Black Solider Fly Vs Other Feeder Insects

Posted by Spencer Doepel on

There are many different types of feeder insects in the market today. They all have their benefits and shortcomings. There is not a lot of informational analysis of these different types of bugs but dubiaroachdepot.com was able to get some good macro and micro data information by doing "meta analysis of academic, industry, and other studies on insect nutrition". The results come from pooled, normalized data and their goal was  "to create reliable data from basic research that we could use to make better decisions. We wanted something that would be easy to understand from which “apples-to-apples” comparisons". The different types of feeder insects we will be comparing are crickets, Mealworms, Super worms, Dubia Roaches and finally Wax worms but in their original article they compare many more.

Nutrition

Nutrition is the top concerns for both amateur and professional reptile caretakers. Unfortunately, nutrition deficiencies are common in captive insectivores like reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids.

As you may know, diets chronically deficient in certain nutrients can lead to serious and sometimes irreversible health problems. For example, calcium deficiency can lead to Metabolic Bone Disease in captive insectivores. Hypovitaminosis-A can develop in response to too little vitamin A. And the list goes on. All animals need a reliably nutritionally adequate diet, and this is difficult to provide in captivity. Nutrition is important at all life stages, but it’s especially important for animals that are growing or reproducing.

The insect nutrition data

Feeder Insect Macro Nutrition Data

Insect Cal:P Water% Dry Matter% Chitin% Protein%
(dmb)
Fat%
(dmb)
Minerals%
(dmb)
Dubia Roach
(Blaptica dubia)
0.66:1 59.80 40.20 3.50 21.81
(54.25)
7.70
(19.15)
1.70
(3.91)
Banded Cricket
(Gryllus assimilis)
0.13:1 73.30 26.70 9.60 15.20
(56.92)
5.20
(19.47)
1.06
(3.96)
Mealworm
(Tenebrio molitor)
0.14:1 62.90 37.10 5.95 18.22
(49.1)
13.06
(35.2)
1.60
(4.30)
Superworm
(Zophobas morio)
0.05:1 68.76 31.24 3.62 22.28
(71.32)
17.00
(54.42)
0.34
(1.10)
Waxworm
(Achroia grisella)
0.10:1 58.00 42.00 13.44 14.28
(34.00)
24.78
(59.00)
0.53
(1.27)
Silkworm
(Bombyx mori)
0.77:1 76.60 23.40 11.20 13.10
(56.00)
8.38
(35.80)
0.60
(2.57)
Giant Mealworm
(Tenebrio molitor)
0.07:1 61.00 39.00 5.30 18.40
(47.18)
16.77
(43.00)
1.90
(4.88)
Black Soldier Fly Larvae
(Hermetia illucens)
2.6:1 61.20 68.80 4.76 17.50
(45.10)
21.72
(55.98)
1.36
(3.50)
Fruit Fly
(Bombyliidae)
0.10:1 67.10 32.90 5.33 18.52
(56.30)
5.89
(17.90)
1.71
(5.20)
Housefly
(Musca domestica)
0.20:1 74.80 25.20 7.56 19.70
(78.17)
1.90
(7.54)
0.43
(1.70)
Tobacco Hornworm
(Manduca sexta)
n/a 85.00 15.00 n/a 8.43
(56.20)
3.13
(20.87)
n/a
(n/a)
Butterworm
(Chilecomadia moorei)
0.07:1 62.40 37.60 3.90 14.90
(39.63)
6.77
(18.00)
0.49
(1.30)
Superworm Beetle
(Zophobas morio)
0.08:1 59.90 40.10 7.26 20.70
(51.62)
16.04
(39.90)
0.64
(1.60)
Mealworm Beetle
(Tenebrio molitor)
0.08:1 64.50 35.50 5.72 20.60
(58.03)
3.02
(8.50)
0.75
(2.11)
Grasshopper
(Caelifera)
0.18:1 68.30 31.70 8.73 19.74
(47.00)
3.30
(10.41)
0.78
(2.45)
Earthworm
(Lumbricus terresstris)
1.58:1 75.80 24.20 5.06 12.25
(50.60)
2.57
(10.60)
0.70
(2.90)
Turkestan Cockroach
(Blatta lateralis)
0.22:1 69.10 30.90 6.80 19.00
(61.49)
9.89
(32.00)
0.37
(1.20)
American Cockroach
(Periplaneta americana)
0.40:1 61.30 38.70 3.64 20.86
(53.90)
10.99
(28.40)
1.28
(3.30)
Domestic Cricket
(Acheta domestica)
0.14:1 73.20 26.80 8.12 17.26
(64.40)
6.11
(22.80)
0.42
(1.55)
Locust
(Schistocerca americana)
0.13:1 62.1 37.9 20.80 22.59
(59.60)
8.03
(21.2)
2.12
(5.60)
Feeder Insect Micronutrients
Insect Calcium
(mg/kg)
Phos.
(mg/kg)
Mag.
(mg/kg)
Vitamin A
(IU/kg)
B-carotene
(mcg/kg)
Dubia Roach
(Blaptica dubia)
560 840 1300 <1000 51
Banded Cricket
(Gryllus assimilis)
345 4313 272 x x
Mealworm
(Tenebrio molitor)
139 2100 606 16 4
Superworm
(Zophobas morio)
251 2356 445 <1000 10
Waxworm
(Achroia grisella)
190 1900 295 <1000 110
Silkworm
(Bombyx mori)
170 228 498 x x
Giant Mealworm
(Tenebrio molitor)
184 2720 1864 <1000 x
Black Soldier Fly Larvae
(Hermetia illucens)
9256 3560 1620 205 112
Fruit Fly
(Bombyliidae)
32 410 262 9
Housefly
(Musca domestica)
194 951 698 140 55
Tobacco Hornworm
(Manduca sexta)
x x x x x
Butterworm
(Chilecomadia moorei)
129 1871 250 x 512
Superworm Beetle
(Zophobas morio)
x x x 26
Mealworm Beetle
(Tenebrio molitor)
25 273 x x x
Grasshopper
(Caelifera)
274 1300 x x x
Earthworm
(Lumbricus terresstris)
444 1590 136 x x
Turkestan Cockroach
(Blatta lateralis)
385 1760 265 50 181
American Cockroach
(Periplaneta americana)
77 194 600 x x
Domestic Cricket
(Acheta domestica)
341 1870 212 <1000 2720
Locust
(Schistocerca americana)
95 731 x x x

