Snakes are carnivorous and thrive on a natural diet consisting of rodents and other live animals. But what about insects? Are they safe or even preferable for them to eat? It’s always a good idea to question dietary choices before distributing it to our precious pet snake.
So, do snakes eat insects? Some species of smaller snakes eat insects. This includes the Garter snake, the Milk snake, and the Corn snake. Larger snakes, like Ball Pythons and Boa Constrictors, require food sources that are much more substantial and provide more protein, so will not actively seek insects out.
Ultimately, it depends on the snake’s size, needs and preferences.
Most snakes will eat insects if available, but they are only considered an appetizer by most larger species.
Insects can reduce hunger, but they cannot nor should not be fed as the primary source of food within their diet.
Instead, snakes require food sources that are more substantial which instinctively they will seek out. Most snakes can eat animals other then warm-blooded creatures; however, many of these species are not available for captivity and as domesticated pets.
If you own a pet snake, or are aware of their regular dietary choices, it’s hard to imagine them eating anything smaller than a rodent. But it does happen, and insects are one such example of these.
While insects are not the primary source of nutrition for most species, smaller snakes in the wild will actively consume them from time to time.
Let us now explore the topic in greater depth and detail so that you can learn all you need to know about the subject.
Diet Of Snakes
The diet of every snake summons much curiosity; not a single snake is vegetarian. Every species of snake is zoophagous, meaning that snakes eat animals.
The larger the snake, the bigger the prey that a snake will consume. So it naturally follows that smaller snakes will eat smaller prey.
Natural food sources for many snake species include frogs, mice, rats, lizards, and chickens.
The diet of a snake varies depending on the season, to put it another way, whatever animal is available in abundance at any given time becomes their prey. Of course if you own a snake they are dependent on what you provide.
Aside from the size of the snake, geographical traits determine the diet of each snake.
As an example – the primary food of the sea snake is fish because they live in the ocean. The main menu of the tree python is birds, as they dwell in trees.
Blind snakes eat ants and termites as their primary source of food; this is because they reside close to termite mounds.
Insects are easy for snakes to consume. It may surprise you to learn that most insects hum, thus enabling the snake to catch them using their mouth.
Insects in and of themselves will not completely satisfy a snakes appetite nor meet their nutritional requirements but will suffice until they find larger prey.
Species Of Snake That Eat Insects
Snakes make unusual pets, and many species are considered low-maintenance. There are however, some caveats for potential owners.
All snakes eat their prey whole. Most snakes will require that the whole prey is given in one piece; like rodents, rabbits, reptiles, and birds, etc. Understandably, this can be a shock and may even put some owners off..
If you are looking for an easy-to-care-for snake that doesn’t require feeding of rodents and birds, and you don’t mind insects, consider the following snake species as ideal candidates:
- The Garter Snake – The garter and ribbon snake are smaller sized snakes that can eat insects and are a lot less intimidating for those uncomfortable with larger snakes.
- Rough Green Snake – this species consumes mostly terrestrial arthropods and insects; tree frogs and snails are also eaten. The rough green snake doesn’t constrict his prey, he grabs his prey, swallowing it alive.
Most snake species do eat insects, however due to their nutritional needs and requirements, can only do so as a snack. For most species of snake, insects cannot not make up the bulk of their diet.
Many young snakes start eating insects before moving onto bigger prey and smaller snakes (like those species above) can eat more of them without issue.
Do Snakes Eat Grasshoppers?
Many snakes wouldn’t consider eating a grasshopper. However, the garter snake would certainly eat grasshoppers as a small part of their diet, as well as the rough green snake, and the smooth green snake.
Insects take a long time for a garter snake to eat, but they do enjoy eating grasshoppers. Garter snakes will eat anything they can easily consume.
They mostly eat rodents, but they can also eat fish, lizards, tadpoles, earthworms, and frogs, as well as insects.
Both the rough and smooth green snake will eat most insects as they are insectivores.
Do Snakes Eat Caterpillars?
Generally speaking, most snake species would not eat caterpillars. The only known snake species to eat caterpillars is the garter snake, the smooth green snake, and the rough green snake.
The great thing about caterpillars is that they are slow-moving, which makes it easier for the snakes to catch them than a faster-moving insect.
Garter snakes will certainly eat caterpillars, but only if they are hungry.
Both the rough and smooth green snake won’t hesitate to eat a caterpillar as they are known to feed on mostly insects.
Do Snakes Eat Ants?
Blind snakes eat ants, and they belong to a superfamily Typhlopoidea. Blind snakes are non-venomous and distinguishable by their degenerate eyes that lie under opaque scales. Blind snakes are part of the families Leptotyphlopidae, Typhlopidae, and Anomalepidae and are all in the superfamily Typhlopoidea.
Blind snakes are generally small with blunt heads, tubular bodies, and short tails. These snakes are fossorial, meaning that they are burrowing or subterranean. These serpents can be seen on the ground at night or after heavy rainfall.
Sometimes they are found high in the trees. Blind snakes are associated with ant and termite nests and feed on the eggs and larvae of both, but they also eat the adults.
The blind snake can be found in many locations in North and south America, Asia, and Africa. This snake species likes to suck the contents of the bodies of the ants or termites and dump the exoskeleton afterward.
Both the smooth green snake and rough green snake also eat ants. Smooth and rough green snakes live in many different habitats that include open woods, meadows, marshes, and the edges of streams.
They like open areas that have a lot of shrubs. These snakes want to look for underground spaces such as anthills. They will eat any insect available in plentiful supply, and because they prefer moist green habitats, they are never short of food and a place to hide.
What Do Other Species of Snake Eat?
