Canned insects containing “the same nutritional value” as live… Thoughts? 🤔

I was browsing products for reptiles, and stumbled upon these canned dubias:

They make a bold sales pitch:

“Your reptile pal deserves a treat! Symton Large Dubia Roaches Canned Reptile Treats are made with irresistible Dubia roaches that have been freshly preserved and are ready to eat. These canned treats contain the same nutritional value and delicious taste as fresh treats, but have a shelf life of up to three years unopened. Once you open a can, simply pop it in the fridge and it will stay fresh for up to one week. They’re also a great source of protein for your pet, and come with a super convenient plastic lid to reseal the can.”

They have nutrition facts listed, as well:

Blaptica dubia.

Guaranteed Analysis
|Crude Protein|23.4% min|
|Crude Fat|7.2% min|
|Crude Fiber|2.9% max|
|Moisture|65.6% max|
|Ash|1.2% max|”

It sounds very tempting… Most brands I’ve seen also state that their insects were gut loaded prior to being canned, and also that no additives or preservatives are present at any stage.

Gutloading (or rather, lack thereof) is the most common reason I’ve seen given for avoiding canned insects. Aside from lack of stimulation from hunting (which could actually be a good thing, in cases of timid species that tend to run away from their intended meals…), would there be any other negatives to using these or a similar product (provided the animal in question will eat non-moving food)? I know that for dubias in particular, some keepers are unable to provide live feeders due to state laws regarding potentially invasive insects… Would using canned insects allow for more varied diets, or even allow us to provide prey closer to what a given species might encounter in its native habitat?


I have no experience with it but my sisters kids have kept their bearded dragon alive on veggies and ffeeze dried meal worms for several years beyond where I assumed it would it die.

Travis what are your thoughts? @t_h_wyman


I used to supplement my beardie with freeze-dried mealworms and crickets, but I was always told canned and freeze-dried were less nutritious than live, so they were never his primary insect diet. I’d just put a few freeze-dried insects on top of his salad to get him to eat his veggies.

But that was 20 years ago, so maybe they’re better these days. :person_shrugging:

One thing to keep in mind is that you’d just have to take the company at their word that the insects were indeed gut-loaded effectively. When you feed live, you have total control over how you gut-load them, so you can be totally sure you’re making them as nutritious as possible. For that reason alone, I’d probably be hesitant to feed an insect-eating animal only canned/dried insects, but I don’t see anything wrong with using them as a supplemental treat.


Jarred bugs are basically no different than jarred human food and have the same shortcomings:

  • Reduced nutrition versus fresh (not massive reduction, but still less)
  • Possible preservatives (yes, I know they say they do not use any but read the ingredient list and you will likely find otherwise)
  • Countdown once you open the can (will you be able to feed off the contents before they spoil?)
  • Storage of the opened can (your family may not appreciate slimy, possibly smelly, bugs in the fridge)
  • Expiration date (self-explanatory, I would put these more toward ‘actually expire’ and not so much ‘best by…’)

All that said, if your animal will take them then I do not see a problem with using them as a supplemental feeder or as part of a varied diet. I just would not feed with them exclusively


Freeze dried is kind of another can of worms (sorry—the opportunity was too good to waste :joy:)… I worry about hydration, though I think I heard of some people “re-hydrating” them, by soaking beforehand? But… that sounds a lot nastier/smellier/messier than just getting them in canned form. :confounded:

Yeah, I hear you on the gutloading thing. Could a nutritional analysis determine whether or not an insect (in whole form) was gutloaded properly before canning? Would there be a reason for a company to cut corners on that? My experience with invertebrates is limited, but isn’t it pretty cost-effective to just cultivate them on the block/cake/flake style feeds that most keepers use? I always assumed that was just how bugs were typically “farmed”, to ensure the best size and yield, and for ease of feeding? I’d be very curious to see how various producers differ in their approach.

Ah, thank you for that list!

I’d been doing a lot of reading on how canning affects foods intended for human use, but wasn’t sure if whole bugs might bring other factors into play. I do always read the ingredients list to be safe. (I found Red 40 in commercial dog food, once. It was both upsetting and deeply ironic… since dogs can’t even see the color red. :expressionless:) In the particular brand I linked at least, the sole ingredient listed is the scientific name of the dubia roach. I’m going to browse some other brands and compare, but I haven’t found anything sketchy yet.

As for potential spoiling/storage, I considered that based on the number of bugs they estimate per can (12)… If they last the week in the fridge, that would work out pretty well for me. The smell… well, they’ll be relegated to the garage fridge with the other less-than-pleasant pet food smells. :sweat_smile:

But speaking of human-grade food… I ended up browsing edible bugs farmed for human consumption, and noticed that while there’s an abundance of canned/dried ants available as human food… I can’t see any being sold as pet food. I know of quite a few ant-specialist species, and finding food for them is always mentioned as a big “con” to keeping them. Is there a reason for the lack of ants sold as pet food? Would there be anything wrong with providing human-grade ants (provided there are no additives, of course).


I am guessing the ant-feeders you are alluding to are things like horned lizards and the like, which are very visually triggered. So a pile of dried ants is unlikely to trigger their “this is food” program. If you check out vids of the TX horned lizard recovery project you can see how they have to feed them


That was one of them, yes—I also recall a species of gecko (maybe more than one) that were ant specialists.

Ah, shoot. That makes sense, definitely. :disappointed: I remembered researching a few ant-specialists, and they described the diet as “unsustainable”, because even if you had a massive ant colony breeding operation… the lizard would go through them all in no time. Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll check that out!

One last thought, a bit silly… What about those vibrating food bowls that would make the insects look like they’re moving? I know they’re kind of silly and gimmicky, but I’ve heard people say they had great success with them?


I would not say they are “unsustainable”, but it does take a lot of extra work that most people just are not willing to put the effort into. You can order harvester ants online in quantity. They can be safely stored for a fair amount of time (maybe a month or so) in the fridge. So you could order monthly and feed pretty regularly from your fridge stock. If you (and your family) can securely accommodate ants in the fridge

If you live in the right areas, you can also sustainably harvest your own ants, but it does mean making fairly large collection circuits every few days. Collecting in quantity can be a little bit challenging but I have seen some rather ingenious use of a dustbuster by a herper I follow.

Then you also have to consider that you do not want the ants escaping 1) into the cage and (probably more importantly) 2) OUT of the cage and into your house!! So you need to figure out a feeding method that contains the ants so they are easily accessible to the animal but not able to scatter about into the cage (again, I will point to the TX horned lizard recovery project for a great method for that). But since nothing is fool-proof, you will also need to take extra measures to seal up the cage to prevent even a very few random ants from escaping. That means sealing all joins, double or triple meshing all vents. If you have sliding doors you need to keep the track absolutely clean and clear so the door closes fully and applying a gasket lock to the gap between the panes. If you have swing out/down doors, make sure there are no gaps in how they latch and installing a gasket or the like there to prevent something squeezing out. You have to fully seal all the holes/ports that were drilled to make access for cord or misters or the like, not just the unused ones but also around the cords in the ones you are using

So it is possible. Just not the kind of work most hobby-level keepers want to put forth

Honestly never used one so I cannot say how they might work

1 Like