 

Crickets

The Jamaican Field Cricket aka Gryllus assimilis or sometimes simply know as “field cricket”, is the cricket that took over for the Domestic House Cricket (Achetus domesticus) in the United States feeder market after the global feeder cricket pandemic of 2011. It seems these crickets have immunity to the highly contagious cricket virus that wiped out most of the U.S. stock in 2011 You can still buy Domestic House Crickets, but the market is composed of mostly Gryllus assimilis.

The mainstream appeal and availability of crickets is at least in part due to the fact that crickets work logistically for retailers. Compared to other insects one might consider feasible to sell on a large-scale, crickets are a reasonably good option. They have a fair amount of protein on a dry weight basis, but a high water content means a lot less protein on a per-cricket basis.

Regarding other nutrients Fat content is mild. Minerals are good but the Calcium to Phosphorous ratio is poor. The Banded cricket has a lot of phosphorous. Most caretakers dust their crickets with calcium so it may not matter as much as long as the consumer stays on top of dusting, the high phosphorous shouldn’t be an issue. It’s good to be aware of the potential problems and keep an eye out for them.

As crickets are ubiquitous in the pet trade, so is Metabolic Bone Disease. While we don’t imply a causal link, we do note with that crickets have not led to a reduction in that disease.

Running through the remaining issues, Crickets will kill and eat other feeder insects and they can bite you and your animals. Their bite is not painful, but animals are probably not thrilled about being nibbled on (DubiaRoachesdepot 2019). Most caretakers purchase crickets from the local pet-store in containers of up to 100. It is more cost effective to order them online but this presents additional challenges of storing the crickets. Crickets escaping or dying in large numbers due to disease will dissipate your savings quickly. Crickets also need to be keep at 75-95 degree fahrenheit which means you will either need a heat lamp or a heat mat (Merker & Merker, 2014).

Mealworms

Tenebrio molitor is a very common and relatively inexpensive feeder that’s not just for reptiles, amphibians and arachnids but also for small mammals like rodents and sugar gliders. They’re also a particularly popular food for various wild and domestic birds. Mealworms are available from various online retailers, pet stores, and specialty feed shops where they’re often sold freeze-dried in bulk, by the pound.

