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Live Foods for Reptiles
All amphibians and a large proportion of reptile species are insectivorous in their diet. In the wild, these species have access to a wide variety of prey species and are able to secure a balanced diet naturally. By arranging for a regular supply of different commercially bred Livefoods, captive reptiles and amphibians can be given variation in their diet which will go a long way towards stimulating their appetite and keeping them healthy. This is especially important if there are to be any hopes of breeding them.
Remember that even with the wide variety of Livefoods available from Livefoods Direct, the reptiles may be lacking in certain vitamins and minerals, often due to lack of sunlight. This can lead to deformities, especially in the limbs, spine and jaws, lack of colour and vitality, loss of appetite and, eventually an untimely death. Fortunately these deficiencies can usually be corrected quite easily by the regular addition of specially prepared dietary supplements, containing vitamins and calcium.
The installation of a suitable ultraviolet light may also be necessary. These are readily available from specialist retailers. What to Feed - and how ? Most of the Livefood specieson the website are available in a range of sizes in order to cater for the widest possible variety of reptiles and amphibians. The bigger the animal, the bigger the prey.
Any of the Mealworm varieties available can be offered to reptiles in a simple ceramic dish. They should not be used exclusively as a diet for reptiles and amphibians as they lack calcium and their hard exoskeletons may make them difficult to digest. However a light dusting with Calci Pure will help correct this imbalance. Many species relish them, especially the larger lizards and they can be used to provide variation in the diet. They are also useful for encouraging lizards and turtles, for instance to become tame: they often prove irresistible and the reptiles will quickly learn to take them from the hand.
Crickets are probably the most versatile of Livefoods, and the availability of Crickets in a wide range of sizes has revolutionised reptile keeping and reptile breeding over the last ten or fifteen years. Silent Crickets, Banded Crickets and Black Crickets are available. Nutritionally the different species are virtually indistinguishable.
Banded Crickets are the most commonly used Livefood Cricket worldwide. Available in sizes up to 25mm long, these Crickets are non-aggressive and safe to transport in relatively cold weather. Banded Crickets are a smaller, available in sizes up to 20mm. They are easy to store and inexpensive but a little more aggressive and do not travel well in cold weather.
Black Crickets are large, available in sizes up to 30mm. They are easy to store and travel well in relatively cold weather. Like Banded Crickets they can be a little more aggressive. Crickets are taken by every species of insectivorous reptile and amphibian, although they may not be too economical for some of the very largest lizards, for instance. They should be ordered in quantities which are sufficient for two weeks and fed on a nutritious food mix such as Progrub which makes the crickets more valuable as a Livefood.
Most keepers place Crickets in a refrigerator for ten minutes to chill them before using and add a light dusting of Calci Pure before immediately tipping them into the reptile enclosure. This way they should be found and eaten before they have time to hide or clean off all the Calci Pure. However, Crickets may eat plants or reptile eggs given half a chance. Sometimes they may also chew away at a sick reptile or one which is shedding its skin, so you should never put more Crickets in a cage than can be eaten in an hour or so. That’s easier said than done! Plus you will need to avoid creating nooks and crannies among rockwork etc. so that if the Crickets do warm up before they are eaten the reptiles can still find and catch them later.
Much better if possible to remove the reptiles from their normal cage and put them into a clean, empty enclosure of suitable size to feed. Add the Calci Pure dusted Crickets and allow the reptiles to eat their fill. No wasted Crickets, no wasted supplement and no chance of reptiles inadvertently consuming substrate as they hunt their prey!
Locusts can be used in exactly the same way as Crickets. Being larger they are more useful for the larger species of reptiles but young Locusts (hoppers) can also be used occasionally to add variety. Locusts are not quite so lively as Crickets and are especially valuable for the species that are slow feeders and may have trouble capturing Crickets. In addition, they tend to climb upwards when placed in a cage and so they are more suitable food for arborial species such as Chameleons, Tree Frogs and so on. Like Crickets they should be sprinkled with Progrub before they are used.
Waxworms are an extremely nutritious and versatile Livefood. All species of reptiles and amphibians love them and they are the perfect food for conditioning breeders or for building up animals which have been sick or are newly arrived. They are easily digested and they are easily seen and caught by reptiles and amphibians. Waxworms can be placed in a shallow dish and dusted with Progrub then placed directly into the animal enclosure. Once the reptiles have learned to accept them they won’t be allowed to stick around for too long!
Fruit Flies are the smallest source of Livefood for reptiles and amphibians and, as such, they are invaluable for newly-metamorphosed frogs and toads and for small hatchling lizards. Unless they are used in vast quantities, however, they are not very nutritious. They should be well dusted with Progrub or Nutrobal and once the young reptiles and amphibians have started to put on weight it is usually preferable to switch them to a diet of hatchling or small Crickets, when they will grow more rapidly.
Insects are the staple diet of all British bats. Growing nightflowering and scented flowers will encourage insects like moths, and bats will come regularly to hunt for their supper. Trained batworkers working in bat rescue and rehabilitation use mealworms as an easy source of insect food for injured and orphaned bats. The average Pipistrelle will take about eight regular mealworms a night, once it has learned to recognise them. Pregnant females and those in regular flight training for release will eat more. Noctules and larger bats make short work of giant mealworms - their natural diet includes large cockchafer beetles. A healthy bat will eat excess food if it is provided, which is beneficial for those that have been severely starved for some reason, but can also lead to excess fat. Hand reared juvenile bats will take mini mealworms easily at about the time they begin to fly, though an appropriate milk substitute continues to be necessary for growth. Some batworkers vary the diet of the bats they have in care by using waxworms, particularly for Long Eared bats. There is some concern that mealworms alone may not provide a completely balanced diet. However the purpose of rescue is to release the bats again as soon as possible, so that imbalances in the long term are not an issue. Batworkers are advised to order their mealworms packed in plain paper.