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Collecting and Using Live and Processed Insects for Finches and other Pet Birds – Part 2

Please see Part I of this article for information on collecting insects for pet birds.

Today we’ll discuss breeding invertebrates at home, and take a look at some useful insect products.  Please see the articles referenced below for further details on each of these topics.

Raising Invertebrates

In addition to being an interesting endeavor, established colonies of invertebrates will provide you with a year-round supply of (largely free) live food.  Also, you will have access to individual insects of varied sizes, an important consideration to those with mixed collections or nesting birds.

Nutritional Value

Home-raised insects can be “nutrient loaded” (please see below) so as increase their value as a food item, and can be selected when they are at the most nutritious stage of their life cycle (i.e. newly molted and pupating mealworms).  The plumage of birds fed upon live insects often takes on a brilliance not seen in their “less fortunate” cousins (please see photo of Strawberry Finch).

Available Species

Crickets, mealworms, wax worms and fruit flies are the most commonly reared insects, but there are numerous other species to consider.  Roaches, despite their bad reputations, should not be ignored (only .3% of the world’s 4,500 species are household pests).  The soft-bodied orange spotted roaches are slow moving and, unable to climb glass, rarely escape their enclosures (please see below).

Sowbugs and earthworms are among the most useful and readily accepted of all invertebrates.  Widely kept by zoos and European and Asian aviculturists, they are, for some reason, largely overlooked in private collections in the USA.  Both are very easy to rear and breed; starter cultures are available commercially or may be collected.

Canned and Freeze-Dried Invertebrates

Canned grasshoppers, caterpillars and other invertebrates and freeze dried flies and Daphniamarketed for pet reptiles and fishes, offer very useful options to enterprising bird keepers.  I cannot understand why they are not more widely used (I keep hammering away at the point in my articles!), but hope they will come into their own soon.

Further Reading

Please see the following articles for further details on prepared insect products and invertebrate breeding:

Feeding Insects to Pet Birds: Anole Food Dried Invertebrates for Birds


Raising Orange Spotted Roaches

Breeding Mealworms

Prepared Diets for Crickets


Images referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Shyamal and Rasbak 

Feeding Insects to Pet Birds – useful products designed for reptiles

Almost all pet birds known collectively as “soft bills” (those which are not parrots) consume live insects as part of their natural diets. Insects are especially important during the breeding season – in fact, the sudden availability of insects, either in captivity or the wild, is an important trigger in bringing many species into breeding condition. Insects also form the bulk of the diet of most nestling soft bills. I have long fed insects to a variety of birds commonly found in the pet trade, including canaries, many finches and waxbills, mynas, Peking robins, red-crested cardinals, red bishops and various weavers.

It is standard practice at many zoos to use light traps to collect wild insects for the bird collection. The explosion of interest in keeping reptile pets has resulted in the marketing of a number of products that are of great value to bird keepers as well. I have used Zoo Med’s Bug Napper to trap moths, gnats, beetles and other tasty treats for my birds (be sure you can identify dangerous insects, and those, such as fireflies, which may be toxic). I do not know of any cases of secondary pesticide poisoning, even after decades of trapping at the Bronx Zoo, but urge caution in areas being sprayed to control West Nile Virus.

A number of reptile-oriented companies produce whole, (pre-killed) canned insects and invertebrates, offering bird keepers a very convenient method of adding valuable variety and nutrients to their pets’ diets. I strongly recommend experimentation with the following:

Exo Terra Mealworms, Grasshoppers, Silkworms, Snails

Zoo Med Can O’ Grasshoppers, Caterpillars, Snails

Repto Treat Delica Bloodworms

Of course, live mealworms and crickets, the old stand-bys, are very useful. I’ll address the best ways of keeping and using them in the future. You should also investigate other commercially-bred insects, also generally used for reptiles, such as silkworms, tobacco hornworms, roaches, waxworms, locusts and house flies.

An article examining the nutritional value of commonly used feeder insects is posted at:


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