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|Nutrition Overview | Diet Recommendations | Diet During Transition | Hedgehog Food Comparison
Hedgehog Treats | Insects a La Carte
Insects a La Carte
Benefits of Insects as Treats
- Insects are the most common treat for pet hedgehogs.
- Hedgehogs are insectivores by nature and a large portion of their diet in the wild consists of insects.
- Hedgehogs in the wild and captive bred hedgehogs do have different nutritional requirements and needs because of the differences in their activity levels.
- Wild hedgehogs are often able to adjust what they eat according to their needs. Pet hedgehogs eat what we give them because it is the only thing available to them. It isn’t a good idea to feed a straight insect diet because chances are good that it will not meet all of the hedgehogs’ nutritional requirements.
- We suggest using feeding tongs or tweezers when feeding insects. Hedgehogs have poor eyesight and may nibble on your finger trying to get its treat. After it has eaten its treat your fingers will still smell like insects.
Store Bought versus Wild Caught
- We strongly encourage you to feed your hedgehogs only insects that are raised as feeders.
- When you feed your pet insects you are also feeding your hedgehog whatever the insects have eaten.
- Wild caught bugs can carry parasites, toxins and bacteria.
- Even if you do not use pesticides or herbicides your neighbors or near by farmers might use them. The toxins in the insects can build up in your hedgehog over a period of time.
- Parasites are found in soils, on plants, and are carried by most types of insects. Livestock, cats, dogs, and many other animals that are outdoors need to be routinely wormed to take care of parasites. Hedgehogs that eat wild caught insects or spend time in outdoor play may also need to be wormed.
- Insects used as bait are often raised on manure. Manure contains parasites, which are then passed along to your hedgies.
- Live insects provide stimulation and environmental enrichment for your hedgehog. Some hedgehogs are enthusiastic hunters but others are rather lazy and would prefer not to make the effort to catch their food.
- Bathtubs or laundry sinks are great places to feed live insects. The hedgie can learn that when it is placed in such a place that it is going to get a treat and it will search for the bugs. Uneaten insects can be easily caught.
- Remove uneaten insects after about 15 minutes.
- Live insects must be stored and fed according to their needs. Insects that are not properly housed and fed will not have the same nutritional content.
- Freeze dried insects are available through several suppliers.
- These insects are sold by weight and are typically the cheapest per bug.
- They have a long shelf life and do not smell nearly as bad as canned crickets.
- Canned insects are juicy and have the strongest odor. What is stinky to us tends to smell quite delicious to our four-legged friends!
- Canned insects need to be refrigerated once opened and have a relatively short shelf life compared to freeze dried insects but are still more convenient than live bugs.
Nutritional Analysis Comparison
|Fly Larvae GRU
|Mealworm larvae (worms) GCF
|Mealworm larvae (worms) GRU
|Snails (De-shelled) ZMC
|Snails (Shelled) ETC
ENFD – Exotic Nutrition’s Freeze Dried
ETC – Exo Terra Canned
FFD – Fluker’s Freeze Dried
GCF – Gahnn’s Cricket Farm
GRU – Grubco
ZMC – Zoo Med’s Canned
Insect Variety Comparison
- The table above demonstrates that the nutritional content of insects varies not only between species of insects but between canned, live, and freeze dried versions as well as between vendors.
- When studying the protein and fat content it is important to note the moisture content as well. Generally speaking, the higher the moisture contents, the lower the percentage of the protein and fat.
- Crickets can be purchased live from pet stores or online insect suppliers. Live crickets should be “gut loaded”. The food the cricket has eaten (in its gut) is also beneficial to your hedgehog. Gut loaded crickets have more vitamins, minerals, calcium, and nutrition than a cricket that hasn’t been fed properly.
- Live crickets can be pre-killed or stunned for lazy hedgehogs by placing them in the freezer. Crickets in the freezer for only a short amount of time will revive so if you are intending to kill them they should be left in the freezer overnight.
- Freeze dried crickets are brittle and should be stored in a plastic containers to prevent crumbling.
- Crickets should be maintained in a large aquarium with a screen or mesh lid or other specialized container. Cardboard egg crates provide hiding places and keep the crickets from trampling each other. They should be fed a high-calcium cricket food and water should be provided via carrots, sweet potatoes, a moist sponge on a shallow dish, or specialized cricket gel.
Earthworms and Night Crawlers
- According to Becca at Daisy Meadows, “Night crawlers and earthworms are just about guaranteed to give your hedgehog foul smelly, liquidy poos, and cutting them into manageable portions is almost as icky as the poo that the hedgehog produces.”
- Earthworms carry lungworm or threadworm, which can be transmitted to your hedgehog and is fatal.
- Mealworms have a three-stage life cycle: larvae, pupae, and beetle.
- The mealworms that you buy are in the larval stage of mealworm development but all stages are edible for your hedgehog.
- It is fairly easy to raise your own mealworm colony at home if you have the time and a little extra space.
- A mealworm colony needs normal/warm room temperature and simple food requirements. Several internet sites are devoted to raising mealworms as feeders.
- Feeder mealworms should be kept in the refrigerator and maintained on a high calcium insect food as bedding.
- Mealworms will turn into beetles if they are not kept in the refrigerator.
- Harder to find and more expensive and harder to find but they have many benefits that may be worth the extra effort.
- www.buyfruitflies.com states “Silkworms are easy to care for, undemanding, have a low mortality rate and last over a week without food and up to a month or more with food. You can easily grow them up to three inches or more by feeding them mulberry leaves or our silkworm food.”
- Higher in calcium and lower in fat than other insects.
- Their soft exoskeleton makes them easy to digest.
- They don’t escape.
- According to some hedgehog owners even picky hedgehogs tend to like them!
Snails and Slugs
- Wild caught snails and slugs can carry lung worm or threadworm which can be transmitted to your hedgehog and is fatal.
- Farm raised, canned, shelled snails are available in the reptile section of pet stores.
- Zoophobias or superworms look a lot like mealworms but are more than twice the size and are much more aggressive than mealworms.
- Super worms have been known to bite hedgehogs both before the hedgehog has eaten them and after they are in the stomach cavity.
- Super worm attacks are often thought of as urban myths. However, a friend and fellow hedgehog breeder, Jeanne Stanoch of Prickly Hedgies, had a hedgehog that indeed died after eating super worms. According to Jeanne a few hours after eating super worms a female hedgehog started bleeding from the mouth and vomiting blood. After she died a necropsy was preformed and wounds were found on the inside of the hedgehog’s stomach which had been done by the super worms. Although the super worm was dead the head was still intact.
- We suggest feeding only dead super worms. An easy way to pre-kill the super worms is to simply put them in the freezer.
- Wax worms are the larval stage of the wax moth.
- They are more expensive and harder to find than other insects.
- Wax worms are high in fat and should be fed sparingly.
- The roasted variety smells a lot like peanut butter and is sure to get your hedgehog’s attention (Loane).
- Wax worms should be kept in the refrigerator and maintained on a high calcium insect food as bedding.
- Insects are not traditional fed out of a dish but rather their food is used as bedding.
- Many commercial and homemade bedding options are available.
- Most stores that supply feeder insects also supply the food to maintain and care for them properly.
- Proper care of your feeder insects will help ensure optimal nutritional value of the insect for your pet.
Nutritional Advisory Group Handbook
Insects As A Part of the Diet. Becca Loane. www.daisymeadows.com
Grow Your Own Meal Worms www.harmorhollow.com
Stanoch, Jeanne. Prickly Hedgies