Dubia Roaches (Blaptica dubia) As Feeder Insects

Introduction to Dubia Roaches

Many reptile, amphibian and invertebrate owners commonly feed their pet(s) crickets. It’s a very common husbandry practice and crickets are most certainly an acceptable, affordable, and convenient feeding option. But did you know that exotic pets need a varied diet just like human beings and shouldn’t subsist solely on a diet of crickets?

So, what other insects should you should feed your reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate besides crickets? At Backwater Reptiles, often times when we don’t feed our animals crickets, mealworms, or commercially prepared food, we turn to dubia roaches (Blaptica dubia).

In this article, we’ll answer some very commonly asked questions about dubia roaches and their usefulness as feeder insects such as:

-What are dubia roaches and do they make good feeder insects?
-What types of exotic pets eat dubia roaches?
-Why should I feed my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate dubia roaches? What are the benefits?
-How do I breed and raise my own feeder dubia roaches for my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate?
-What is “gut loading” and how does it affect my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate?
-Where can I get dubia roaches to feed my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate?
-I’ve received my order of dubia roaches. What do I do with them now?
-Are there any downsides to feeding my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate dubia roaches?

Dubia Roaches as Feeder Insects

What are dubia roaches and do they make good feeder insects?

Dubia roaches (Blaptica dubia), which are also referred to as Guyana spotted roaches, Orange spotted roaches, and Argentine roaches, are a species of cockroach that are commonly used as feeder insects in the exotic pet industry.

dubia roach
Dubia Roaches make very nutritious meals for all types of reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. They are full of protein and low in fat. They also contain a reasonable amount of moisture. We highly recommend them as feeder insects for all types of reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.

Dubias range in size from one eight of an inch in length as nymphs to two inches long as mature adults. Interestingly enough, if they are not eaten by another animal, they typically have a life span of between one and a half to two years. They are also edible during their entire life span.

Although they might come with a slightly higher price point than traditional feeder insects like crickets and mealworms, dubias are also much higher in nutritional value. This means that YES, dubia roaches do indeed make excellent feeder insects!

What types of exotic pets eat Dubia Roaches?

The answer to this question is short and simple. Virtually all types of exotic pets, including reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates, will eat dubia roaches.

Because dubias are available in so many sizes, they can be eaten by pretty much all sizes of carnivorous or omnivorous animals.

Reptiles that are particularly fond of dubia roaches include: bearded dragons, chameleons, and many species of gecko. Amphibians that eat dubias include mainly frogs and toads, although larger species of salamanders with hearty appetites (a la tiger salamanders) will readily consume dubias too. Finally, scorpions and arachnids are known to have a hunger for dubias as well.

Why should I feed my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate Dubia Roaches? What are the benefits?

Although crickets, mealworms, reptiworms, wax worms, and other similar feeder invertebrates all make great feeder options for various reasons, dubias are known for their highly nutritious nature.

Dubia roaches have very high protein levels compared to many other chitinous feeder insects. They pack a whopping thirty six percent protein percentage and also contain a lower fat content than many of the “worm” insects such as wax worms, reptiworms, and silk worms.

The calcium level present in dubias is also slightly higher than that of crickets and considerably higher than that of mealworms. This means that although we do still recommend dusting your feeder insects, there is a better chance that your pet will need vitamin supplements less frequently.

Finally, dubia roaches are 61 percent moisture, which is a reasonable amount. While most reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates do acquire moisture through other means, it is good to feed them an insect that contains a good moisture balance.

These nutritional ratios make dubia roaches quite possibly one of the most well-rounded nutritious options when it comes to herp health.

Aside from the obvious health benefits, dubia roaches are also relatively easy to maintain and keep. They are far less noisy, messy, and for lack of a better word, stinky, than crickets. Plus, as we’ve already established, they are edible to herps at all their life stages.

Unlike crickets, which are the most common feeder insect, dubias are not known escape artists. Crickets can and will jump out of holding containers, whereas dubias aren’t inclined to fly and they cannot climb on slick surfaces such as glass or plastic tubs. This means that temporary holding pens as well as long term housing for dubia breeding projects are easy to come by and you’ll never have to worry about a dubia “infestation” in your home from escaping roaches.

Another benefit that most herp owners probably haven’t even considered is the safety of their animal. Crickets are known “nibblers” and can actually injure your pet by gnawing on it if you leave them unattended with your herp. Dubia roaches, on the other hand, are not aggressive and won’t harm your pet if you leave them unattended in the animal’s cage.
How do I breed and raise my own feeder Dubia Roaches for my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate?

