorbed and it also depletes the body’s existing levels of calcium.

    For this reason, superworms shouldn’t be a daily food for a bearded dragon, even for an adult bearded dragon. It’s also a good idea to dust them with a calcium powder before you feed them to your pet beardie. This way, you can minimize some of the phosphorus issue.
  4. Obesity. Morio worms have a high-fat content, which is probably why beardies go mad for them. However, just like humans shouldn’t eat too much fat, bearded dragons shouldn’t either. Bearded dragons in captivity (especially the adult bearded dragons) already have a higher obesity risk simply because they’re not free to run around like they would in the wild. As long as you maintain a balanced diet and don’t feed superworms to your beardie every day, your bearded dragon won’t get overweight.
  5. Gut impaction. Superworms have hard exoskeletons. Because of this, there is a risk of gut impaction when bearded dragons are fed superworms. When insects have an exoskeleton, they’re hard to digest. This means that small parts of the undigested exoskeleton sit in the bellies. If too much of this gathers, it can be painful and cause gut impaction. Gut impaction happens when substances go undigested and build up in the digestive system creating a blockage. If the blockage is quite small, it will pass eventually. If it’s large, it can cause serious impaction. This can press against the nervous system, making it difficult to walk. In the most severe cases, this can lead to death. If a bearded dragon isn’t emptying his bowels, it could be a case of gut impaction.
  6. Other symptoms of this are:
    • Weight loss
    • Sluggishness
    • Unable to keep meals down
    • Lack of appetite
    • Problems walking
    • Lumps along the belly or spine
Stainless bowl of Superworms

How Should I Feed Superworms to A Bearded Dragon?

It’s easy to give bearded dragons superworms but as they’re mobile, don’t expect them to stay in a feeding bowl! There are a couple of different methods of feeding superworms to your bearded dragon.

Hand Feeding

Firstly, you could feed superworms by hand. Simply hold onto the Morio worm’s tail just in front of your beardie.

Typically, your beardie will snatch it from your fingers with his tongue. This is also a nice bonding activity.

It’s not recommended to hand feed these feeder insects every time as it will encourage your bearded dragon to be lazy!

Outside the Terrarium

Another fun way to feed your bearded dragon Morio worms is to have your beardie explore outside of his enclosure and then place the worms where they are able to see them.

They shouldn’t be placed too close as this means they won’t have to chase them.

You will need to keep an eye on the worms as they are quite quick and will look for a shady area where they can hide. The last thing you want it rogue superworms!

In a Salad

Finally, you can put some superworms in a dish of salad to encourage your beardie to eat his greens.

It’s also possible to gut load these insects with leafy greens a few hours before you feed them. This, combined with a dusting of calcium, will improve their nutritional content.

How Many Superworms Should My Bearded Dragon Eat?

You can feed adult beardies superworms once per week. It’s a good idea to mix up their diet with different insects due to the high-fat content of superworms.

In order to know how many superworms to feed at once, let him eat as many as he wants in ten minutes. It’s best if they’re working to get them during this time rather than being hand-fed. This will help to reduce the chances of over-feeding.

Can Bearded Dragons Have Dried Superworms?

It is not recommended to feed dried superworms to a bearded dragon. When a bearded dragon can chase and catch its prey, it’s all part of the experience. If you use dried bugs, you don’t get this.

Also, a dried bug won’t have the high moisture content of a live insect and it won’t be as nutritious.

If you struggle to handle creepy crawlies, use tweezers or tongs to handle them.

Why Is It Important for Baby Bearded Dragons Not to Eat Superworms?

Their Size

Because baby bearded dragons are only four inches long and weigh under an ounce, superworms are simply too big.

Bearded dragons will always try to consume them, even if they’re too big.

If you want to avoid risk, don’t feed any bearded dragon a food that is bigger than the size of the space between their eyes.

This means that baby bearded dragons can only eat very small foods compared to adult bearded dragons.

It’s not just choking you need to worry about when bearded dragons eat superworms, it’s also impaction, partial paralysis, losing motor control and seizures.

If you want to feed live insects to baby bearded dragons, choose smaller ones like pinhead crickets. This will mean they consume something that’s an appropriate size and won’t be taking risks.

Nutritional Reasons

It’s easy to think that superworms have a high protein content due to their size. While they do contain protein, they’re also high in fat.

If they’re fed to baby bearded dragons, they could actually cause stunted growth as well as obesity.

Some superworms will be up to 40% fat. This is really high for food, especially if it is given to the beardie regularly.

As a bearded dragon owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure your baby beardie reaches his potential and so feeding superworms is not what you should be doing.

Once a bearded dragon is a juvenile, you can start serving superworms as an occasional treat but not as a regular meal.

Superworms Can Be Aggressive to Babies

Superworms are known to show aggressive behavior. They can even bite back! For this reason, it’s important that you don’t feed them to a baby.

It’s also recommended to wear gloves for handling them so you don’t receive a nip too!

Because of their size in comparison to a baby bearded dragon, they could injure or bite your pet! Baby beardies are delicate and superworms can be potentially quite dangerous.

Finally, there are stories that these feeder insects have managed to eat themselves out of a bearded dragon’s stomach! However, their stomach acid would surely kill them!

Nutritional Information About Superworms

Superworm nutritional content:

  • Moisture: 63%
  • Fat: 17.7%
  • Protein 19.7%
  • Calcium 0.02% (177 mg/kg)
  • Phosphorus 0.24% (2370 mg/kg)
  • Potassium 0.29% (2860 mg/kg)

You can see that the protein and fat content are really high for superworms, which is why they should only be fed on a semi-regular basis.

Their level of calcium means you should dust them with a calcium supplement. Also, too much protein can cause gout.

Baby Bearded Dragons

How Many Superworms Can You Feed a Bearded Dragon?

Owing to their fat content, you should only feed superworms one to two times per week rather than as a staple food.

This depends on your bearded dragon’s activity level and build. If you notice your beardie putting on excess fat, adjust your dragon’s diet, reduce how many worms you give them and encourage them to eat greens.

When a dragon is overweight, reptile owners should replace superworms with other heathier bugs like dubia roaches.

A juvenile bearded dragon can cope with more fat because they’re growing. This means you can feed them between three and five small-sized superworms each day.

These should be spaced out throughout the day. Juveniles should only have superworms that are smaller than the gap between their eyes.

How Do You Store Superworms?

These worms are pretty easy to keep and they’re a common food sold in pet stores – they’re loved by many of the reptile community.

Because they’re a treat, you don’t need to think about their long-term storage arrangements. The most important thing is that you shouldn’t refrigerate superworms.

This is because the cold will kill them.

Instead, store them at 70 to 80 Fahrenheit in a plastic container that has smooth sides. Pop some carrot or potato pieces in for hydration and they’ll keep for around two weeks.

Final Thoughts on Can Bearded Dragons Eat Superworms?

For bearded dragons, superworms are tasty worms. Most dragons love to eat them! However, it’s important to regulate their intake because superworms tend to be high in fat.

Not only are they fun to chase and tasty to eat, but they also help keep your bearded dragon hydrated due to their moisture content.

However, you should never feed a baby bearded dragon superworms and adult dragons should only have them once or twice a week.

For smaller bearded dragons or juvenile bearded dragons, you might need to limit their intake even more.

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