Beyond the common mealworms and crickets, leopard geckos can eat a lot of other insects. But are moths on this list? Can your leopard gecko safely eat them?
Leopard geckos can eat most species of moths, but only if they come from captive-bred larvae. Even then, moths aren’t the most nutritious feeder insects for leopard geckos. They should ideally be offered as rare treats to diversify a leopard gecko’s diet and provide environmental enrichment.
What are moths?
Moths are the adult forms of larvae/caterpillars/worms. They are a group of insects that have wings and emerge from the cocoons (pupae) spun by larvae. They fall in the same order as butterflies and have similar life stages – egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. Generally, the moth stage of an insect is short and is designed to be for reproduction.
Moths have less fat than their larvae, making them less nutritious in that aspect. This is because they eat less than their larvae.
Some moths don’t even eat at all and use up their fat reservoirs looking for a mate. Another important nutritional fact about moths is that they have less calcium than their larvae or pupae forms. Ultimately, worms/larvae are more nutritious for your leopard gecko than moths.
What are the advantages of feeding your leopard gecko moths?
The major advantage of feeding your leopard gecko moths is that they provide enrichment and get your pet to exercise. Since these insects are faster and more active than worms, your gecko will need to move around much more to hunt them, keeping them fit and occupied. This is also a good change from the usual feeding routine – it helps kill boredom.
What risks are associated with frequently feeding your leopard gecko moths?
Frequently or primarily feeding your leopard gecko moths exposes them to a variety of risks that include:
- Nutritional imbalance
Since moths aren’t that nutritious for leopard geckos, offering them as a primary food source can lead to nutritional imbalance. Also, they are difficult to gut load and dust. As such, depending on them for all your leopard gecko’s dietary needs can lead to metabolic bone disease.
Because moths are bigger than the usual prey for leopard geckos, they are more likely to choke your reptile. Their wings don’t make things any easier – they make it possible for these insects to change their shape at will, even when they are being swallowed.
Another thing to keep in mind is that some moths have spiny hair that can get lodged in your gecko’s skin and cause irritation and redness. These hairs can even irritate the lining of your leopard gecko’s throat if your reptile attempts to eat such moths.
Due to their larger size, moths can also block your leopard gecko’s digestive tract, leading to impaction. This causes pain, starvation, and even death. To avoid both impaction and choking, stick to feeding your gecko moths that are narrower than the space between their eyes.
While moths don’t have mouths or teeth, most have a straw-like structure used for drinking nectar – this is called a proboscis.
Most times, these structures can’t pierce the skin of your leopard gecko and bite/injure it. That is, of course, unless you’re dealing with a vampire moth – these moths can pierce the skin of your leopard gecko and suck up its blood.
Why shouldn’t you feed your leopard gecko wild moths?
No matter how tempting it is, you should never collect moths on your own and feed them to your leopard gecko. Here are a few reasons why:
- You may not know which moth species you caught
Unless you are an expert, you’re unlikely to correctly identify the exact moth species you catch in the wild and establish whether it’s safe for your leopard gecko. Ultimately, this can lead to health issues for your leopard gecko.
- You may catch moths that have parasites and diseases
Wild moths sometimes harbor parasites, diseases, and infections that can make your leopard gecko sick when they eat them.
- You may catch moths that contain pesticides and insecticides
Since moths spend a lot of time looking for a mate and sucking nectar out of flowers, it’s easy for them to be exposed to insecticides, pesticides, and even fertilizers. So if you feed your leopard gecko wild moths, they may inadvertently ingest these harmful chemicals and get sick.
Which species of moths can your leopard gecko eat?
Some of the moth species that you can feed your leopard gecko include:
- Silk moths – these are non-toxic and are more nutritious than many other moths. You can also feed silkworms to leopard geckos.
- Wax moths – these are a common treat as many reptile keepers already have a steady supply of their larvae stage (wax worms).
- Bee/bumblebee wax moths – these are easy for leopard geckos to hunt.
- Chilean moths – these are nutritious but are difficult to find.
Where can you buy moths for your leopard gecko to eat?
Generally, it’s difficult to find somewhere you can buy moths as feeder insects. As such, leopard gecko owners who want to feed them to their pets have to get larvae versions of what they want and wait until they mature.
Most owners buy silkworms or wax worms and then store them at room temperature for a few weeks. This is enough time for them to pupate and then transform into moths.
Just keep in mind that you may need to provide the larvae/worms with food for them to transform.
For instance, you will need to blend oat baby food with some honey and feed the mixture to wax worms. And for silkworms, you’ll need to provide mulberry leaves – these worms reject everything else.
As long as the moths you’re offering aren’t wild, large, able to bite, or have spiky hair, your leopard gecko can eat them.
However, this doesn’t mean you should feed your leopard gecko moths daily – they aren’t that nutritious anyway. So for the most part, stick with worms – these are the best staple meal for all leopard geckos.