Other species of snake need to get their protein from something a little more substantial than a measly insect.
You may be surprised to learn what some snakes prefer to have on their dinner plates.
Take a look at some of the common species of snake available as pets:
- Egg-eating snake: As their name may suggest, larger species of snakes like to eat eggs. Some species even eat eggs exclusively (like the African Egg-Eating snake and the Indian Egg-Eater) – their names are a bit of a giveaway! Feeding your pet snake eggs can be a challenge – it is not as simple as making a stop at your average pet shop – especially if you own a small or baby snake. If you can get access to some finch eggs, then an egg-eating species can make a great pets. Egg-eating species tend to stay rather small and are known for their docile nature.
- Ball Python/ Boa Constrictors: If you are looking for something a little bigger, Ball Pythons or Boa Constrictors cannot live off of insects. Instead, they will need to be fed rats and mice of different sizes throughout their lifetime. When they are younger they may be willing to feed off of a few crickets here and there, but they will get big pretty fast and will need to graduate onto something else. They will also eat other animals, but rats and mice tend to be the more practical options. While there are some specific species that can eat eggs, Ball Pythons and Boa Constrictors cannot. These snakes have not evolved the digestive systems to be able to eat eggs safely.
- Kingsnakes: Kingsnakes are a solid middle ground when it comes to size. These hardy snakes are not known for being picky and are happy to snack on whatever you offer. As they are a little bit bigger, these snakes would prefer a diet full of mice or rats. They will also eat eggs, but most owners don’t offer them due to sheer convenience factors.
Of course, there is a whole rainbow of snakes that exists beyond the pet store. These snakes have many different diets that we thankfully never have to worry about.
For example, Anacondas are the largest snake in the world. They are incredibly big and require a diet that can suit their size.
The Giant Anaconda will go after anything it pleases including wild pigs, capybaras, and caimans (small relatives of the crocodile).
They have also been known to go after much more impressive prey such as jaguars and even the occasional person.
The reticulated python, the longest snake in the world, preys on wild pigs, deer, monkeys, porcupines, and even pangolins.
Is There A Vegetarian Snake?
Snakes, by nature, are carnivores. They aren’t even omnivorous meat-eaters like dogs, they are something called obligate carnivores, like a cat.
What are obligate carnivores? They are strict meat-eaters who need to eat meat to survive. They are restricted to meat in their diets because their bodies lack the capacity to be able to process vegetarian food options.
This means that they cannot even process meat substitutes or imitations. There is a lot of evolution at play in the digestive system of obligate carnivores. If a snake was fed a meat-only diet, it would die of malnutrition. Their bodies cannot take the needed amount of nutrition out of the food that passes through them. No matter how much they eat, they will essentially starve to death and get sick after a while.
There is not a single exception to the rule. ALL snakes must be fed a meat-based diet. No vegetarian snakes exist.
To be honest, it is rather unlikely that you would even be able to convince a snake to eat anything that isn’t meat. Even when it is meat, they tend to be picky.
For animals that don’t have to eat very much, they can afford to pass off a few meals if they aren’t enticed by it.
As many snake owners may tell you, snakes do tend to be rather picky and they have enough problems trying to get their snakes to eat normally as it is. Unfortunately, they tend to prefer their food live or a little bloodied up.
With some training, many snakes are willing to eat frozen food varieties. These are much less gruesome and more convenient.
As certain foods have a tendency to fight back, they may even be a safer alternative that many experts recommend.
Sometimes you will have to “put on a show” and dance the food around a bit, but many squeamish people find their diets a bit put offish. If you are someone who cannot stomach a snake feeding, they are not the pet for you.
Never try to force a vegetarian or vegan diet on an animal if they are not meant for that. It is unfair to the animal and will have dire consequences on the animal’s health and wellbeing.
There are some vegetarian reptiles for someone looking for an exotic, scaly pet.
Tortoises are one such reptile family that is almost entirely made up of herbivores.
Land-based tortoises make great, hardly pets that are friendly and are happy living off of a nice selection of salads. It is important to note that they can live for quite a few decades, so deciding to adopt one into your home is a lifetime commitment.
Do snakes eat insects? We now know that they do. Keep in mind that few species are insectivores and will eat insects as their primary or main feed.
For the most part, insects are only a light snake to most snake species. While they can curb hunger, insects do not provide the nutrition that most snakes require in order to thrive.
The diet of a snake is interesting, and differs a lot to us humans and even other pets. So you must learn all you can about your particular species and what they would do best to consume. With many species available, all of differing sizes, originating from different geographical regions and locations, diets between snake species can vary quite dramatically
From an owners perspective, insects are ideal to feed a snake. They are not as messy and if you are squeamish they’re easier to feed. Plus they do contain a large serving of protein which is something snakes should be getting enough of.
Depending on your preferences, getting a snake that likes to eat insects and is low-maintenance may be the way to go when considering an exotic pet.
Garter snakes can and do eat insects. Insects provide them with the nutrition and protein they need. Wild Garter snakes naturally will eat insects, and will actively seek them out when hunting for prey. Therefore if you own a Garter snake you can consider offering them insects, like crickets.
Ball Pythons do not generally eat insects. While they may do so while they are young and small in size, they will soon grow out of this food source and require a larger more satisfying meal. Ball Pythons require a diet consisting of rodents to ensure they obtain enough nutrition in the form of protein.
Some species of smaller snakes will eat spiders along with other insects, arthropods, and arachnids. Garter, Milk, and Corn snakes are perhaps the most common. However, larger snakes like Ball Pythons and Boa Constrictors require larger prey such as rats, birds, lizards, amphibians, eggs, and other snakes.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.