Are Mealworms Bad for Bearded Dragons? Feeding & Risks

Bearded dragon owners mainly feed their loved reptile pets on insects and grubs. Their high composition of proteins, minerals, and vitamins adds value to their diet.

But are mealworms also suitable for bearded dragons? Do they have any harm, what are their benefits, or is there the right amount to feed the beardie? This is what most owners are seeking knowledge about, and having kept mealworms for a long time, I’ll give you my answer.

Mealworms are not toxic to bearded dragons but have low calcium and too much fat. This means mealworms can make your beardies obese if offered too many times. Only feed 2 to 3 mealworms per week to adult bearded dragons, as baby beardies can get impacted by the worms due to their hard shells.

Bearded dragon eating a mealworm

Do Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms?

Bearded dragons eat mealworms, although you should limit the amount eaten. Mealworms have a high phosphorous and fats, absolute proteins, and calcium composition, making them better than other options.

Too many mealworms for bearded dragons lead to excess weight and other health complications. Also, mealworms are only fed to bearded dragons over 18 months, as only adults digest them properly. If you breed mealworms yourself, you can be assured your beardies will enjoy them.

Number of Mealworms for Bearded Dragons

It is advisable to feed adult bearded dragons with mealworms once a week when rotated with other insects. For the best nutrient composition for adult bearded dragons, consider a food proportion that is three-fourths (3/4 or 75%) of fruits and vegetables and one-fourth of mealworms.

Adult beardies have attained full weight. It is essential to control their mealworm intake as too many mealworms can lead to obesity. 

Since mealworms are a tasty supplement to beardies, 2 to 3 mealworms are the correct quantity for a diet. Female bearded dragons can be fed more mealworms during their breeding. Always remember that mealworms are just a supplement in the main diet.

Like hornworms for bearded dragons, regulating the number eaten by the beardie helps keep the pet healthy.

Do Bearded Dragons Eat Dried Mealworms?

Dried mealworms offer more benefits to bearded dragons than live ones. They can be stored for a long time and are available at low prices and in decent quantities. Live mealworms need to be refrigerated to prevent them from metamorphosing into beetles.

Dried mealworms are safe and edible by bearded dragons, whether dried naturally or refrigerated. However, they have some caveats, so they should be fed to fully mature beardies and in the right amounts.

Are Mealworms Bad for Bearded Dragons?

Yes, mealworms aren’t suitable for bearded dragons, especially when fed in massive amounts. Their high-fat content results in excess weight when consumed regularly. However, this does not imply that you should do away with them altogether. You should control the amount of mealworm intake. 

Adult bearded dragons prefer feeding on mealworms but there are various reasons why they do not make good food, including the following:

1. Bad Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio

The calcium-to-phosphorous ratio (Ca:P) of foods like insects and vegetables is considered when determining the best nutritional food for beardies. Beardies highly require calcium and vitamin D3, which helps their body absorb the ingredient. Too much phosphorous prevents the formation and the use of vitamin D3, limiting the calcium absorption rate.

A calcium-to-phosphorous ratio of 1.5:1 to 2:1 is recommended for bearded dragons. Mealworms have a calcium-to-phosphorous ratio of 0.33:1 when at the highest, relatively more minor.

King and giant mealworms have the same ratio. Therefore, you should only feed beardies with mealworms once at a time, in small amounts, or as a supplement included in the beardie’s main insect diet.

2. Mealworms are Highly Addictive

Despite mealworms not having a suitable mineral composition, beardies quickly develop a taste for them. This implies that they become more addicted to the small worm such that they will ignore other food. 

The problem is that mealworms aren’t healthy or the beardies. Despite how well you dust them, mealworms are not a perfect replacement for other insects.

3. They Have a High-Fat Content  

Mealworms do not physically appear to have high fat. However, they have a high-fat content for their size. This means that feeding your beardie with too much of them will cause obesity. 

If you provide your beardie with other additional high-fat supplements, you should consider controlling the intake of mealworms. Too many mealworms make beardies overweight and they end up with health disorders.

Are Mealworms Good for Bearded Dragons?

Yes, they are good feeder insects. However, mealworms should be given as a supplement for the beardie’s diet rather than their staple food. Also, beardies will occasionally feed on pupae or beetles. However, they have a low mineral composition which makes them less economical.

Here is a nutritional composition table of mealworms:

Content Amount 
Fiber  73%
Ca, ppm133
P, ppm 3345
Ca: P ratio1:2.5

Despite the variation of the nutrient combination depending on how you feed them, you can conclude that they are highly rich in fats and low in calcium than a portion of ideal staple food, making them a poor staple food. The high-fat content also increases the chances of hepatic lipidosis and obesity if regularly fed.

In addition, they have a tough shell made of chitin that is hard to digest and may risk impaction, mainly when you feed beardies with them. The risk of impaction increases when they’re fed to young beardies.

It is worth noting that freeze-dried mealworms have the same nutritional content as their live ones – only a slight variation in the moisture content. However, like silkworms for bearded dragons, mealworms are best served fresh.

Can Baby Bearded Dragons Eat Mealworms?

It is not advisable to feed baby beardies or hatchlings with mealworms. They have a tough exoskeleton and are mostly sold at one-and-a-half-inch sizes, making them hard to feed on and complex to digest. Once used to feed beardies of large sizes, they may cause impaction that exerts pressure on the spinal cord, causing death.

If baby beardies accidentally feed on larvae, you can remedy the impaction with lukewarm baths and belly baths. They can be controlled by baby applesauce, pure pumpkins diluted with water, and diluted fruit juices. If the pets have an impaction and haven’t passed stool after 5 days, consider taking them to a veterinarian for treatment.

Secondly, mealworms are not nutritious and are rich in fats. They might not supply the nutrient requirements for the growth of these young pets.

Beardies are safe to eat mealworms from their juvenile stage. This is mainly from 5 to 18 months. It is important to note that they should form a minor proportion of beardies’ main diet. Always mix mealworms with vegetables, fruits, and other insects for high nutritional benefits.

Are Mealworms Worth It for Bearded Dragons?

For survival, bearded dragons need a mixture of insects, leafy green vegetables, occasional pieces of fruits, and some additional supplements to supply the required vitamins and minerals. Although crickets are the main insects, many people do not like feeding them and like to offer a wide variety to their pets.

Although mealworms are not toxic to bearded dragons, they have high fat and low calcium content. They also have a tough exoskeleton that can be hard to digest for juvenile beardies and may cause them to get ill. As such, they should be fed supplements to adult beardies that can comfortably handle them.

Dried mealworms can be fed as a treat but do not provide moisture benefits. Generally, you can feed two to three mealworms to beardies at a time, but they should not replace the main beneficial roaches or crickets that are the primary feeder for your pet lizard.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are mealworms bad for reptiles?

Due to their high phosphorus-to-calcium ratio, reptiles are bad for reptiles as they have an insufficient amount of calcium for the reptiles.

How many mealworms should a bearded dragon eat a day?

Feed an adult bearded dragon with five to six mealworms once or twice weekly. Daily feeding on mealworms is not healthy.

Are mealworms or crickets better for beaded dragons?

Mealworms are better than crickets in offering the needed nutrients. However, they still need to be supplemented since they have a low fat content.


NC State Veterinary Hospital Exotic Animal Medicine Department. Caring for Your Pet Bearded Dragon.

University of California. Bearded Dragon Care.

Aurstralian Government. Rankin’s (Lawson’s) Dragon, Black Earth Bearded Dragon.

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