While dubias are an excellent nutritional option for feeding your reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate, they are not as readily available via pet stores and they are also a bit costlier than traditional crickets. Luckily, dubias are actually relatively simple to breed and maintain. All you’ll need to raise your own dubias at home is a ventilated enclosure, heat source, food, water, and hiding space(s).

dubia roach breeding
Luckily, dubia roaches are very easy to maintain in captivity. They are edible at all life stages and breeding them is a breeze. You won’t need many supplies, just an enclosure, food, water, hiding spaces, and a heat source. You don’t even have to clean their enclosure frequently!

The first thing you’ll need to start your own breeding colony is of course the dubia roaches themselves. Luckily, Backwater Reptiles does sell starter breeding colonies! Each colony also comes with the supplies you’ll need to begin keeping your dubias including: instructions, roach food, water crystals, and egg crates.

The good news about keeping dubias is that they do best if you just leave them alone. You should regularly check to make sure that they have fresh food and water, but other than that, maintenance is very simple. In fact, dubia roach enclosures only need to be cleaned two to three times per year! Leaving the droppings and other accumulated detritus in the bottom of the enclosure is actually beneficial to the roaches for many reasons.

Once your colony has been established, you should remove feeder roaches at regular intervals and keep them housed separately from your growing roaches and breeding roaches.

Naturally, dubias are scavengers like all cockroaches and the good news for breeders is that this means you can feed them a variety of things. We recommend a food that is dry and doesn’t encourage rot, mold, or fungus to grow inside the roaches’ enclosure. Cereal, dry pet food, and chicken feed are all acceptable options, but you can also give them house scraps such as bread.

When it comes to roach feeding, it’s also recommended that you provide a “fresh” food source at least once or twice per week. Fresh food includes everything from leftover greens, citrus fruits, potatoes, and even fruit such as apples or grapes.

Just be very mindful when feeding your dubias fresh food items. You’ll want to make sure that the food you’re giving them is not harmful or toxic in any way to the species that will be ingesting the dubias. You’ll also want to remove any uneaten fresh food remnants from the enclosure to avoid bacteria, rot, and mold from forming.

What is “gut loading” and how does it affect my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate?

Gut loading is the process of giving your feeder insects highly nutritious food in order to pass that nutrition on to your pet that will be consuming the roach. Keep in mind that your pet is essentially eating whatever your feeder insect eats, so gut loaded insects of all varieties, whether crickets, roaches, reptiworms, or any other type of invertebrate, are directly transferring the nutritional value of what they’ve eaten on to your pet. Ever heard that common saying that you are what you eat? Well, in the case of gut loaded feeder insects, this is literally true!

One thing to keep in mind when gut loading your dubias is that this species of roach has a slower digestion process. Unlike crickets and some other species of feeders which produce a lot of waste in very short amounts of time, the food given to a dubia will stay in the roach’s system for much longer, thereby providing more residual nutrition to your pet.

The bottom line is that you should feed your dubias well because their health is directly correlated to the health of your pet.

Where can I get Dubia Roaches to feed my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate?

As we’ve already mentioned, dubia roaches are not readily available in most commercial pet stores.

However, the good news is that even if you are not lucky enough to have a store in your area where you can buy dubias, you can purchase them online.

bearded dragon adult
Bearded dragons are one species of lizard that will virtually never turn down a dubia roach. They love eating them and have quite large appetites!

Did you know that Backwater Reptiles sells feeder dubia roaches of all sizes and ages? And shipping is absolutely one hundred percent free!

I’ve received my order of Dubia Roaches. What do I do with them now?

If you have no intention of starting your own breeding colony of dubias, maintaining the dubias you ordered online is still just as easy.

The growth rate of dubias compared to crickets is much slower, so the good news is that whatever size roach you order should stay the same size for the duration that you have it before it gets fed to your pet.

We recommend providing the same elements you’d provide for your breeding colony – food, water, enclosure, heat element, and hiding space – only on a smaller scale.
Are there any downsides to feeding my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate dubia roaches?

In reality, dubia roaches are one of the most nutritious and “healthy” options for your pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate. There are not many downsides to mention in terms of nutritional worth.

Virtually the only cons we can think of when it comes to feeding your herp dubia roaches are the costliness of the roach and the availability of the roach.

