Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

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Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby Claudiusx » Tue Jul 30, 2019 12:51 pm

I will start off with full disclosure, I used to demonize them too. My thoughts have changed, based off my experiences.

I no longer feel that mealworms deserve the reputation they have with some dragon owners. I believe they can very easily fit into a healthy varied diet for our dragons. Variety is key IMO, and mealworms are able to help owners reach that goal.

I've fed my dragons mealworms for about 15 years now, and it's all been in the shadows because of the stigma behind them. I have a feeling there are a lot more owners who feel this same way.

I will list the most common reasons I feel they have been demonized, and then I will discuss my opinion on those points.

1. They have a hard outer shell (chitin) which is hard to digest and can cause impactions.
Yes, they do have an outershell which is harder than soft bodied worms. But this doesn't necessarily make them a bad option. I've never once had a dragon suffer an impaction from mealworms. I've never once had a dragon suffer from an impaction period! The leading causes of impaction are not food related imo. They are related to husbandry - mainly improper temperatures. Does that mean that a dragon can eat anything it wants and it be as big as it can fit in it's mouth? No, but lets have some common sense here. If you're feeding pinkies and humongous food items, mealworms are the least of your worries.
If your husbandry is proper, your dragon will have absolutely no issue eating and passing mealworms.

2. They have a high fat content
Yes, they do. But, fat is a vital nutrient. Just like it is with humans (lets not debate that though..)
Fat content alone is not a reason to avoid a feeder. Yes, there are feeders with lower fat content, but fat is not bad! EXCESSIVE FAT is bad. EXCESSIVE PROTEIN is bad! They both can lead to health issues. So many people have gotten on this train of thought that you should only feed high protein insects with low fat such as dubias, that they believe if it has high fat, it's bad. Truth be told, we see more health issues related to high protein intake, than we do with high fat intake such as fatty liver disease.

Don't get me wrong, I think Dubias are a great feeder insect, but why most people think they are great (high protein low fat) is misguided I believe. Like I said, High protein diets cause seemingly more health issues than varied healthy diets.

3. They lack nutrients
This one is false. Just false. I don't know where this one came from but if they are raised on a good diet, they will be full of nutrients for your dragons just like any other insect.

4.But there are better options out there!
In what sense? I think most people would consider fish to be a healthier option than a big steak. Does that mean you shouldn't ever eat steak because fish exist? Don't eat that bread because blueberries exist? No, thats silly. There will always be something "better" but that doesn't mean it's the only thing you eat. And that doesn't mean you should only offer your dragon the "better" feeder. There are lots of feeders that can contribute to a healthy diet. Mealworms are one of those contributing feeders.

So in conclusion, yes, I feed mealworms and have been for years. But, I use them as a means to provide a varied diet. Just like I use crickets to do that, and silkworms, and hornworms, and dubias. They all provide value to your dragon.

-Brandon
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Re: Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby CooperDragon » Tue Jul 30, 2019 12:59 pm

I agree with you. I see them as small morio worms to an extent. As I go along, my thinking changes more toward variety rather than focus on a few items (to the extent that a dragon wants variety that is offered). I think focus on a few "staples" is more for convenience in housing/raising a feeder rather than a proper diet. It's good to always have something on hand. Also related to what we have available to order which varies quite a lot by location. There have been veges that are frowned upon for the same reasons but again, as part of a blend, the whole makes up for whats lacking with individual items (in theory).
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Re: Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby Claudiusx » Tue Jul 30, 2019 1:08 pm

CooperDragon wrote:As I go along, my thinking changes more toward variety rather than focus on a few items (to the extent that a dragon wants variety that is offered).

Yup, exactly!

If you can feed 3 4 or even 5 different insects on a semi-regular basis, you're golden! Most owners feed 1 or 2 insects. 3 would be better, 4 would be most practical IMO. But, I feel some insects are overlooked because they aren't "the best". But this goal of only the best, is having the negative effect of no variety imo.

Everyone has reasons for not getting certain insects. For instance, silkworms are hard to find! And not everyone wants to hatch their own. Butterworms are expensive and hard to get in large quantities. Some people hate crickets whether it be for their smell, or the fear of escape. Same with Dubias.

I would debate that a varied diet of crickets, supers, mealworms, and dubias is far superior than a diet of only silkworms. Or a diet of only BSFL. Simply because you are providing a variety, and each insect likely has micronutrients that other insects don't have.

