Gut Loading & Dusting
Everyone knows you are what you eat! Did you know that the nutritional value of feeder insects depends a lot on what you feed them?
Many people are aware of the need to “dust” insects with a calcium powder before feeding them to their reptiles and amphibians. However, there’s more to it than just the calcium; there’s also the interactions of other vitamins and minerals. So not only do you need to use a good supplement right before feeding, you need to make sure that the prey is properly fed.
Gut-loading an insect refers to feeding the bug a nutritious food source to ensure proper nutrition for your pet reptile or amphibian. To balance the nutrition and increase hydration of feeder insects, you should gut-load them with healthy fruits and vegetables that provide not only hydration but also vitamins and other micronutrients. It is also possible to gutload with a high-calcium feed instead to skip the dusting, but these are often dry formulas that don't offer the opportunity to add hydration to the meal. This type of gut-load should not be the every day diet. A high-calcium diet can be deadly to insects: they cannot process that much calcium because they have no skeletons to store it in.
Give the gutload 24-48 hours before feeding off the insects so that the food has a chance to move through the digestive system and provide maximum nutrition. Roaches have a digestive system that can hold more food and spend more time digesting it, giving a larger window of time for feeding quality foods. Crickets digest food more rapidly, and don't extract all of the nutrients that roaches can.
Remember to dust with calcium (if you aren't providing it in the gutload) immediately before offering the prey. Depending on how much UVB light you provide, you may need to use a dust that includes a vitamin D3 supplement. Check care sheets and do research to find out what's best for your pet. Look for a product that does not contain phosphorous.
If you are feeding tarantulas, skip the dusting. Tarantulas are different. Like with feeder insects, they have no bones and too much calcium is deadly to them.
Our own roaches are fed homemade roach chow on a daily basis, and get fresh fruits and vegetables several times a week. Happy feeders make happy herps. Bon appétit!