As we’ve mentioned already, dubias are not commonly sold in stores, nor are they the cheapest insect you can feed your herp. However, if you can offset cost and availability by either breeding your own colony or making your roach orders last you for a while by practicing good husbandry habits, then feeding your pet dubia roaches is well worth the extra effort!


Dubia roaches are excellent choices as far as feeder insects are concerned.

Dubias are a very healthy and nutritious option for exotic pets and herps of all types! Scorpions, lizards, frogs, and even tarantulas all love to eat them. And the good news is that because dubias pack such a nutritional punch, you ultimately end up having to feed your pet fewer of them than you would if you chose another species of feeder insect.

Do you have any special tips or tricks to offer readers when it comes to dubia roach husbandry? List them in the comments! We’d love to hear your experiences!

Are Crickets Good Feeder Insects?

If you’ve ever had a pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate, you’re likely aware that many of these animals eat insects such as meal worms, crickets, and roaches at meal time.

Crickets are actually a very common insect that are eaten by virtually all types of insectivorous exotic animals. We’d even go so far as to say that they are a “staple food” when it comes to reptile feeding.

In this article, we’ll touch upon some commonly asked questions about feeder crickets such as:

-Do crickets make good feeder insects?
-What types of exotic pets eat crickets?
-Why should I feed my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate crickets? What are the benefits?
-How do I breed and raise my own feeder crickets for my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate?
-What is “gut loading” and how does it affect my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate?
-Where can I get crickets to feed my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate?
-I’ve received my order of feeder crickets. What do I do with them now?
-Are there any downsides to feeding my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate crickets?

Crickets as Feeder Insects

Do crickets make good feeder insects?

The short, sweet, simple answer to this question is YES! They make great feeder insects and we highly recommend them for feeding virtually all types of animals.

crickets as feeder insects
As you can see, we keep a lot of crickets at Backwater Reptiles because we have many mouths to feed! All crickets need in order to thrive is a container to live in, a food source, and some egg crates or other similar “furniture.”

Crickets are probably the most popular option when it comes to feeding insectivorous and omnivorous reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates and for good reason. We’ll go into more detail as to why they make such nutritious meals later on in this article.

What types of exotic pets eat crickets?

As we’ve already mentioned, virtually all insectivorous reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates consume crickets.

Omnivorous lizards such as bearded dragons, some skinks, and even iguanas will all happily eat crickets. Carnivorous lizards such as young monitors, chameleons, geckos, and many species of agama also love to eat crickets on a daily basis.

Amphibians such as frogs, toads, and salamanders are also insectivores and will therefore gladly eat crickets for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner.

Believe it or not, even other invertebrates such as scorpions and tarantulas eat crickets.

Why should I feed my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate crickets?  What are the benefits to using crickets as feeder insects?

Crickets are extremely nutritious food for pet herps. They possess a ton of protein and a fairly decent water content as well. However, we will say that because they are both smaller and less dense than other feeder insects, like dubia roaches for example, your pet will need to consume more in a single sitting to get the same nutritional value.

We do highly recommend crickets as feeder insects due to their ubiquitous nature. Not only can you order feeder crickets in bulk online from many sellers, you can also pick up as many as you need from virtually any big box, commercial pet store in your area. Crickets are very, very commonly fed to exotic animals of all types, so they are very easy to purchase at a physical store front when necessary. This is a huge benefit in our book because if you accidentally run out of crickets and your pet is hungry, food for them is usually very easy to come by on that same day. No need to wait for them to arrive in the mail while your pet goes without food for a day or more.

Another added bonus to feeding your pet crickets that has nothing to do with nutritional value is that crickets are inexpensive. While other species of feeder insects most certainly are beneficial to your pet’s health, crickets are generally the cheapest option. This tends to be true whether you purchase them in bulk or on a case by case individual need basis. Because crickets are everywhere as a food source, the market for them is fairly inexpensive and this appeals to many exotic pet owners.

Not only are feeder crickets nutritious, ubiquitous, and inexpensive, they also come in a variety of sizes. You can purchase pinhead crickets to feed smaller reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates such as dart frogs, baby chameleons, and anoles, but you can also purchase full-grown adult crickets to feed to large pets such as mature bearded dragons, adult frogs of many species, and large scorpions and tarantulas.

How do I breed and raise my own feeder crickets for my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate? 

We’re going to be up front and state right off the bat that breeding and raising crickets to save money on purchasing them as feeders is quite a pain in the rear end! In most cases, it is actually more cost efficient and time efficient to just order your crickets online or purchase them locally from a pet store.

