Can Leopard Geckos Eat Mealworm Beetles? Yes, But Be Careful

Many reptile keepers can attest to getting some mealworms and before they are all used up, the remaining larvae molt and turn into beetles.

This can get incredibly frustrating, as it feels like time and time again our money gets wasted on beetles that we do not think are edible for our leopard gecko. 

However, this is not always the case, and though it is not full proof that every leo will eat darkling beetles, a lot will and it seems to be with a try, especially if you are routinely buying feeders from the store.

Leopard geckos can by nature eat darkling beetles, but there are many things to consider before going ahead with the feeding.

Darkling beetles have harder shells and pincers that can cause damage to your gecko if not fed carefully after considering the health and heartiness of your gecko.

Nutritional value of mealworm beetles

Mealworm beetles, also known as darkling beetles, have pretty good nutritional value that seems, in a way, complementary to their larval counterparts.

Darkling beetles are very low in fat, as they use up lots of fat from the larval stage to grow into their beetle form. They are also very high in protein, which makes them a great contender for leopard geckos that may be on the chunkier side.

They are also very high in calcium, which is always a plus for any reptile.

Do leopard geckos like mealworm beetles?

As to whether your leopard gecko will choose to eat a darkling beetle is hard to say, as they can be pretty bad in the flavor department.

One of the defense mechanisms of these beetles is to secrete a foul odor from the glands in their abdominal area to ward off predators. 

It honestly depends on the individual gecko as to if they will eat them or not, some can get over the taste and others just don’t seem to care for it.

Are darkling beetles safe for leopard geckos?

Darkling Beetle on leaves

Overall darkling beetles are safe for adult leopard geckos. There is a small risk associated with feeding them because they do have pincers, which can harm your gecko if they bite the back of the beetle and it whips around and gets them in the eye.

A good way to prevent this is tong feed the beetle to eliminate that risk. These beetles also have chitin in their exoskeleton which can make them a bit hard to chew with their teeth and a choking hazard for smaller geckos, so it should be avoided with them.

Can I feed recently hatched mealworm beetles to my leopard gecko?

Recently hatched mealworm beetles

Because of the tough chitin a lot of keepers prefer to use the beetles right after they go through metamorphosis and they are a little more tender. This also reduces the risk of the gecko getting bitten as well. Therefore, doing freshly hatched mealworm beetles is a great idea when feeding them.

What is the right size beetle to feed my leopard gecko?

When feeding a darkling beetle, it is super important to make sure that the beetle is a good bit smaller than the gecko’s head.

This will ensure that they can be easily ingested without a risk of choking. You also want your leopard gecko to be strong enough to handle a meal of this size, making it crucial that they are large enough.

Editor’s Note
Make sure you are sourcing your insects from somewhere that can assure that they have been gut loaded. At many commercial pet shops, the feeders will sometimes have barely any nutrients to them, so making sure that they have been organically bred and gut-loaded makes a world of difference.

Maximizing nutrients in the beetles.

If you are breeding mealworms yourself, something that can make these beetles much more nutritious is gut loading, which is giving them lots of nutrient-dense foods to eat. 

Building up nutrients and having properly taken care of feeders can make a change in their ability to nourish your gecko to the fullest extent possible.

Feeding these insects is not particularly difficult either, even just some oats and vegetable table scraps can increase their nutritional value significantly. Things like carrot peels, sweet potato, and banana peels work fantastic. 

This is due to their role in the wild as detritivores, breaking down organic material that is rotting or close to it for the decomposers to finally recycle that organic material into the soil.

Some commercial gut-loading diets can work well, but it works even better when used in conjunction with table scraps, because the more essential nutrients, the better.

Are mealworm beetles easy or hard for leopard geckos to eat?

Mealworm beetles in general are a more difficult food to eat for these guys, but if they are healthy and pretty hearty individual that is willing to give them a try and eat them, they can make a great food source with the right amount of caution.

Avoid feeding adult darkling beetles to sicky or young leopard geckos, as these beetles are stronger than they look and can have a nasty bite when you are the size of a leopard gecko.

If your gecko does not seem to be interested in eating the beetle, be sure to remove it so that it does not terrorize the little guy.


Can leopard geckos eat any type of beetle?

Leopard geckos can have a wide variety of insects as their food source including beetles, however, it is important to be confident that the beetle was farmed to be a food source for leopard geckos, as just any beetle from outside is not very nutritious.

It is also important to note that some beetles have pretty nasty bites and can hurt a leopard gecko, and without knowing the proper research on the beetle species you may want to feed, it could also be toxic to leopard geckos.


Leopard geckos most definitely can eat these mealworm beetles, and feeding these can provide good amounts of protein and calcium to your leopard gecko without having to worry about a super high-fat content

It is honestly up to your leopard gecko as to whether this is a worthwhile feeder for them. Some geckos simply do not like the darkling beetles and won’t eat them. 

Be sure to make sure the beetle is not bigger than your leopard gecko’s head to ensure that they will not get choked and are strong enough to manage to eat these beetles without getting hurt. Also, avoid feeding these to weak or sickly individuals.

I am sure being able to use these beetles is a huge relief for many of you, as the worms sometimes seem to just slip past you and you do not want to waste the beetles as food for your pet. For some of us, it’s simply curiosity to wonder what all your gecko can eat because well-rounded diets are always a good idea, but not always easy to come by.

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