Bearded dragons require a varied diet of insects and fresh produce. As juveniles, bearded dragons need a higher percentage of insects in their diet to provide the fat and protein needed to support growth and development. As they mature, however, fresh vegetables become more nutritionally important.
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Can bearded dragons eat rolly pollies?
The answer is YES, but we do have some warnings.
When it comes to feeding your bearded dragon insects, there are plenty of options to choose from. Crickets, mealworms, and even small roaches are staples but it’s important to switch things up to balance your beardie’s diet and to keep him from getting bored.
Many bearded dragon owners wonder whether it’s safe to feed wild-caught insects, especially ones that are easy to find like rolly pollies. Here’s what you need to know about feeding your bearded dragon rolly pollies and other wild-caught insects.
Rolly pollies, as you may know them, are actually called pill bugs. The pill bug (Armadillidium vulgare) is actually not an insect at all but an isopod, a type of arthropod also called a terrestrial crustacean.
Pill bugs are also known as woodlice and they are best known for their ability to roll into a ball, much like an armadillo. On the outside, they look like insects like pill millipedes, but they aren’t related because, again, they aren’t insects.
Whether they’re insects or not, it’s important to know if pill bugs are safe for your bearded dragon. The answer is not a clear yes or no.
While pill bugs may not be inherently dangerous for your beardie, it’s worth questioning whether they provide much in the way of nutrition. These creatures have a hard outer shell and there doesn’t seem to be much else to them.
More important than the nutritional composition of pill bugs, however, is what they’ve recently eaten. It’s never a good idea to feed your bearded dragon an insect if you don’t know where it came from or what it’s eaten. The food in the insect’s stomach will be transferred to your beardie and certain things can be harmful. If the insect has consumed pesticides or herbicides, for example, it could be dangerous.
While we can’t say for sure whether rolly pollies are safe for bearded dragons, we can say that it’s up to your discretion and you should consider the pros and cons before you do.
How Often Can You Feed Your Bearded Dragon Rolly Pollies?
If you’re going to feed your bearded dragon rolly pollies, it’s important to make them part of a balanced diet. Different insects (and, in this case, arthropods) have different nutritional makeups, so variety is important to make sure your pet doesn’t get too much of some nutrients and not enough of others.
Generally speaking, it’s best to limit your bearded dragon’s intake of high-fat insects like waxworms. Insects that are higher in protein like crickets should be a staple, but you should prioritize variety.
Here are some of the best insects for bearded dragons:
- Dubia roaches
- Hornworms (goliath worms)
- Black soldier fly larvae
When it comes to feeding recommendations for bearded dragons, there are no hard and fast standards because every case is different. You can’t force your bearded dragon to eat, so it’s best to let him eat as many insects as he likes within a 15-minute period and remove any that are leftover.
Risks of Feeding Wild-Caught Insects
Rolly pollies may not be inherently dangerous to bearded dragons, but any wild-caught insect can be harmful if you don’t know where it came from. Pill bugs feed on decaying plant matter and other decomposing material, so it’s possible for them to ingest harmful substances like pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer, and more. This risk applies to any wild-caught insect.
It’s also important to realize that some wild-caught insects ARE hazardous for bearded dragons. Never feed your beardie fireflies (or any insects that glow), elderbugs, or venomous insects like bees and wasps. Avoid insects that are sold as bait for fishing as well.
As a rule of thumb, if you’re not absolutely sure something is safe or if you aren’t sure where it came from, don’t feed it to your bearded dragon.
How to Feed Your Bearded Dragon Rolly Pollies
When it comes to feeding your bearded dragon rolly pollies, the process is no different than any other insect. If you already have a feeding routine in place, you can simply add the pill bugs to it.
Before feeding your bearded dragon rolly pollies or feeder insects, remove them from their habitat or holding container. Use tweezers to lift the pill bugs out and pick off any bits of substrate or plant matter before placing them in your bearded dragon’s tank.
Give your bearded dragon about 15 minutes to eat the rolly pollies. Any that he doesn’t finish off should be removed from the habitat and returned to their cage.
Tips for Raising Pill Bugs
If you decide you want to include rolly pollies in your bearded dragon’s diet, your best option may be to raise them yourself. You’re unlikely to find them at your local pet store and you certainly shouldn’t gather them from outside.
Luckily, raising pill bugs is fairly easy. In fact, they’re fairly social creatures and they can be raised with similar species in the same cage.
The best cage for rolly pollies is a 5- or 10-gallon aquarium. Fill the tank with several inches of organic topsoil or hardwood mulch and add rocks, pieces of bark, toilet paper tubes, and other things for the pill bugs to explore. Change the bedding periodically to prevent mold from forming and make sure there is sufficient ventilation.
While ventilation is important, you should also keep in mind that pill bugs prefer a humid environment. These creatures actually breathe through gills instead of lungs, and the gills only work if there is enough moisture in the air. If your tank has a mesh lid, cover part of it to keep the humidity up and mist the tank and substrate with clean water a few times a week.
In terms of feeding, rolly pollies will eat a wide variety of plant matter. In the wild, their primary food source is decaying organic debris, but produce scraps will work just fine. You can also offer leaves from outdoor plants, but only if you’re sure they’re free from pesticides and other chemicals.
Remember, gut loading feeder insects helps increase your beardie’s intake of essential nutrients, so feed the pill bugs plenty of healthy, nutrient-rich foods.
With proper care, rolly pollies have a surprisingly long lifespan – up to 3 years. For optimal breeding of pill bugs, start with 20 to 30 specimens. They should breed in about two weeks in optimal conditions.
Bearded dragons appreciate variety in their diet and including a wide range of foods helps to ensure balanced nutrition. While it’s unclear whether rolly pollies are particularly valuable in terms of nutrition, they can help you switch up your beardie’s feeding routine and he may very well like them.
Before feeding your bearded dragon rolly pollies, make sure you know where they came from if you didn’t breed them yourself. Follow standard insect feeding protocols, offering an appropriate number of rolly pollies for your beardie’s size and remove any uneaten insects after 15 minutes.
If you find your beardie really has a taste for rolly pollies, breeding them yourself is a great way to make sure you always have a safe supply on hand.