Raising and breeding crickets requires space, time, effort, and a tolerance for the cricket’s smell, noise level, and propensity to escape.

For these reasons, we don’t even breed and raise our own crickets at the Backwater Reptiles facility, and we feed hundreds of reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates on a daily basis.

However, if your mind is set on breeding feeder crickets of your own, there are some very handy tutorials online. A quick Google search will reveal a multitude of videos and written instructions on how to do so, but we’re going to steer clear of this topic for the purposes of this blog article.

What is “gut loading” and how does it affect my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate?

Gut loading is a term used to refer to what the feeder crickets are themselves eating at meal time. It essentially means that the crickets are being fed a specific diet that ensures that they are as nutritionally dense as possible for the animals that will be eating them.

Feeder crickets are essentially an empty vessel. Whatever the crickets eat is basically what your pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate will be eating. The process of gut loading feeder crickets ensures that your pet gets the most out of meal time.

Gut loaded crickets are fed a variety of foods that are healthy for exotic animals. Most will eat a commercial cricket chow that is specially formulated to deliver nutrition, but often times this staple food is supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s not uncommon to give feeder crickets items such as: carrots, dark leafy greens (kale, collard greens, romaine lettuce, mustard greens, etc.), squash, sweet potatoes, wheat germ, prepackaged reptile foods, fish flakes, and regular potatoes (peel included). Your pet should have a varied and balanced diet, and because gut loaded feeder crickets usually do, the nutritional benefits are passed along.

Where can I get crickets to feed my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate?

As we’ve already mentioned, feeder crickets are very, very easy to come by both online and in physical store fronts.

In our opinion, where you buy your feeder crickets depends upon how many you require at a time, how many animals you’ll be feeding, and what’s most cost effective for your budget.

If you are a serious herp hobbyist with many pets to feed, we highly recommend ordering in bulk from an online retailer. It is not only more cost efficient, but it saves you time because you don’t have to trek to the store to purchase what you need. The crickets will be shipped direct to your doorstep, just like with any other type of online purchase.

scorpion eating a cricket
As you can see, crickets make excellent food items for invertebrates as well as reptiles and amphibians.

If you only need to buy a small amount of crickets because you’re just feeding a single animal, we don’t recommend ordering in bulk. This is because not only will your single animal probably not be able to eat all the crickets you order, but the crickets will likely grow and end up being too large for your pet to eat, especially if you buy juvenile crickets. There’s also the possibility that your crickets will die before they even get the chance to become your pet’s dinner.

If you’re looking for a reliable feeder cricket bulk supplier, Backwater Reptiles has certainly got you covered! Simply click here and select a quantity of either 500 or 1,000 from the drop down menu. Your feeder crickets will be shipped overnight for free direct to your doorstep. So convenient!

Smaller quantities of feeder crickets can be purchased from chain pet stores such as PetCo or PetSmart. Many smaller mom and pop feed stores and pet stores also sell feeder crickets in manageable quantities.

I’ve received my order of feeder crickets. What do I do with them now?

You can expect your feeder crickets to live about a few weeks, depending on the age and relative size that you purchase. Obviously, younger crickets will live for a bit longer as they are farther from the end of their life cycle.

Because your pet will probably not be eating all of the crickets you purchase in a single setting, there are things you should do in order to keep your remaining feeder crickets alive and healthy for your pet’s next meal time.

First of all, you will need a holding container for the crickets. Depending on the number of crickets you purchased, a bucket or tall tub should work just fine.

Next, make sure there is some sort of hiding space/crawling space that your crickets can call home for the brief remainder of their life cycle. Generally, when you purchase crickets from the store, you will get a piece of cardboard egg crate. This will usually suffice for the few days that you keep the remaining uneaten crickets.

Lastly, you’ll need to provide a food source for your feeder crickets. If you only have a few crickets to care for, you can just toss a carrot or a piece of potato into the container where your crickets are being held. There’s no need to provide a water dish as crickets get all the water they need from the food they consume.

Now that you’ve provided them with food and some “furniture,” your crickets have everything they need to survive for the next few days while you continue to feed them to your critter.

Are there any downsides to feeding my pet reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate crickets?

Although crickets are excellent food for many exotic pets, they are certainly not perfect. There are definitely some downsides to feeding them to your pet, although these are not because they are not nutritionally poor or lacking.

