Insects as food

What should a chameleon be fed?

Chameleons are insectivores, so their basic food requirement is insects.  Feeding a chameleon insects as food can be fascinating. Watching it zero in on its prey, swivel both eyes forward and shoot its tongue to grab its food is a source of endless wonder.

Variation in an insect diet

When using insects as food, it is highly beneficial to your chameleon to vary the diet. Several sources on the Internet give the following comparison:

Fat Calcium Phosphorus Protein
%  kcal      mg/kcal             mg/kcal       %kcal
Silkworm 43 0.5 0.6 54
Mealworm 60 0.1 1.2 37
Waxworm 73 0.1 0.9 27
Cricket 44 0.2 2.6 50

* Note that some of these numbers can vary depending on the source.

The best insects as food – to buy or breed

Insects as food crickets
Crickets dusted with calcium powder

Crickets (Achetes species) make up the staple diet of most captive chameleons.  In the wild it is unlikely that chameleons would eat many crickets because these insects are nocturnal, hiding in the undergrowth, whereas chameleons hunt in daylight high among the branches.  However, for the chameleon keeper crickets are easily obtainable, relatively nutritious and probably the cheapest food available.

Silkworms (Bombyx mori) and their moths are always included in my chameleons’ diet.  They are more nutritious than crickets and are readily taken. With the use of artificial food, it is now possible to breed silkmoths throughout the year.

Silkworms have the added advantage that they can survive for a few days in the cage, even without food, and cause no damage to the cage or the chameleon.

Beetle larvae make a great change in diet. They are very easy to breed (subject to species) and nutritious.

If you are planning on breeding chameleons, you will need fruit flies in large quantities. Don’t wait until the chameleon eggs are about to hatch, you will not get enough in time.

Avoid Mealworms

Although mealworms, both ordinary and giant (Tenebrio species), may look useful as a food I avoid them; they add little value in any sense.  Superworms (Zoophobus mori) are more beneficial than mealworms but have a high fat content.  I no longer use superworms as my experience has been that some chameleons enjoy them so much, presumably due to the fat content, that they will refuse other, more nutritional food.  On the other hand, when waxworms (Galleria mellonella) are available they are fed to the chameleons despite their high fat content.  In limited quantities, they make a good treat and help to build up females that have recently laid eggs.