The Dubia roach is a very popular feeder for captive reptiles. This is true for several reasons. First, it’s widely considered among the most nutritious, if not the most nutritious feeder insect. Second, it’s very well-mannered. Dubia roaches don’t bite, chirp, jump, hiss, climb walls, burrow, or smell. Third, insectivores tend to love them.
But what if they don’t?
While it’s true in our experience that reptiles, amphibians, fish, and birds tend to eagerly devour Dubia roaches, this is not a universal truth. Sometimes an animal doesn’t like them. While uncommon, this does happen. And if it happens, what then? Is there anything you can do?
The answer is yes, and there may even be a fix here — at least in some cases. When a chameleon, bearded dragon, gecko, or any other animal seems to dislike Dubia roaches, the first step toward a solution is to figure out why.
Broadly, there are two options here:
The first option is feeding impulse. The second option is taste. We address both of these below.
Feeding impulse: investigate and resolve issues
Regarding the first option — feeding impulse; insects must trigger an animal’s feeding response, or they won’t eat it. If the insect species is new to an animal, the bug will have to look and act in ways that prompt the animal to eat it. This process appears to be highly visual. Insectivores are more likely to recognize an insect as prey if it looks and moves like prey, with an emphasis on movement.
If you find that Dubia roaches aren’t triggering an animal’s feeding response, consider cooling down the roaches, or warming them up, depending on the situation. A refrigerator or a lightbulb will work. Be careful if you try this. It doesn’t take much cold or warmth to have an effect. When a roach stops moving around (in the case of cooling) or starts running around energetically (in the case of warming), that’s sufficient. This result often happens within 30 seconds or a minute of heat or cold exposure.
Cooling Dubia roaches slows them down significantly while warming them has the opposite effect. If you have an older bearded dragon who isn’t as quick as it used to be, for example, and when you place roaches in its enclosure, they run around like crazy and overwhelm the animal, you might start by cooling them down. On the other hand, if you live in a cold climate and the roaches don’t move around too much, and your animal looks at them like he’s waiting for them to do something, the place to start is by warming them up.
If this works, you may have found the solution. If not, you can move to the second option.
Dubia roach taste: insect or diet?
Regarding the second option, taste. We’ve made a few discoveries that may help with unusual cases where an animal doesn’t seem to enjoy eating Dubia roaches.
As we’ve described before, the Dubia roach is a highly gut-loadable feeder insect . Its body can swell and elongate significantly to accommodate the roach’s huge appetite. When a predator eats a Dubia roach with a belly full of food, it may consume as much as two parts gut contents to one part roach.
And this is significant because we’ve found that sometimes an animal that appears to dislike Dubia roaches is reacting to the roach’s gut contents rather than the roach itself.
This makes intuitive sense. If you bit into a jelly doughnut and discovered it was full of tomato paste (to pick something sufficiently gross to put inside a doughnut), you probably wouldn’t like it. And you probably would be less likely to eat a jelly doughnut in the future.
This can happen to insectivores, too. They know when they like their feeder insect and when they don’t. If they dislike a particular bug, they will lose interest in eating it in the future.
A tasteful solution
If you think this is a possibility with your animal, or you want to give it a shot, here is what we suggest:
Put the roaches in a separate enclosure and don’t feed them for three days. Don’t worry, they’ll be fine. Dubia roaches can go a month or more without food or water.
Around day four, choose one fruit, like apple, and feed the roaches nothing but that one fruit for three more days. You can choose a different fruit or vegetable but stick with just that one item for three days. If you choose banana, feed them nothing but bananas for three days. If you choose carrot, give them nothing but carrots for three days. You get the idea.
These foods are good choices because they are nutritious and generally considered safe for reptiles and other insectivores. You should not feed the roaches grapefruit or oranges for three days, for example, because these fruits are known to cause gastrointestinal issues in some animals. Stick with common fruits and vegetables you might consider somewhat bland. Bananas, carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, and bananas are good candidates.
After three days, reintroduce the roaches to your animal at feeding time and observe what happens. It may take a few tries if the animal has already decided s/he doesn’t like Dubia roaches. Wait until it eats one or two roaches and note the response. If you see renewed interest, you may be on to something.
But if the response is the same as before and the animal still seems disinterested, remove the roaches again and repeat the six-day process one more time with a different food. What is important now is to go with an “opposite” food from what you chose before. If you went with apple the first time, now try a vegetable. Or maybe try something bland like oatmeal (soaked or cooked), potato (raw or cooked), or plain pasta (cooked). Just go in the opposite direction of the first food.
After six days, try feeding the roaches to your animal again. Again pay attention to the response. If successful, your animal will eat a few roaches, then show signs of a renewed interest in them.
Based on our knowledge, this process has worked in about half the cases of animals not liking Dubia roaches. While anecdotal, we think it’s an interesting observation and possibly useful information to pass along for people to try. In the end, some animals are just picky eaters, and you can’t please them all. But Dubia roaches are so healthy and loved by so many. Based on this alone, we think this test is worth a shot.