First of all, crickets can be quite smelly. This is one of the main reasons many people prefer to simply order and/or purchase crickets as needed rather than breed and raise them on their own. The digestive tract of crickets is rather short and simple, so they process their meals in twenty-four to forty-eight hours, and therefore create and eliminate waste rather quickly, which is what causes the distinctive odor that usually accompanies their housing arrangement.

newborn parsons chameleon
Because feeder crickets are available in multiple sizes, you can even find crickets small enough to feed to tiny animals like baby chameleons.

Secondly, crickets are actually rather mean insects. This doesn’t mean that they will bite you and you certainly have no need to fear your feeder crickets, but they can be quite nasty to your pet if left unattended. This essentially means that when you feed any reptile, amphibian, or even invertebrate crickets, you will need to stick around for the duration of the feeding and make sure that any crickets that are not consumed are removed from the enclosure. Otherwise, crickets can actually bite and injure many animals, no matter how unlikely it seems.

Crickets are also known for being escape artists. It’s pretty much inevitable that some will escape from their enclosure, especially if you keep large quantities.

And one final thing we’d like to mention about crickets as feeder insects is the noise they make. As you’re likely aware, crickets are known to chirp and this behavior stays with them even in captivity. So if noisiness bothers you, you might want to think twice about trying to maintain your own personal feeder cricket colony and just purchase feeders as needed.


We hope this blog article has been helpful in laying out the pros and cons of crickets as feeder insects.

While there are certain drawbacks to breeding and maintaining your own colony, we personally think it’s more cost efficient and less time-consuming to just purchase your feeder crickets as needed.

Overall, crickets make excellent meals for all sorts of reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates!

Mealworms as Feeder Insects

If you have an insectivorous pet reptile or amphibian of any variety, odds are you have at least heard of mealworms. But just in case you haven’t, you should know that in the reptile enthusiast world, mealworms are feeder insects that are commonly consumed by virtually every type of critter that needs protein in its diet.

In this article, we’ll touch upon the life cycle of the mealworm, tell you why you should feed your critter mealworms, and even discuss how you can raise feeder mealworms of your own.

What are feeder mealworms?

Mealworms are the larval form of a beetle called the mealworm beetle (Tenebrio molitor). They essentially look as their common name describes them – like worms. If you examine them closely, however, you will be able to see that they do have segmented bodies with short legs towards their heads.

When in the larval state, mealworms are light brown and can have darker brown accent bands. Standard size worms will range in size from a quarter of an inch up to three quarters of an inch. There are also giant mealworms available, which measure approximately an inch long on average.

In their natural habitat, mealworms can be found in dark, damp and warm places such as underneath decaying logs or compost. They are composters by nature  and will essentially eat anything that is decomposing, including garbage.

mealworms as feeder insects
These mealworms are being kept in a container that is too tall for them to climb out of.

Why should I use mealworms as feeder insects?

Mealworms are readily available at pet stores and are extremely common feeder insects for all types of exotic pets. This is mainly because they are extremely high in protein content which makes them very nutritious to reptiles and amphibians.

Reptiles and amphibians such as bearded dragons, frogs, chameleons, leopard geckos, and even some turtles enjoy eating mealworms. In fact, pretty much any carnivorous reptile, amphibian, and even tarantulas and scorpions on occasion will consume mealworms.

Because mealworms can vary so much in size, we do recommend that you carefully assess whether or not the mealworm in question is too large for your pet. Generally, if the invertebrate is not larger than the space between the eyes of the animal that will be consuming it, it is safe to feed to your pet.

Interestingly enough, mealworms can also be frozen or dried as a means to preserve them. However, we want to make it clear that not many reptiles or amphibians will recognize dead insects as a food source. The movement of the invertebrate is usually what triggers the food response in your pet, so a dead mealworm is not usually a viable option for most owners, even if it might be more convenient. We’ve really only seen dried/frozen mealworms work as feeders for aquatic eaters like some species of turtle.

How can I raise mealworms of my own to feed to my pet?

On this close up photo of a single mealworm, you can see that this “worm” has small legs near its head.

Once they have stored up enough energy to transform into the next phase of their life cycle, a mealworm will become a pupa and then a beetle afterwards. If you want to continue the life cycle of your mealworms on your own, it won’t really require much effort on your part.

If you intend to prolong the shelf life of the larval worm stage, keep uneaten worms in the refrigerator and take them out every few days to feed them. The cold will slow their metabolisms and hopefully give you more time with the worm phase (i.e. the edible phase).

Once you are ready to start the worms breeding, all you need is a container, substrate, food, water, and approximately a hundred worms to start your colony.

