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Should I feed live insects to my reptile?

The potential impacts on both reptiles and insects should be considered when making the difficult choice of whether you should feed your reptile with live insects.

There are a number of serious welfare and ethical considerations regarding the feeding of live insects to reptiles to be aware of, that should be carefully weighed both before you make the decision to keep a reptile and, if you have a reptile, when deciding what to feed them.

Although there is a lot that is still unknown about the capacity of insects to experience pain and suffering, it is possible that giving insects to reptiles as live prey could inflict pain, suffering, and distress on the insects, particularly as they are unable to escape. Live prey can also pose potential danger to the reptile as they can bite and injure the animal being fed. There are also concerns and many unknowns with how the insects are bred, housed, and killed (even if you feed commercially killed and prepared insects rather than live ones; e.g., frozen, dried, or processed).

Feeding a variety of different prepared live insects to captive reptiles is considered by most experts as the best approach to provide reptiles with optimal nutrition because it best replicates their natural diet. The exact nutritional requirements for all the different reptile species kept in captivity are not well understood and feeding an artificial diet (even one including frozen, dried, or processed insects) could create nutritional deficiencies or excesses. Inappropriate and inadequate diet is a common cause of serious health conditions and welfare problems in captive reptiles.

All of these health and welfare impacts of feeding reptiles with live insects need to be carefully weighed up and balanced with the likely negative impacts on insects.


​​Delvendahl N, Rumpold BA, Langen N (2022) Edible Insects as Food–Insect Welfare and Ethical Aspects from a Consumer Perspective. Insects. https://doi.org/10.3390/insects13020121

​Voulgari-Kokota A, van Loon MS, Bovenkerk B (2023) Insects as mini-livestock: Considering insect welfare in feed production. NJAS: Impact in Agricultural and Life Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1080/27685241.2023.2191797

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Updated on January 19, 2024

RSPCA Australia believes that captive-bred wild animals should not be kept in a home environment or for companion purposes unless the species has been clearly identified as being suitable for this purpose. It is important that animals living in a home environment can live a good life. This means providing for their physical health and ensuring opportunities to fully express their individual interests and experience good welfare. Inadequate care and husbandry are reported to contribute to common and serious welfare compromises in many captive wild animals living in home environments. For more information see our policy.

The reality is, however, that captive-bred wild animals are kept in home environments despite sometimes not meeting these criteria (e.g., some reptile and bird species). Because of this, the RSPCA has produced these articles on the care and welfare of a variety of commonly kept captive-bred wild animals. The aim is to help people better understand their animals as individuals and provide them with care that keeps them healthy and provides opportunities for positive mental experiences as much as possible in captivity.

Wild animals must not be taken from the wild to be kept as companion animals (pets).

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