Can Tree Frogs Eat Mealworms? – Everything You Need to Know

Adult frogs are obligate carnivores, which means eat only animal matter, and will not eat plant matter. They feed primarily on worms, insects, and other invertebrates – but they are not selective with what they eat. But can tree frogs eat mealworms?  

Tree frogs can eat mealworms, but they are not the best food option. Mealworms have a low nutritional value and have a hard exoskeleton that is difficult to digest – which makes them a poor feeder. If you want to feed mealworms to your tree frog, it’s recommended you only use the ones that have just shed, and still have soft bodies.

Still, mealworms should not be a staple diet. Crickets, dubia roaches, and other soft-bodied insects make a better staple. The insects have to be dusted and gut-loaded to make them more nutritious (more information on that below).

Mealworms Have a Low Nutritional Value

As mentioned above, a staple diet of mealworms is not recommended for any amphibian. They lack many essential nutrients, have a poor calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, and their exoskeleton is high in chitin, which makes it difficult for most tree frogs to digest.

Mealworms are mostly available in two varieties: live and dried.

Here Is the Nutritional Content of Both Varieties of Mealworms:
Protein Fat Fiber Moisture
Live mealworm 20% 13% 2% 62%
Dried mealworm 53% 28% 6% 5%

Based on their nutritional makeup, dried mealworms overall have more nutritional value. However, this does not mean they will make a great meal for tree frogs. They also have some serious disadvantages.

Here Are Some Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Mealworms as a Feeder for Tree Frogs:
Advantages Disadvantages
Live mealworms
  • Commonly available
  • The hard exoskeleton is not easily digested
  • May sometimes bite frogs during feeding
  • Low nutritional value
Dried mealworms
  • Commonly available
  • Easy to store
  • Not accepted by most frogs

Most frogs will only eat live mealworms and will reject dried mealworms.

In the wild, frogs are instinctively attracted to movement while hunting for food. For this reason, most captive frogs will not only eat live bugs that are wriggling or moving around.

If you offer dried mealworms to a captive frog, the frog will most likely ignore them and will starve.

Newly Molted Mealworms Are a Great Supplementary Food

Although mealworms generally make a poor feeder, there are exceptions.

Newly molted mealworms, which are white in color, have soft bodies, weak mouthparts, and low chitin levels. This makes them an excellent supplementary food to add variety to the diet of your frogs.

Newly molted mealworm with a soft shell
Mealworm shortly after one its molts. At this stage, the exoskeleton hasn’t had time to change color and harden fully – which makes it an excellent feeder for amphibians. Photo credit: Jon Glittenberg, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Still, even newly molted mealworms should not be used as a staple diet for tree frogs. You can feed them from time to time, just don’t go overboard. Think of them like a treat.

How Make Mealworms More Nutritious

Mealworms and other captive-bred feeder insects are often raised on a cost-conscious diet that is meant to help them grow quickly. This means they are not as nutritious as wild insects that eat a wide variety of vitamin and mineral-rich food.

For this reason, it is important to increase the nutritional value of the food you give to your frog.

This is mainly done in two ways: dusting, and gut loading.

Gut Loading

Gut loading is the process by which feeder insects are fed nutrient-dense foods at least 48 hrs before they are offered to the frog. The intention is to pass those nutrients on to the frog when the insects are eaten. 

In this context, you want to give your mealworms, or other feeder insects, foods with lots of nutrients – for example, fresh nutritious vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes, and dark leafy greens.

Alternatively, you can use a high-quality commercial mealworm gut load formula

After consuming this food, the mealworms will be much more nutritious and pass the nutrients on to the frog when they are eaten.

Dusting

Besides gut loading, another way to ensure your tree frog gets all the vitamins and minerals it needs is by dusting its food with high-quality powder calcium and vitamin supplements.

Most hobbyists use commercially manufactured supplement powder specifically designed for reptiles and amphibians.

The process is simple:

  • First, add a small pinch of supplement powder into a small container such as a cup or an empty cereal container. The powder should only be enough to lightly dust the insects.
  • Place one feedings worth of feeder insects in the container
  • Gently shake the container so the supplements lightly coat the insects
  • Once finished, you can offer the dusted insects to your frog

It is important to know what calcium formula is right for your pet, whether it be no D3, low D3, or high D3.