A container tall enough that the worms can’t crawl out is all you need. Your mealworm’s substrate will be its food. Wheat bran, oatmeal, corn meal, and other dry grainy foods are all options.

Don’t put a water dish in the enclosure as the worms will just drown. Instead, some water-heavy veggies are the way to go. Try putting some potato slices, carrots, or apples in the mealworms’ home for the best results.

Allow the life cycle to continue on and remove any new beetles and pupa as they accumulate.


Mealworms are very tasty treats for reptiles and amphibians of all types. If you own a carnivorous pet, odds are it will avidly consume mealworms.

Backwater Reptiles sells feeder mealworms of various sizes and in various quantities.

Are Hornworms Good Feeder Insects?

Tobacco Hornworms (Manduca sexta), or Goliath worms, are caterpillars that transform into the Carolina sphinx moth. They are green with seven diagonal markings along their sides and a red, spiked “tail” adorning their rear ends, which is where they get their common name.

These caterpillars, which are more commonly known as just plain ol’ hornworms, feed on both tobacco and tomato plants, which means they are widely considered to be pests by farmers and gardeners.

Hornworms make excellent and nutritious meals for many animals sold through Backwater Reptiles, but many people don’t know much about these juicy little feeder insects.

In this article, we will answer the questions:

-What types of animals eat hornworms?
-How do I care for my feeder hornworms?
-What is the nutritional value of hornworms?
-What is the difference between the two species of hornworms?

Hornworms as feeder insects
This is a tobacco hornworm. You can tell by the red horn on its rear end.

What types of animals eat hornworms?

Hornworms are great feeder insects for virtually all types of reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates including, but not limited to, turtles, frogs, scorpions, spiders, and lizards.

When you receive them, your hornworms will not be full-grown. At this smaller size, they can be fed to smaller animals or juvenile animals.

Once they have grown a bit and plumped up, your hornworms will be especially great feeders for animals that live in dry, arid environments where getting water from food is a requirement. Examples of these types of desert species that love to eat hornworms are: uromastyx lizards, collared lizards, agamas, tarantulas, and even scorpions.

Chameleons are also big fans of hornworms. We can’t stress enough that hornworms contain lots of water, so they are great to help your chameleon stay hydrated.

How do I care for my feeder hornworms?

When you place an order for feeder hornworms, you will receive a container that holds caterpillars that are either one inch or two to three inches long, depending on what option you select when you checkout.

Your hornworm pod will contain food for the hornworms on the top. It will also contain a screen for the hornworms to climb on to reach the food. The food will sustain the worms until they reach about four inches in size. This will usually take two to three weeks.

Feeder Hornworm Pod
This is what your hornworm pod will look like. The bottom is removable.

The hornworms you receive are basically in their own little ecosystem. Your hornworms are self-contained and have everything they need to thrive for a few weeks. All you need to do is remove the bottom of the container and empty out the hornworm droppings every few days.

What is the nutritional value of hornworms?

Hornworms are very high in calcium so they make excellent nutritional supplements for animals that need regular vitamin dusting such as leopard geckos.

As previously mentioned, hornworms are very succulent and high in water content. This makes them excellent food items for desert critters.

They are also great food for animals that are finicky eaters. They are even good for enticing animals on “hunger strike” to eat once more. If you have a picky eater on your hands, we suggest giving hornworms a try.

What is the difference between the two species of hornworm?

There are actually two types of hornworm that appear very similar – the tomato hornworm and the tobacco hornworm. People commonly confuse and mistake the two.

The tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) is the type of hornworm sold by Backwater Reptiles. They differ from the tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) slightly in physical appearance. Rather than diagonal lines on their sides like the tobacco hornworm, the tomato hornworm has “V” shaped markings. In addition, the tobacco hornworm’s tail spike is red, while the tomato hornworm’s tail spike is black.

Large hornworm
This is an average-sized feeder hornworm.

Both species feed on the same plants in the wild and we do not recommend capturing wild hornworms of either species to feed to your reptiles. This is because tobacco hornworms are actually capable of collecting and storing the toxin found in the tobacco plant, which means they could be fatal if ingested by your pet. So if you don’t know the difference between the two caterpillars, we suggest avoiding wild-caught hornworms altogether.


Pretty much any reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate that is large enough to eat a hornworm will find it a tasty treat.

If you have a desert-dwelling critter, picky eater, or spoiled rotten pet reptile, Backwater Reptiles has feeder hornworms for sale. Order some today – your herp will thank you!

