Bearded dragons can eat earthworms, but many prefer not to do so. And many owners worry about using worms they find in their back yards.
As well being rather unpalatable and disinteresting to bearded dragons, earth worms may harbour dangerous pesticides or parasites in their gut.
Fortunately we can recommend safer snacks and treats for your bearded dragon, which are just as easy (if not easier!) to find.
Are Earth Worms Safe For Bearded Dragons?
Lots of species of segmented worm are informally referred to as earth worms, and they are found all over the world.
Earthworms themselves aren’t toxic to bearded dragons.
However, earth worms from the back yard, or farmed in unknown conditions, might have consumed pesticides that can make a bearded dragon sick.
They might also be infected with parasites, and they can make your bearded dragon unwell too.
In addition, earth worms that are overly large in proportion to your bearded dragon can cause blockages and impaction in their digestive system.
Let’s look at earth worms for bearded dragons in more detail, and what treats make a good alternative.
Bearded Dragons And Earth Worms
Bearded dragons in the wild are omnivores.
The results of research vary, but around 10% to 50% of a wild adult bearded dragon’s diet consists of creepy crawlies including termites, wasps, flies, dragonflies, crickets, moths and spiders.
The remainder comes from leafy vegetation. But adult bearded dragons even occasionally catch small mammals!
They are opportunistic predators. Which means they tend to eat what they can, when they can, and their diet changes seasonally to reflect that.
It also explains why the composition of their diet appears to vary so much from one study to the next!
Do Bearded Dragons In The Wild Eat Earth Worms?
Earth worms aren’t something wild bearded dragons in their native central Australia appear to eat very many of.
Possibly because other overground species are more easily accessible, and earth worms simply aren’t that tasty to them in comparison.
In captivity, the best way to replicate a bearded dragon’s natural diet is by feeding a variety of insects and leafy green vegetables, along with small pieces of cuttlefish or another suitable calcium supplement.
You can offer earth worms to your bearded dragon as part of a balanced diet, but they have several drawbacks as we’ve seen.
Do Bearded Dragons Like Earth Worms?
The first problem is that quite a lot of bearded dragon owners report their beardies finding worms generally rather unpalatable.
Earth worms secrete mucus through their skin to reduce friction as their tunnel underground.
Lots of beardies don’t like the taste of the mucus – although it varies according to the species of earth worm and the individual dragon.
Some dragons might eat earth worms anyway (that hardwired instinct to eat what you can, when you can).
But others, who have learned that another meal is always just around the corner, and never really have time to get that hungry in between, might reject them.
Are Earth Worms Bad For Bearded Dragons?
The next problem is that earth worms can pose an arsenal of threats to bearded dragon health.
Depending on the species, earth worms are made up of 70% to 90% water.
That’s a lot more than the hard bodied bugs your bearded dragon has adapted to eating, and may cause stomach upsets.
Bearded dragons aren’t afraid to take on big prey.
However, they’re also notoriously prone to impaction – food blockages in their gut which they struggle to expel as poop.
Large blockages can even start to press on the spinal cord, causing pain and loss of sensation in their back legs.
Realistically, few earth worms are probably big enough to overwhelm an adult beardie, but it’s something to be aware of.
Many vets advise against feeding your bearded dragon anything you’ve found yourself in the back yard.
Part of the reason for this is the risk of contamination with chemicals used for killing pests, feeding plants, etc.
These could be present in the soil still in the worm’s gut, or they could be absorbed into the worms’ body.
The risk posed by chemical contamination increases if beardies eat lots of earthworms from the same place, because the toxins could build up to dangerous levels.
Earth worms can carry many kinds of parasite, including
- Protozoa (single celled organisms)
- Platyhelminths (smaller worms)
- Nematodes (even smaller worms)
And bearded dragons which ingest them can end up infected by the parasite too.
Bearded dragons with a high parasitic burden tend to become generally unwell-looking, inactive, and prone to illness.
Shortly we’ll look at what to do if your beardie has found and scoffed an earth worm in the garden, but first let’s see if they have any redeeming qualities.
Are Earth Worms Good For Bearded Dragons?
Besides all the water and threat of nasties, what else is inside an earth worm?
The rest of them is 65–73% protein, plus fatty acids and a surprising wealth of nurtrients.
Earth worms are a rich source of amino acids, fatty acids, calcium and iron.
In some countries, they’re even a staple part of the human diet!
Bearded dragons need plenty of protein and calcium in their diet to remain healthy.
So occasional safely farmed, correctly sized, earth worms, if your beardie likes them, can make a respectable contribution to their diet.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Earth Worms From My Garden?
To avoid the risks described above, we don’t recommend this.
It’s far safer to buy worms from a reputable reptile food dealer.
These worms are farmed away from chemicals, and should be free from parasites.
My Bearded Dragon Ate Earth Worms, What Should I Do?
If your bearded dragon ate an earth worm, what should you do?
If you have reason to believe they were contaminated in any way (for example, they were found in an area recently treated with pesticides, weed killer or fertilizers) call your vet for advice.
If your beardie has surprised you by eating a lot of worms in one go (for example worms kept as fishing bait or in a wormery to compost food), also call your vet for advice.
Since earth worms aren’t inherently dangerous, in most other cases, it may be enough to just keep and eye on them for any changes in behavior, or signs of distress.
Small amounts of ‘clean’ earth worm are safe for bearded dragons to eat.
Can Baby Bearded Dragons Eat Earth Worms
The amount of insects adult bearded dragons consume in the wild is disputed.
But researchers and vets agree that as youngsters they need two or three insect meals a day, comprising around 60% of their diet.
This energy-rich diet is important for sustaining a rapid period of growth.
However, baby bearded dragons are also at risk of severe, and even fatal, gastric problems if they try to eat live prey which is too large for them.
A rule of thumb baby bearded dragons parents often operate by is “nothing bigger than the space between their eyes”.
Which usually means, the itty-bittiest of crickets, the tiniest of wax worms, and fruit flies.
Larger worms, including earth worms, are best saved until they are older.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Earth Worms Every Day?
Safely farmed earth worms in moderation aren’t a risk to your beardie’s health.
But bearded dragons thrive best on a variety of insect meals, served three or four times a week.
Rather than offering worms at every live meal, try to offer a range of prey foods, and slightly more sparingly than every day.
So what can you offer instead?
Alternatives To Earth Worms For Bearded Dragons
Rather than worms, ask your local pet store what bugs they stock for bearded dragons.
Popular prey food treats for beardies include
- meal worms
- and dubia roaches.
Since the bulk of your beardie’s diet should be vegetable matter, why not offer fruit treats alongside their green veg and salad as a treat?
Great options include
- bell peppers
- and grapes.
Finally, some beardies owners offer their adult bearded dragons even larger whole prey, including smaller lizards and defrosted baby mice from the pet store.
These are only treats for birthdays, thanks giving, and very good behavior though!
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Earth Worms Summary
In the wild bearded dragons eat many kinds of bugs and creepy crawlies.
Small earthworms which have been safely farmed so their free from chemicals and parasites are safe to offer your adult bearded dragon in moderation.
But, realistically, most beardies don’t like them very much.
Is yours an exception? Let us know in the comments box down below!
References and Resources
Oonincx, The diet of free‐roaming Australian Central Bearded Dragons, Zoobiology, 2015.
Rowland, Veterinary care of bearded dragons, In Practice, 2014.
Paoletti et al, Nutrient content of earthworms consumed by Ye’Kuana Amerindians of the Alto Orinoco of Venezuela, The Royal Society, 2003.
Roots, The Water Relations Of Earthworms, University College London, 1955.