Feeding Live Insects to Your Box Turtles


Crickets feeding on carrot. An example of gut-loading.

One way to gut-load live prey is by feeding them vegetables
Photo credit: “Crickets feeding on carrot” by Sean WallaceOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.


Most box turtles love their fruits and greens, but live insects are a true treat. If you’d like to let your pet “hunt” his own meal sometimes, get him some crickets or mealworms.

Most pet stores sell mealworms, superworms and crickets these days. If you have crickets in your yard, you can catch them, too.

You can also make these treats more nutritious for your turtle by feeding them for a few days before giving them to your turtle. This is called “gut-loading.”

When you do this, your turtle gets the nutrients in the foods the insects ate. This means your turtle gets more nutrition in a smaller volume of food. This can be important if you are trying to get your turtle to lose weight or if he doesn’t eat much. Even if your turtle is healthy and eats well, gut-loading is a good way to help keep him that way.

You can buy special invertebrate foods, either with or without calcium, that are designed specifically for gut-loading live insects.

Or you can use foods you may have around the house:

  • A chunk of sweet potato, apple or potato
  • Tropical fish flake
  • Dry cat food or reptile food
  • Leafy greens, like collard greens or romaine lettuce (these add both nutrients and moisture)

Sprinkle these foods with a reptile calcium supplement before giving to the insects.

Box turtle eating strawberryOften box turtles that haven’t been eating will respond to live prey, so feeding gut-loaded live insects can be a good way to get needed nutrients into your pet.


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