You might come across the word gut loading if you are keeping a carnivorous pet such as a tarantula or centipede. This guide will tell you all you need to know about gut loading your feeder insects.

What is Gut Loading?

Gut loading is basically the act of feeding the feeder insects with high quality nutrients so that those nutrients can be consumed by predatory pets when they feed on the feeder insects.

Gut loading is very common in the reptile world.

Why should I Gut Load the Feeder Insects?

Gut loading increases the nutritional value of feeder insects.
Some hobbyists dust the feeder insects to increase their nutritional value before offering them to their pets. Photo by Matt Reinbold / CC BY-SA 2.0

The feeder insect itself serves as a source of nutrients for their predators. So why do you need to gut load them?

Well, there are 2 reasons for that. Both are theories though.

The first reason is because you are feeding your pet arthropod with only 1, or 2, or at most 3 types of feeder insects. This limits the comprehensiveness of the nutrients intake by your pet. 

In nature, carnivorous arthropods feed on a variety of animals. For instance, mantis feed on various bugs, flies, crickets, gnats, butterflies, moths, etc. Meanwhile, giant centipedes feed on all sorts of insects, frogs, snails, tarantulas and even bats and mice.

In contrast, most likely you feed your tarantula or giant centipede with crickets, roaches or mealworms. That’s it. You might even stick to 1 type of feeder insect for convenience sake. As a result, your pet will only get those nutrients available in those feeder insects.

The second reason has to do with the behavior of the feeder insects, specifically crickets and roaches. Both species can feed on dead bodies and feces of their nest mates. 

Hobbyists prefer not to feed their pets with a cricket or roach with rotten/bacteria-containing dead body/feces in its tummy because that can make their pets sick.

How to Gut Load the Feeder Insects?

Gut loading involves feeding or dusting the feeder insects with high nutrient food.
Gut loading involves feeding or dusting the feeder insects with high nutrient food.

Gut loading the feeder insect is simple. Separate the feeders that you are going to use into a small container. Feed them with vegetables, fruits, dog/cat biscuits, and any other high quality food that you want your pet to consume.

Some nutrients can be dusted onto the feeder insects instead. Examples are calcium powder and multivitamin powder. 

When to Gut Load the Feeder Insects?

Gut loading is best done 24 hours before you want to feed the insects to your pet. If you do that too early, those nutrients may be absorbed, spent or excreted. 

Meanwhile, dusting can be done immediately before offering the feeder insects to your pets.

Is It Really Necessary to Gut Load My Feeder Insects for My Pet Arthropods?

Some hobbyists swear that gut loading is absolutely necessary. But there are also hobbyists who think otherwise.

If you are providing your feeder insects with adequate food and clean its cage regularly, gut loading of feeder insects for pet arthropods is not necessary in my opinion.

But if you just bought the feeder insects, and they arrive with no food in the parcel, likely they have been consuming the feces and/or carcasses of their mates. For such a case, it is better to gut load before feeding them to your pet.