Hedgehog Central banner

Guide to Insects

43618 Views 1 Reply 2 Participants Last post by  Kalandra
1. General Notes
2. Most Common Insects
3. Freeze-dried, Canned, or Live?
4. How Many?
5. Help! My hedgie won't eat his bugs!

1. General Notes

- Bugs are very important in a hedgehog's diet - their diet in the wild would include a sizeable portion of insects and invertebrates such as centipedes, snails, slugs, earthworms, spiders, flies, mosquitoes, beetles, beetle larvae, etc. If at all possible, you should include some kind of insect in your hedgehog's diet, at the very least as treats.

- You should never feed your hedgehog wild-caught insects. There's a risk of pesticides or internal parasites. Only feed insects that you've bought specifically for animal consumption. Make sure you inspect the store's storage for the insects if at all possible - it should be clean and well maintained. Open the container and check the bedding before you buy mealworms, etc. It should be dry, not damp, which can cause mold that can kill mealworms and make your hedgehog sick. It's also a good idea to check whether there seems to be a lot of dead worms in the container before you buy it - a few is normal, but it shouldn't be many more than that.

- You should also never feed your hedgehog an insect that has died (unless you have intentionally put it in the freezer or killed it for your hedgie). Like any other body, insects would start decomposing upon death, and you don't want to make your hedgie sick.

- It's commonly recommended that once you bring new insects home, you put a few pieces of fresh fruit or veggie (apple, carrot, etc.) into their container and give them a day or two to eat. This puts healthier food in their system and makes them a healthier snack for your hedgie.

2. Most Common Insects

Here's some of the most common insects to feed your hedgie:
- mealworms
- crickets
- grasshoppers
- waxworms
- ****roaches
- other worms

You can compare the nutritional analysis for most of these insects here - http://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forums/12-diet-nutrition/99-live-insect-nutritional-analysis.html

*edited by Kalandra* In addition to the nutritional analysis link above, an additional site to find more information is listed in the follow-up post below.


- Mealworms can be bought at almost all pet stores, or from online providers, live, canned, or freeze-dried.

- Live mealworms can be kept at room temperature (in which they'll continue to move around, grow, and possibly change into pupae, and from there to beetles) or can be kept in the fridge (which puts them into hibernation - they'll need to be removed for a couple hours once a week to give them a chance to warm up and eat). If you wish, you can also raise your own mealworms - http://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forums/12-diet-nutrition/23-farming-mealworms.html.

- All stages of mealworm growth are great to feed to hedgehogs - pupae are nice for hiding around the cage for your hedgehog to find, since they can't escape. The pupae are similar in nutritional value to mealworms, but the beetles are nearly half the fat & have a much higher fiber content.


- Crickets are a lower-fat option for rounder hedgies. They're available at most pet stores as well, live, canned, or freeze-dried. Crickets can be raised at home, but it's much more difficult than mealworms - they're noisy, smelly, and die quickly, so it's not often attempted.


- Grasshoppers aren't sold live in pet stores, but you can sometimes find them canned in the reptile section. They're high in protein and low in fat, and canned insects are good options for hiding in the cage or food enrichment objects. You can freeze canned insects for longer storage - once opened, the can should be used within 10-14 days if kept in the fridge.


- Very high in fat! Mainly used for runners or hedgies that need help gaining weight. Can be a very occasional treat for other hedgies that enjoy them.

- You can usually find these at pet stores. If you want to keep them for awhile, put them in the door of the fridge or in a basement or other cooler area - on the shelf or further in the fridge can be too cold for them.


- There's numerous different types of roaches that are bred for feeders, but one of the more common and easy-to-find ones are dubia ****roaches.

- Not often found in pet stores, but there's often independent suppliers in a community (you can check the bulletin board usually posted in pet stores for ads), or you can order them online.

- Roaches are a very healthy feeder insect - they have a lot of protein and are lower in fat (in between crickets & mealworms). They're also easier to raise than crickets, if you wish to do so. There's many guides online to how to breed and keep dubia roaches, as well as other types.

Other Worms

- There's several other types of feeder worms often used for reptiles that haven't been commonly used for hedgehogs yet - earthworms, silkworms, superworms, butterworms, phoenix worms, hornworms, and spikes (bottle fly larvae/maggots).

- As with other feeder insects, make sure you're buying from a reputable source (most of these you'll have to find online, unless you find them in a reptile supply store or similar).

- Superworms should be fed with caution - they are bigger and stronger than mealworms, and can bite. Heads should be cut off from live superworms before they're fed to a hedgehog to prevent injury, or you should feed them to the hedgehog head-first.

- Silkworms are very low in fat, and are often considered a very nutritious feeder for reptiles. They can be difficult to find, and are expensive, which are their main drawbacks. You can also buy silkworm pupae canned, which are very high in fiber.

- Phoenix worms (black soldier fly larvae - phoenix worms is a trade name & they go by numerous other trade names) are pretty small - the size of a waxworm or so. However, they're a common feeder for reptiles, and would be easy to find online to order. They're also lower in fat than both waxworms and mealworms, and they're naturally high in calcium (unlike most insects).

- There's a bit of debate on whether earthworms are a nutritional feeder or not. The choice is up to owners - but keep in mind that they're likely to be a messy meal, especially if you have a hedgie that loves to annoint with new treats. They are similiar to crickets and mealworm beetles in fat content, and they're high in protein.

- Butterworms are soft-bodied and look similar to waxworms except for being a red/orange color. Nutritional information on them is mixed - I've seen reports stating both that they're high in fat and low in fat. Since I haven't been able to find out for sure, I'm treating them as a high-fat insect, just in case. The info I've seen that says high fat state even higher percentages than waxworms, so best to play it safe.