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Re: Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby CooperDragon » Tue Jul 30, 2019 1:12 pm

Another aspect I wonder about is how much effect the diet of the insects has on nutritional value. I'm not certain we have enough/proper nutritional info available about many of these options (another good reason to cover your bases with variety). Does feeding roaches a diet of veges help or hurt? How does that compare (after generations) against silkworms eating mulberry chow all the time or hornworms eating whatever is in that hornworm chow. If I feed one of the morio that is part of my cleaner crew, does that pose a risk because it's been eating frass it's whole life? I don't know... I think a lot of what we do and what we advise is based on educated guesses and observations both in our own environments and via what we've read about through the forum over time.
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Re: Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby Claudiusx » Tue Jul 30, 2019 1:22 pm

That's probably enough of a discussion to be it's own thread! I think we could go on forever on that topic. (start it, I won't mind! :mrgreen: )

I do agree with you though. And it relates back to my comment on micros. Silkworms are considered so good because of their low fat, soft bodied, high protein selves. But, like you mention, they eat only mulberry leaves. They have got to be lacking A LOT of micros. Thats where variety comes in to fill the gap.

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Re: Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby JumpinJellyfish » Tue Jul 30, 2019 1:44 pm

Definitely food for thought! Brandon, I like that you've been bringing up these points for discussion!
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Re: Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby Claudiusx » Tue Jul 30, 2019 2:55 pm

JumpinJellyfish wrote:Definitely food for thought! Brandon, I like that you've been bringing up these points for discussion!

Glad you're enjoying it. I am just trying to bring the discussion back into this discussion board! Big thanks to Cooper for getting us these sections to discuss in! It was all his idea! :mrgreen:

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Re: Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby JumpinJellyfish » Thu Aug 01, 2019 8:47 am

claudiusx wrote:
JumpinJellyfish wrote:Definitely food for thought! Brandon, I like that you've been bringing up these points for discussion!

Glad you're enjoying it. I am just trying to bring the discussion back into this discussion board! Big thanks to Cooper for getting us these sections to discuss in! It was all his idea! :mrgreen:

-Brandon

Thanks, Coop!
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Re: Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby kingofnobbys » Fri Aug 02, 2019 2:34 am

CooperDragon wrote:Another aspect I wonder about is how much effect the diet of the insects has on nutritional value. I'm not certain we have enough/proper nutritional info available about many of these options (another good reason to cover your bases with variety). Does feeding roaches a diet of veges help or hurt? How does that compare (after generations) against silkworms eating mulberry chow all the time or hornworms eating whatever is in that hornworm chow. If I feed one of the morio that is part of my cleaner crew, does that pose a risk because it's been eating frass it's whole life? I don't know... I think a lot of what we do and what we advise is based on educated guesses and observations both in our own environments and via what we've read about through the forum over time.


This why I tell people here and elsewhere , a rubbish diet for your feeder insects will produce rubbish feeder insects .

Feed the veg and greens you want your dragon to eat to your feeder insects if you want them to be the best food your dragon can eat.
Only processed foods I give my insects are dry adult bearded pellets ==> crickets, woodies, superworms, mealworms and silkworm chow when I'm out of fresh mulberry leaves for the silkworms.

I give mealworms occasionally to my hatchlings as treats, especially the pupae and beetles (while they are still soft bodied) the hatchlings always love them,
Similar with superworms for my adults (once over 12" long) .

My mealworms are kept on bed of wheatbran and oatbran , with bearded dragon pellets added.
I also give them fresh carrot and buk choi whites .

I principally have these as feeders for my skinks but the dragons get them too.

Would I use them as a staple for my pet lizards (skinks or dragons) ? NO. But in moderation as treats , they are fine .
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Re: Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby CooperDragon » Fri Aug 02, 2019 11:03 am

Do you think that some feeders (thinking of silkworms and hornworms in particular) metabolize very specific chow to create different beneficial nutrients for dragons? Where does the serrapeptase come from with the silkworms, for example? While I certainly do keep with feeding my roach colony only veges and foods I'd give my dragon, I wonder about the 1:1 input/output ratio in terms of nutrition. With mealworms and morio/supers, where does all the fat come from? Especially if they are just rolling around in a bed of oats with fresh veges on top for hydration (which seems to keep them happy). Perhaps (at least with some feeders) there are other processes in play and it's not a simple equation. :study:
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Re: Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby Claudiusx » Fri Aug 02, 2019 11:10 am

CooperDragon wrote:Do you think that some feeders (thinking of silkworms and hornworms in particular) metabolize very specific chow to create different beneficial nutrients for dragons?


I would say so 100%! I wasn't trying to bash silks in the above comment, but the fact is they only eat 1 thing basically, so they have got to be lacking certain things. But, they also provide serrapeptase which no other feeders (that i'm aware of do). So while they are most likely lacking in some aspects, they also provide something which others can't! Cue the variety!