How to Dust Feeder Insects for Chameleons

Keeping chameleons in captivity can be a challenge. These delicate lizards have very specific care requirements and need their wild habitats to be replicated as closely as possible in order to thrive as pets. Dusting their feeder insects properly is a key to keeping chameleons successfully.

How to dust feeder insects
Pictured is one of our extremely healthy female Oustalets chameleon, fed a diet of properly dusted insects.

Besides requiring a mesh enclosure or cage, a dripping and misting system to meet humidity requirements, and UV lights and heat, chameleons also require their invertebrate meals to be extremely nutritious. This means that you can’t just feed your pet chameleon any old feeder insects. You will need to make sure your chameleon’s insects are gut-loaded and vitamin dusted regularly.

So what is vitamin dusting? What vitamin dusts do you give a chameleon and how often do you need to do so? How do you go about dusting the insects?  These are all questions we will address in this blog article, so read on if you want to make sure your chameleon stays healthy and strong.

What is vitamin dusting?

The answer to this question is actually very simple.

Vitamin dusting is where you coat your feeder insects in a film of powdered vitamin supplements before feeding time.

Do you take a multivitamin pill daily? How about a vitamin C tablet every now and then? Well, dusting your chameleon’s feeder insects is basically the same concept. The only difference is that because it would stress the animal to try to get it to ingest a vitamin pill, reptile hobbyists have invented a clever way to get the animals their vitamins. By coating the insects, the chameleons don’t even notice they’re eating the vitamins they need.

What types of vitamin dusts are good for chameleons? How often do you need to dust your feeder insects for your pet chameleon?

These are questions we get a lot at Backwater Reptiles. This is because there’s no manual on how frequently dusting needs to be done and the frequency as well as type of vitamin dusts required can vary from species to species.

At Backwater Reptiles, we use five main vitamin dusts for our chameleons – bee pollen, spirulina, a calcium + D3 supplement, a calcium supplement, and Herptivite/Supervite supplement.

The general rule of thumb with baby chameleons is to dust pinhead crickets (or whatever food source you give them) fairly frequently with calcium. Babies are growing fast and their little bodies need lots of nutrients to make sure their growth process happens smoothly.

Listed below are the vitamins used at Backwater Reptiles and the schedule we subscribe to when it comes to dusting feeder insects for our chameleons.

Bee pollen

Bee Pollen Vitamin Supplement
Bee pollen can be bought in powdered form from specialty retailers and health food stores.

In the wild, chameleons eat insects that could have recently pollinated a flower. Supplementing with bee pollen is said to help avoid chameleon “hunger strikes.”

Babies: once monthly
Sub-adults: twice monthly
Adults: twice monthly

LoD (calcium + D3)

Calcium and Vitamin Supplement
This Repashy vitamin and calcium supplement is what we use at Backwater Reptiles.

At Backwater Reptiles, the type of LoD vitamin supplement we use is called “Repashy Superfoods Calcium plus LoD.”

Babies: once monthly
Sub-adults: twice monthly
Adults: twice monthly

NoD (calcium)

Powdered Calcium Supplement
This powdered calcium supplement is used frequently when feeding baby chameleons.

The kind of calcium supplement used at Backwater Reptiles is called “Repashy Superfoods Supercal NoD.”

Babies: 10-15 times monthly
Sub-adults: 5-7 times monthly
Adults: 2-3 times monthly


Spirulina Powdered Supplement
Spirulina is a powdered algae that can be purchased at health food stores or specialty stores.

Spirulina is an algae that commonly grows in freshwater ponds and lakes. The kind fed to our chameleons is dried and powdered. Any powdered spirulina will be fine for your chameleons, but we use an organic, non-irradiated, and non-GMO spirulina from www.nuts.com.

Babies: once monthly
Sub-adults: twice monthly
Adults: twice monthly


Multivitamin Supplement for Chameleons
This is the multivitamin supplement used at Backwater Reptiles.

These are general vitamin supplements or multivitamins. The kind we use at Backwater Reptiles is “RepCal Hertivite with Beta Carotene Multivitamins.”

Babies: twice monthly
Sub-adults: twice monthly
Adults: once monthly

How do you dust your feeder insects?

The good news is that the physical process of dusting your feeder insects with vitamins is not as tedious as it sounds.

All you will need to complete the process is a small plastic bag, your vitamin of choice, and your feeder insects.

Reptile Feeder Crickets
At Backwater Reptiles, we opt to dust our crickets in a bucket instead of a plastic bag simply because we have so many animals to feed. It makes sense for us to do it on a larger scale. But a plastic bag works just fine in most cases.