If your tree frog gets UVB from a light source, low D or no D is usually the best. However, if your frog doesn’t have a UVB light source, high D is preferable.

How to Feed Mealworms to Tree Frogs

The easiest way to feed a tree frog is to simply dump the food into its enclosure and let the frog have its fill. However, this method does not work well for all feeders.

Feeders such as mealworms (and dubia roaches) aren’t very active and tend to burrow under the substrate of the frog’s enclosure, so they will not be visible and the frog can not eat them.

To get around this, you could try putting them in a small ceramic dish. Doing this will prevent them from moving around too much (and burrowing), and it will also make them more visible to the frog, so it can eat them.

If this doesn’t work, you could entice the frog to eat with the use of tweezers. Use the tweezers to gently hold the mealworm, then rub it near the nose of the frog.

Once he sees it, he will grab it and eat it.

Mealworm Alternatives You Can Feed Your Tree Frog

In the wild tree frogs much on worms, grasshoppers, moths, spiders, snails, grubs, and more. This diverse diet means they get all the nutrients they need from the wide variety of things they eat.

Even in captivity, the key to a proper diet for tree frogs is variety. It’s not a good idea to feed the same food item every time.

Here are other things you can feed your tree frog:

  • Small silk-worms
  • Small hornworms
  • Waxworms
  • Crickets
  • Dubia roaches
  • Flightless fruit flies
  • Earthworms

Dusted and gut-loaded crickets can make up a majority of most tree frog diets. However, to add variety, other food items can be offered every few feedings.

Small silkworms and hornworms can be used in the place of mealworms – as they have more meat and a soft exoskeleton, that is easy to digest.

As for fruit flies, I recommend Hydei fruit flies as they are considerably bigger than the Melanogaster fruit flies and make a richer meal for your frog.

High-fat foods like waxworms should only be fed as an occasional treat.

Here Is the Nutritional Content of Different Types of Feeders:

Protein Fat Fiber Moisture 
Silkworms 13% 2% 3% 79%
Hornworms 9% 3% 1% 85%
Waxworms 14% 18% 3% 62%
Crickets 18% 6% 2% 73%
Dubia roaches 21% 9% 5% 65%
Flightless fruit flies 21% 5% 5% 70%
Earthworms 10% 2% 2% 84%
It is not a good idea to feed wild-caught bugs to captive frogs. Wild bugs may be carrying diseases or pesticides that can be harmful to a frog. Also, wild bugs such as hornworms and some grasshoppers get and store chemicals from the plants they eat, which makes them toxic if they are eaten.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do frogs eat dried mealworms? 

Frogs are instinctively attracted to movement while hunting for food. For this reason, most frogs will not eat dried mealworms or other dead bugs. However, some aquatic frogs will readily accept dried mealworms.  

Can tree frogs eat mealworm beetles?

Yes, tree frogs can eat mealworm beetles. In the wild, beetles make up a significant portion of many tree frogs’ diets. In captivity, tree frogs can eat mealworm beetles and other types of beetles. However, it’s always a good idea to feed soft-bodied insects over insects with a hard exoskeleton.  

Can white’s tree frogs eat mealworms?

Yes, white’s tree frogs can eat mealworms. They are not very picky eaters and will eat almost anything they can catch and fit into their mouths. However, mealworms are a poor feeder, and should not be used as a staple diet for white’s tree frogs. They should only be used to add variety to the diet, or as an occasional treat.

Can American green tree frogs eat mealworms?

Yes, American green tree frogs can eat mealworms, but they should not be used as a staple diet. Dusted & gut-loaded crickets, make a great staple. Mealworms should only be fed to add variety to the diet.

Can red-eyed tree frogs eat mealworms?

Yes, red-eyed tree frogs can eat mealworms. They have huge appetites and are not very picky with what they eat. Still, mealworms should not be used as a staple diet for red-eyed tree frogs. They should be used occasionally, to add variety to the diet of your frog.

Conclusion

Tree frogs can and do eat mealworms. Do bear in mind that frog species and size will determine what size of mealworm a frog can and cannot eat. Small tree frogs will only eat small mealworms, but large tree frogs can eat larger mealworms.

Also, if you want to feed your tree frog mealworms, it’s a good idea to only use the ones that have just shed, and still have soft bodies, as the hard exoskeleton of mealworms is very hard for most small frogs to digest.

Photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife. 

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