With respect to nutrients, mealworms are middle of the pack in almost all the metrics on our feeder nutrition list. Protein, chitin, vitamins…they’re all perfectly average. Mealworms come up short in a couple key nutrients and are high in fat which is why they’re more useful as treats than a dietary staple.

All in all, mealworms are respectable. They’re fairly healthy, except for the few key nutrients they lack but their filled with fat. They’re easy to keep and breed, and animals tend to love them. They make a fantastic occasional treat. (dubiaroach.com 2019).

Besides the fat the only downside of mealworms is their Chitan shell. This shell is slippery and does not grasp calcium powder well.  This tough exoskeleton can be difficult to digest and impactions of the gut from undigested mealworm skins is not uncommon. This can be partly alleviated by only feeding very small mealworms or by feeding white freshly shed mealworms only. The usual recommendation is that mealworms should not comprise of more than 10% of a reptiles diet and its better to feed smaller mealworms (Brown 2015).

Superworms

Zophobas morio, AKA the Superworm or Kingworm, is not the same as the giant mealworm, which is simply a mealworm treated with growth hormones.

Like Mealworms, Super worms are a high fat treat that animals love but are best served in moderation. In nutritional terms, we consider the two to be about the same. Super worms are larger which makes them a bit more convenient for mid-size and larger animals. But they’re higher in fat. They have less chitin than mealworms, but that’s balanced by more phosphorous and less available calcium. The two insects are essentially  even when compared to each other,

Waxworms

Achroia grisella, and less commonly Galleria mellonella, are the two most common species of Wax worms in the reptile and pet food markets. Stores selling mealworms may also sell Wax worms, but if not they are very easy to find and buy online.

This is another relatively unhealthy feeder that many animals love. Maybe they’re sweet from eating all that honey, or maybe it’s all that fat, but reptiles and other animals tend to go a bit crazy for waxworms. However, all the things that make them delicious are probably also the things that make them unhealthy

They fall short against almost all the other insects on our list. They have low calcium, a poor Ca:P ratio, low protein, high fat, and low minerals. In our opinion they’re only suitable as an occasional treat or as a small contribution to dietary diversity.

You want to be careful feeding Wax worms to reptiles, not just because of their poor nutrition but because picky eaters can refuse to eat other more healthy insects if you overdo it with Wax worms. If that happens you’re kind of stuck.  Breaking a bad waxworm habit in a stubborn, finicky reptile can be very difficult and time-consuming.

Butterworm

Chilecomadia moorei, better known as the Butterworm, is the larvae of the Chilean Moth. In Chile they are called Trevo Worms because they can be found locally feeding on the leaves of the Trevo bush.

Nutritionally, Butter worms are similar to Wax worms and Mealworms and the like, but they’re lower in protein and, importantly, fat. They also have a fair amount of calcium, which is a big plus in our book. Given these favorable nutritional properties we think Butter worms may have some potential as a secondary feeder insect. Unfortunately though, they are impossible to breed at this time. And they are expensive. They’re also not reliably available.

Black Solider Fly

As you already probably know Black Solider Fly Larvae are very high in calcium. And by very high, we mean very high. According to currently available data, black soldier fly larvae has more than 20 times the calcium of its nearest insect competitor, which happens to be the earthworm. That’s 2000% more calcium than the next feeder! If your animals are low in calcium, this insect will certainly provide a boost, and then some. The black soldier fly also has a favorable calcium:phosphorous ratio, which helps with calcium absorption and utilization.

They also have low chitin content, which makes them a good choice for young animals with sensitive digestive systems. 

References

Dubia Roaches vs Common Feeder Insects. (2019). Retrieved 13 July 2020, from https://dubiaroachdepot.com/guidance/dubia-roaches-vs-other-feeder-insects

Merker, W., & Merker, G. (2014). What Foods To Feed Your Reptiles - Reptiles Magazine. Retrieved 19 August 2020, from https://www.reptilesmagazine.com/what-foods-to-feed-your-reptiles/

Brown, D. (2015). The Pro's and Con's of Mealworms. Retrieved 19 August 2020, from http://www.geckodan.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-mealworms/


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