Just put your insects in the plastic bag along with your vitamins and seal the bag shut. Then shake the insects around in the bag with the dust for a few seconds until you can see that they are visibly coated with the dust.

Now your feeder insects are ready to be eaten!

A quick tip – if you are feeding your chameleon dusted crickets, be sure to feed them to the animal quickly after the dusting process has been completed. Crickets have good hygiene and will clean themselves of the dust as quickly as they can, so the sooner they are eaten, the more vitamins the chameleon will ingest.

Vitamin Dusted Crickets
When your feeder insects are coated like these crickets, they are ready to be served to your chameleon.

How to dust chameleon feeder insects – Conclusion

A healthy, happy chameleon will require supplemental vitamins in its diet. This can be achieved by dusting your pet chameleon’s feeder insects with a number of multivitamins.


Drosophila melanogaster vs. Drosophila hydei

In this blog post we compare and contrast Drosophila melanogaster vs. Drosophila hydei. Tiny reptiles and amphibians eat tiny food – makes sense right? But what, you might ask, is tiny enough to feed to a hatchling pygmy chameleon or a baby dart frog (both of which can measure only a half inch long)? The answer is fruit flies.

Backwater Reptiles sells two different kinds of feeder fruit flies – Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila hydei. This article will detail the differences and similarities between the two. Hopefully it will help you decide which type of fruit fly to feed to your tiny critter.

Melanogaster vs Hydei

When you place an order with Backwater Reptiles for a vial, jar, or fruit fly culture kit, you will receive the product via overnight delivery, which helps insure live arrival. Shipping these delicate insects via 2-4 day delivery is a risk.

Any fruit fly kit, jar, or vial from Backwater Reptiles comes equipped with food and egg laying material –everything the flies need to reproduce for at least three weeks. We recommend letting them breed and lay eggs for a few days before beginning to feed flies to your reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate. If you feed them off too quickly, the colony won’t reach it’s full potential.

A close up of the jar of Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies. The jar contains a food source and everything the flies need to reproduce for several weeks. The inside of this jar is a bit too wet–this happens when there isn’t adequate ventilation (usually a screen top will suffice).

The main difference between the two species of fruit flies is size. D. melanogaster are generally 1/16th of an inch long, whereas D. hydei are approximately 1/8th of an inch long. D. hydei are therefore quite a bit “meatier” and larger of the two species.

fruit fly comparison
Notice how Drosophila melanogaster is smaller than Drosophila hydei. Both are flightless, but melanogaster can jump.

D. melanogaster are not only great feeder insects, but they are very commonly used in scientific experiments. Different genetic varieties exist and there are even wingless variations which make good feeders because they obviously can’t fly away to escape predators. D. hydei can also be bred and purchased as flightless insects, however they will usually still retain their wings. None of the fruit flies we sell can fly.

As far as regeneration of fruit fly specimens goes, D. melanogaster has a quicker life cycle than D. hydei. Starting from scratch, it usually takes around 14 days for a new bunch of D. melanogaster to emerge and from day 14 through 30, new feeder flies are available consistently on a daily basis as new flies are constantly emerging. D. hydei on the other hand, has a regeneration cycle that begins around 21 days when the culture is started from scratch. D. hydei also have population “booms” – every five to seven days after the initial 21 day mark, the culture will go from seemingly empty to bursting with flies overnight. Each culture will produce approximately two to three booms.

hydei fruit flies
A vial of D. hydei fruit flies. The blue at the bottom of the vial is the fly food, and the place where eggs are laid. The little white worms you see on the side of the container are eating the substance and will eventually form a cocoon.

Flightless cultures of both species of flies are capable of regenerating their ability to fly. Because flightlessness is a recessive gene, both parents have to possess this trait. If a wild fruit fly that can physically fly introduces its DNA into the gene pool, you will have flies born that can “magically” fly again. So if you don’t want to deal with pesky little fruit flies escaping and flying all over your home or your reptile’s enclosure, be sure to keep your culture safe from foreign fly DNA.

Both species of fruit flies are perfectly acceptable food for very small reptiles and amphibians. We recommend them for dart frogs, baby chameleons, tree frogs, salamanders, small scorpions, and spiderlings. Backwater Reptiles currently offers both varieties of feeder fruit flies for sale on our website.

melanogaster fruit flies
This is what your jar of D. melanogaster fruit flies will look like. Notice the jar contains food, a ventilation screen, and everything needed for the flies to reproduce.