A few months back I set out to try to discover what the best and most nutritious way to feed our lizards, here at BHB reptiles. Our standard practice was the traditional way of either gut loading our bugs and/or powdering them with vitamin supplements. When I came across the Timberline “Vita-bugs” I was intrigued but truthfully skeptical. Was it possible that a nutritionally engineered bug would carry the same, or more, nutrients than adding supplements the traditional way? I was determined to get to the bottom of it.
My first course of actions as to reach out to Timberline with a whole host of questions and see if this was all smoke and mirrors. After spending a fair amount of time getting the background on Vita-Bugs, I was convinced there was something to this new food source. But how would I know if they really were superior to the way we’ve been doing things for a decade? You see the truth is when running a commercial reptile breeding center it’s all about efficiency. Not only do you want to save as much time and money as possible, but you also want to make sure that the work is being done properly. In this case if one of the employees decides to skip the vitamin dusting process for a few weeks because it’s taking too much time the animals suffer. Of course we would hope that our crew would never do this, but trust me with having animal keepers working for me for almost 20 years, I have seen it all. Not to mention selling animals to the general public I’ve seen a large portion of animal buyers not willing to put the proper care into their animals. If we could skip the process of gut loading or powdering it would not only be beneficial to the animals, but also ensure that they are getting the vitamins they are needing to stay healthy.
Back to my dilemma of finding out if the Vita-bugs are all that Timberline was saying they were. I proposed an experiment where I would set up three groups of Bearded dragons that were all hatched within a day of on another and had the exact genetic make up. Each group would be made up of twelve babies. The first group would be fed with dusted crickets, the second group Vita-bugs and Calci-worms and the last group would be fed gut loaded crickets. I would keep them in the exact same set up and feed them the exact same amount of bugs each day. I would then keep track of the “average” weight of each group along with the overall “look” of each animal (the eyeball test).
I was extremely happy when Todd Goodman, CEO of Timberline Fisheries agreed to help with this experiment and was even more excited that he was so confident in the results we decided to have a Vita-bug contest and giveaway towards the end of the 90 day test group. Of course I preferenced this by telling Todd I would only proceed with the contest if I saw some results and was willing to endorse Vita-bugs as a good alternative for traditional supplementing of reptiles.
So it was all set, all we needed to do was hatch the animals and get the test groups set up and away we go! On the 9th of September we set up the three groups and started our feeding regiment. Of course the first week we didn’t see any change whatsoever, but I certainly wasn’t expecting any miracles. By week three we started to notice the Vita-bug group growing a bit faster and their overall look was just brighter. By the end of the first month we say some pretty significant results from the Vita-bug group. The dusted group was in second place and the gut load was lagging behind in last.
By the end of the second month it was very obvious that not only did the Vita-bug groups growth exceed the other two groups, but their colors were popping compared to the other animals as well as there were no animals in that group that were lagging behind unlike the other two groups where there were one of two animals that just didn’t seem to be thriving. With these results we launched the Vita-bug give way and were able to introduce thousands of people to this new way of supplementing their pet lizards. It was a huge success and the feedback was terrific!
The last month went accordingly without any major surprises. The Vita-bug group kept distancing itself from the other groups and the gut load group by far was the worst performing group. In the end even I was surprised at the success of Vita-bugs on rearing these baby Bearded Dragons. I feel that not only was it by far the healthiest test group we had and certainly the prettiest of them,
In the end, it was the easiest way to supplement our lizard groups. No more worrying about whether or not an employee of mine is supplementing the crickets as well as no more chasing vitamin supplements when supplies are low. We are switching all of our lizard groups to Vita-bugs and look forward to saving time and money as well as seeing the health of our breeding groups explode with the switch.
So if you’re tired of powdering crickets or making up a gut load, I would suggest giving Timberlines Vita-bugs a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the results. We will also have a wrap up SnakeBytesTV episode on the entire journey of our findings coming soon! Thanks for joining me on this fun experiment!