- Hornworms are caterpillars and they grow to a large size - around 4" long! If you buy or keep them until they're this large, I highly recommend freezing them before feeding. Feeding live would be rather messy & unless you make sure to feed headfirst, it would take the hedgehog longer to kill the insect. Even if it's just an insect, it's best to be as humane as possible when live feeding or avoid doing it. Hornworms can also bite in self defense, which could pose a hazard to the hedgehog.

- Spikes, or maggots, are a good source of protein. They're not especially low in fat, but they're lower than mealworms. It's best to freeze them before feeding unless you'll be monitoring the feeding - they can & will wiggle out of food dishes once they're warmed up. Ick!!

3. Freeze-dried, Canned, or Live?

- Many people are squeamish about bugs and look for alternative ways to feed them to avoid wiggling and hopping. Live bugs are the best option, but freeze-dried and canned are both alternatives to feeding live if the issue can't be worked through, or parents are firmly against live insects in the house.

- Freeze-dried is not recommended for the most part. Freeze-dried insects can lack enzymes that are meant to help the animal digest the chitin in the exoskeleton - those enzymes being gone can make it much harder for your hedgehog to digest their treats and can lead to an impaction. As stated before, impaction's a risk with too many insects, even with live, but the risk is much higher with freeze-dried insects. Some people do still feed freeze-dried, but keep in mind the risks and add extra caution to determining the right amount for your hedgehog.

- Canned is probably the best alternative for buying preserved insects if buying live isn't an option at all. You can usually find canned mealworms, crickets, and grasshoppers in pet stores. Canned insects don't last as long as freeze-dried, and must be refrigerated after opening. You could also freeze the insects after opening to keep them for longer. Otherwise, leftovers should be thrown out within 1-2 weeks (they'll start smelling even worse!). Other options for canned insects/invertebrates (but typically found online, not in stores) include silkworms, silkworm pupae, waxworms, caterpillars, and snails. All of these are great options for hedgehogs!

- If you don't mind bringing live insects home, but don't want to deal with keeping them alive or feeding live (or if your hedgie is afraid of them!), you can freeze them for easier storage. Remember it's best to feed the insects with some healthy veggies for a day or two to make sure they're full of healthy food before you freeze them.

- Freezing can be done by just putting the container with the insects in it into the freezer. Make sure it's small enough to fit! One day should be long enough to make sure all of the insects are safely frozen and won't suddenly come back to life. Once they're frozen, insects can be stored in a freezer bag or small plastic container afterwards. Insects only take a minute or two to thaw out, so make sure you don't leave them out too long before feeding - they go bad quickly! They can be left in the cage for hedgies to find, but make sure your hedgie will eat them earlier in the night.

How Many?

- Number of insects depends completely on the individual hedgehog. The two main things to keep in mind - fat and digestibility.

- As stated before, mealworms and other fatty insects should be limited for most hedgehogs, unless you have a runner or skinny hedgie that needs help keeping weight on. The exact number goes by individual though, and it's best to start with a number (a typically recommended number would be 2-4 a day), and see how your hedgie's weight responds. If he/she seems to be gaining, try reducing the number. If they're fine and you want to try more, go ahead! Lower-fat insects should be fine for any hedgie, as far as fat content.

- Some insects are harder to digest, like mealworms and crickets - they have a hard exoskeleton with lots of fiber. While hedgehogs need more fiber in their diet than cats and insects are a good way to provide this, it can also cause problems in too-high amounts. Your hedgie could be come constipated, or even get an impaction. If you notice your hedgie is having smaller, drier, and/or harder poops, try cutting down on harder-shelled insects and see if it helps. Soft-bodied insects like silkworms, butterworms, waxworms, and recently-shed mealworms (they'll look white) shouldn't pose as much of a problem in this area.

- Another thing to keep in mind is how many you're feeding all at once - for example, feeding 5 crickets all at the same time might cause your hedgie to have some trouble pooping later, whereas 5 crickets spread out over the course of the day, or over a few hours might not cause a problem. Feeding a bunch of crickets or mealworms at once could even cause an impaction (especially with freeze-dried), so just be cautious and go slowly - see how your hedgie's body reacts and adjust your amounts accordingly.

Help! My hedgie won't eat his bugs!

- Some hedgies are so picky, they won't touch anything but their kibble - including bugs! This can cause their owners a lot of worry, wondering if they're getting proper nutrition. You can relax! If your hedgie is being fed a mix of two or more high-quality cat foods, you can be assured they're getting what they need to be healthy.

- So why do we feed insects? Many people believe that it's best to try and include natural elements of a hedgie's diet as much as possible - including insects. Your hedgehog won't die without them...but for the many hedgies that love their insects, it's a great addition to their diet, and they make great treats!

- If your hedgie won't try his bugs right away, keep trying - You could try different methods of presenting the bug (frozen-thawed, roasted, live, in a dish, from tweezers, let him chase them, etc.). You could also try cutting the bug in half (gross, I know!) and rub it on his lips a little - once he gets the taste, he might catch on that this weird thing is food and it's delicious! If nothing seems to be working, give it a rest for a few weeks, and try again later - like with other foods, sometimes it might take a few introductions before a hedgehog decides it's safe to try this new food.
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 5
Not open for further replies.
1 - 2 of 2 Posts
If you are interested in more information about insect nutrition and how nutritious different insect are, Moon Valley Reptiles has a nice, easy to read chart of many different insects. Their webpage also explains the major nutritional components and where their information comes from.

To read about the chart and insect nutrition in general their page is at: http://www.moonvalleyreptiles.com/cr...feeder-insects

A PDF of the insect chart is at:
  • Like
Reactions: 5
1 - 2 of 2 Posts
Not open for further replies.