Can tarantulas eat darkling beetles? You might be asking this question if you want to mix up the diet of your tarantula. However, you might also be intimidated by the size of the beetles and you are questioning if they can prove to be harmful to your T.
So is it safe to feed them these beetles? Or should you just stick to your regular feeders?
Tarantulas can eat darkling beetles. Just keep in mind that you cannot feed beetles to your tarantula while he is in the middle of a molt. Darkling beetles will not hesitate to attack your tarantula during this time. Also, these beetles release a noxious cloud that can annoy your tarantula.
So, can you always feed them darkling beetles? Are these beetles nutritious enough? Those are the questions that we are going to answer in this article. So keep on reading to find out!
What Are Darkling Beetles?
You might be surprised that there are over 15,000 species of darkling beetles and they can be found in the tropical and temperate regions of the world. If you are going to find them on your own, you would get the best luck of finding them in wooded areas and fields.
They are not afraid of the daily hustle and bustle of humans so they can also live in barns, gardens, parks, and other man-made locations given that there is enough food in the area.
Sadly, due to their diet, these beetles are considered as a pest of grains. They pretty much invade a lot of areas where there are stored products.
Darkling beetles have some sort of “wings” which are called elytra, but these are actually sealed permanently on their bodies. Meaning, even though they have them, they really cannot fly.
Full-grown adults are one to two inches long and they have a black exoskeleton that is hard but smooth.
Are Darkling Beetles Nutritious?
Actually, darkling beetles are a nutritious source of food for your tarantulas! Even in the wild, your tarantula will go for these beetles compared to other prey, especially if they feel that they need to take on some mass.
The reason for this is that darkling beetles are decomposers and scavengers. Therefore, they eat rotting wood, dead leaves, and other decaying plants. At the same time, they can also consume, fruits, seeds, fungi, and other living plants.
When you look at them as food, they can be classified as complex carbohydrates with a little bit of protein. Therefore, if you are looking to bulk up your tarantula, they are a good choice for a feeder.
If you want to bulk up your T but are not a fan of beetles, take a look at our other article to see which feeder can help with that.
When Can I Feed My Tarantula Darkling Beetles?
There are three instances when you can feed your tarantula darkling beetles. Just a spoiler, you cannot use darkling beetles as your main feeder because even though they are nutritious, they still lack a lot of the nutritional benefits that your tarantula needs.
As A Treat
There are those times when your tarantula gets tired of his crickets, mealworms, and super worms. Surprisingly as it can be, there will be times when your tarantula feels like he needs to exhibit more of his predatory behavior.
This is the perfect time to introduce the darkling beetle as a feeder or a treat.
With the darkling beetle’s tough exoskeleton, your tarantula will surely not get bored with hunting his prey. More than that, it is a good feeder variation that is still beneficial to your tarantula.
Just remember, only offer darkling beetles every once in a while. They are a good source of carbohydrates and a bit of protein, but in terms of fat, they are lacking in that aspect. Therefore, just give them to your tarantula as a treat just so he will not get bored with his usual feeders.
You should never offer a darkling beetle to your pre-molt or molting tarantula. We will discuss this more as we go on. But going back to letting your T eat a darkling beetle, you can definitely offer them after they molt completely.
The reason behind this is that your tarantula needs a bit of a heavy meal after molting so as to help with recovery. As darkling beetles are a rich source of carbohydrates, your tarantula will be full of energy and life.
This also mimics what happens in the wild. After molting, tarantulas look for prey that is rich in sugar and carbohydrates so as to replenish their energy and also to help them take back their original mass.
This is actually in line with the previous instances where your tarantula needs to take back its original mass. However, it is also a good idea to feed darkling beetles to a tarantula that you are trying to help grow in mass and size.
There are instances that no matter what you do, your tarantula does not seem to grow to the size that he is supposed to be. This can be blamed on genetics or other external factors. Therefore, you can aid him by offering a feeder that is rich in complex carbohydrates.
Unlike simple carbohydrates, which will just be expelled as waste by your tarantula, darkling beetles aka complex carbohydrates are processed slowly, therefore, your tarantula’s body can absorb all the nutrients which will help him gain in mass.
Are There Any Dangers?
Life is all about checks and balances, which means if there are benefits, then definitely, there are also risks. Let us take a look at them.
Defense Mechanism Of A Darkling Beetle
When the darkling beetle feels threatened, his defense mechanism is to raise his rear and spray a cloud that contains natural chemicals that are called quinones. This chemical is not harmful to your tarantula, but it sure smells bad and will deter your T from going near the beetle.
A lot of owners also notice that sometimes when their tarantulas got sprayed directly, their hairs turn to a slightly brown color. It is proven that this chemical will not create damage to your tarantula, and his hair will eventually go back to its normal color.
However, this can completely discourage your tarantula from eating the darkling beetle. Therefore, if you do not mind them in their enclosure, your tarantula and the darkling beetle will just keep on taunting each other. The result? A tired, smelly, and hungry tarantula.
Another fact is that once your tarantula gets sprayed by the darkling beetle, there is a high chance that he will refuse other darkling beetles that you offer him in the future.
Feeding During Molt
This is the big no-no that we told you about from the very beginning. Of course, while your tarantula is molting, he is weak and lacking in his defense mechanisms.
Therefore, if you have a darkling beetle inside the enclosure, he will not hesitate to attack your tarantula. Even though darkling beetles are not really combative, they are decomposers and they will do everything to eat whatever it is that they sense as “decomposing.”
It is weird but there is something in them that tells them that a “molting tarantula” as a “dying tarantula.” What happens is that your molting tarantula is viewed as food by the darkling beetle.
Yes, your tarantula can fight him off for some time, but as your tarantula’s defenses are somewhat down, he is no match to the tough exoskeleton of the darkling beetle.
You can read our article about helping your T with his molt to have a better picture of what happens to your T during this phase.
This may come as a surprise, but yes, your tarantula may get constipation when you keep feeding him darkling beetles. This is again rooted in the fact that you should consider a darkling beetle as a complex carbohydrate.
Just like humans, if we keep on eating hard oats, grains, and brans, we find it difficult to poop. The same goes for your tarantula. Too many darkling beetles in his system cannot be processed by his regular metabolic cycle.
In order to help your tarantula, you can turn up the heat in his enclosure so that his metabolism will go faster. Better yet, do not always feed darkling beetles to your tarantula.