Keeping feeder insects alive and healthy

There are three ways to obtain feeder insects: breeding them yourself, buying them or catching them from the wild. When you catch feeder insects in the wild, you can generally feed them to your chameleon right away as you will probably not catch many at once. But when you breed them or buy them, you might want to keep them alive and healthy for a while. This limits your trips to the shop and keeps the insects healthier, both to not waste them and to make them the most nutritional food for your chameleon.

Housing for your feeder insects

You will need a container for your feeder insects that is bigger than the little boxes you buy them in. Generally a plastic box with ventilation slits is enough. It needs a lid as most feeder insects can jump or climb on glass or plastic and thus will escape otherwise. You cannot mix species of feeder insect, so get a separate container for each species, for e.g. crickets, grasshoppers, cockroaches.

Keep the feeder insects at room temperature or slightly warmer.

Cover the floor of the container with wheat bran or oatmeal to keep it dry. Place the wet food on a tray to avoid getting the whole floor of the container wet. Dry food can be placed anywhere, but for proper management of the amount of food a shallow feeding dish is best. Make sure the insects always have enough food to eat. Supply water in a shallow dish with a sponge inside. The sponge should stay wet but not allow any open puddles of water to stay around, as the insects will drown in this water. Especially crickets need drinking water. They can survive for a few days without water or food, but this will greatly diminish their health and nutritional value.

Add some egg cartons or similar material for the animals to sit on and under. This will give them more space to stay and keeps them calmer as they have a place to hide.

Gut loading the insects

Gut loading means that you feed the feeder insects with healthy food, so when your chameleon will eat them it will also eat the food that is still inside the insects gut. You can sort of “permanently gut load” the insects by just keeping them with the proper food all the time, or you can catch insects your are about to feed and place them in a special “gut loading container” prior to feeding them to your chameleon. To read more about gut loading, check out our page Gutloading Feeder Insects.

Breeding crickets, grasshoppers and cockroaches

It’s economical to breed your own insects, especially if you have more than one chameleon to feed. Not every species is the easiest to breed, but generally cockroaches, crickets and grasshoppers are. The most common species of cockroach to breed and feed is the Dubia cockroach (Blaptica dubia) because it does not climb up against glass or smooth plastic, the most common species of cricket is the house cricket (Achetus domesticus) and the most common grasshopper is the Egyptian grasshopper (Locusta migratoria). Each species needs specific care. Our friends at Keeping Insects.com can tell you more about keeping these species. Check out:

locust-grasshopper
Locust / grasshopper – not yet adult

Breeding wax worms

Wax worms are pretty fatty insects, so should only be fed as a treat to your chameleon. They are pretty easy to breed though, except their food does smell very bad. Wikihow will show you how to breed wax worms.