A good example I guess is rice and beans. Alone, they both have a certain amino acid profile. They both are incomplete profiles. One has certain amino acids the other doesn't, and visa versa. If you ate only rice, you'd be missing out on some of those amino acids. Same with beans. If you eat both, you have an almost 100% perfect amino acid profile. We know that certain foods compliment well for humans. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that this is true with reptiles also. Of course no one is going to study diet on reptiles like is done on humans, but it proves the point that there is not 1 single food item that can provide everything, and almost everything provides things that others might not be able to.

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Re: Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby Claudiusx » Fri Aug 02, 2019 11:13 am

CooperDragon wrote:With mealworms and morio/supers, where does all the fat come from? Especially if they are just rolling around in a bed of oats with fresh veges on top for hydration (which seems to keep them happy). Perhaps (at least with some feeders) there are other processes in play and it's not a simple equation. :study:

Honestly i've wondered that too. Typically, an insect would be high in fat because it needs stores to make it through famines. Or its an insect that isn't able to eat much, so it has to hold on to everything when it can.

I don't really think mealworms and superworms fit that criteria. Even if they did in the wild, after decades of captive breeding you'd think that would start to change at some point.
There really does have to be something going on.

I'd love access to a lab where I could experiment with different diets on insects and see what affect it has on their make up.
We will add that to the list for cooper and clauds lottery win spending list! :laughing6:

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Re: Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby CooperDragon » Fri Aug 02, 2019 11:15 am

Might want to check in with Allen Repashy. He seems to do quite a bit of research on that end.
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Re: Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby kingofnobbys » Fri Aug 02, 2019 10:04 pm

Some peer reviewed science on this topic , expanded to include some other feeder insects , in particular crickets, roaches, silkworms, wax worms, superworms.

Insects are an important food source for domesticated table birds, and cattle as well as people in many countries in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, Oceania and as bush tucker in Australia. There is a wealth of information and science on this available.

Nutritional content of live mealworms
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ba57/a ... c4c84a.pdf
REF
Nutritional Value of Mealworm, Tenebrio molitor as Food Source.
N.Ravzanaadii, Seong-Hyun.K, Won Ho.C, Seong-Jin.H, and Nam Jung.K
Int. J. Indust. Entomol. Vol. 25, No. 1, 2012, pp. 93~98

Nutritional content of live mealworms , superworms , crickets , waxworms
https://cyberleninka.org/article/n/1414302.pdf.
REF
Complete Nutrient Content of Four Species of Commercially Available Feeder Insects Fed Enhanced Diets During Growth
M.D.Finke
Zoo Biology 34: 554–564 (2015)

SILKWORMS
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/a966/6 ... a81c45.pdf
An Evaluation of the Nutrients and Some Anti-nutrients in Silkworm, Bombyxmori L. (Bombycidae: Lepidoptera)
O.T. Omotoso
JJBioSc Volume 8, Number 1, March .2015 , Pages 45 - 50

others
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/a ... 4616300013
Nutritional and sensory quality of edible insects
L.Kouřimská, A.Adámková
NFS Journal Vol.4, October 2016, Pages 22-26


Best to be abreast of the facts wrt the ACTUAL nutritional content of feeder insects IMO. This information is easy to find.

Regards fats in insects :
3.3. Lipids (last ref above)


Edible insects contain on average 10 to 60% of fat in dry matter (Table 3). This is higher in the larval stages than in adults [18]. Caterpillars belong among insects with the highest fat content. Tzompa-Sosa et al. [23] determined the total fat content in caterpillars (Lepidoptera) from 8.6 to 15.2 g per 100 g of insects. In contrast, the fat content ranges from 3.8 g to 5.3 g per 100 g of insects in grasshoppers and related Orthoptera species.


Fat is present in several forms in the insect.
Triacylglycerols constitute about 80% of fat. They serve as an energy reserve for periods of high energy intensity, such as longer flights.
Phospholipids are the second most important group. Their role in the structure of cell membranes has been studied [23]. The content of phospholipids in fat is usually less than 20%, but it varies according to the life stage and insect species [23], [24].

There is a relatively high content of C18 fatty acids including oleic, linoleic and linolenic acids in the fat of insects [23]. Palmitic acid content is also relatively high. Fatty acid profile is affected by food, which the insects feed upon [22].

Cholesterol is the most abundant sterol in insects. Ekpo et al. [24] studied the content of cholesterol in the fat of the termite Macrotermes bellicosus and the caterpillar Imbrasia belina, which are commonly consumed in Nigeria. They found that the average cholesterol content in the lipid fraction was 3.6%. Apart from cholesterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, β-sitosterol and other sterols may be also present in edible insects [25].

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Re: Mealworms - Have they been demonized unjustly?

Postby Claudiusx » Sat Aug 03, 2019 5:57 am

Do you have a contact for Allen, or should I just use the contact form on his website. At least I assume it's his website lol.

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