Squirrels eat insects. Well, not all the time. But they do like to munch on bugs sometimes (especially when there are no nuts around). I’ve seen plenty of squirrels in my neighborhood chowing down on ants and beetles, so it seems that these fuzzy creatures have a healthy appetite for insect fare.
It’s interesting to note that some people think this is gross because they associate the word “squirrel” with cute woodland animals who eat nuts. But there are many kinds of squirrels, including ground dwelling ones that live near farms and fields where insects abound.
Why do squirrels eat insects
So why would squirrels want to go after bugs, anyway? With their sharp teeth, these creatures can easily bite through hard exoskeletons and crunchy wings. The process requires little energy from them while providing a surprising amount of protein for muscle development and other important functions.
Squirrels eat insects for a number of reasons, including:
- they are a food source that is readily available and easy to find.
- these little critters have been known to get protein from insects when the nuts they usually rely upon have been in short supply.
- squirrels will prey on small insects if it’s late in the year and cold weather has started to set in so there aren’t many other options available.
- some adult squirrels may even go after larger bugs if their young are in need of food and there is not an ample supply nearby.
Nutritional benefits of insects to squirrels
Insects are a great source of protein, calcium, and other minerals that squirrels need to grow. They may be a bit on the small side--compared to nuts, for example--but they can still give squirrels what they crave just fine! If you have ever fed an insect to your pet squirrel, you know how much they seem to love chasing them down. In fact, some people think it’s cute when their squirrels chow down on bugs.
The protein squirrels get from eating insects is necessary for growing strong muscles and bones. Eating insects can also help them create healthy skin, fur, feathers, organs, and glands.
How do squirrels find insects to eat?
There is no one “best” way for squirrels to find bugs to eat because there are so many different ways that squirrels get their food.
They use one of the following methods when trying to snatch up ants, crickets, beetles, or other bugs:
- Digging for insects is one method used by squirrels because many kinds of bugs live under rocks, logs, and leaf litter on the ground. Some animals even use their paws to flip over boards and logs in order to find insects underneath.
- Hunting for insects is another way squirrels get bugs. Animals will climb trees, fences, or other objects in order to peek into crevices where ants live or jump onto shrubbery where bees are busy making honey.
- Catching flying insects is yet another method of catching prey. Squirrels may chase after moths, butterflies, and other winged creatures so they can snag them before they fly away forever. They also seem attuned to the sound of grasshoppers leaping off of vegetation into the air. It’s one way that they know these tasty treats are nearby, I suppose.
- Digging around in rotting logs and stumps is an interesting way for squirrels to get insects, too. Some animals seem to know that bugs like to hide in dead wood, making it a natural place to look if they want to score a good meal.
How do squirrels eat insects?
Different species of mammals catch their dinner vary widely from one group to another. Some have specialized teeth or other physical features that help them catch prey more easily than others. In the case of squirrels as well as many other mammals, this means they’re equipped with sharp teeth that can gnaw into hard objects pretty well. Those teeth are exactly what makes the difference between a successful squirrel and one who has to go hungry for another day.
To eat an insect, a squirrel will use its front teeth to grab it and then break it into smaller pieces with its incisors. After that, it can use its molars to chew up the bug’s exoskeleton until the meat inside is exposed or softened enough for it to swallow.
Squirrels rely on their strong sense of smell to find insects. Using a combination of these activities, they can often uncover bugs that other mammals might not think about going after. They then use their sharp teeth to tear through the bugs' exoskeletons.
Are insects dangerous for squirrels to eat?
Yes, insects can be dangerous for squirrels to eat even though most common household insects aren’t too harmful when they bite or sting squirrels. For example, if an insect was carrying a disease when it flew into your squirrel’s fur and bites him, there could be trouble. If a squirrel eats an insect that has been exposed to toxic chemicals in the wild, the squirrel can get sick and might even die.
There are also insects that are venomous. These insects can sting your squirrels and injure them; even killing them. Insects such as the Japanese Oriental Wasp can sting your squirrel and it may die. So if you ever find insects in and around your house, it’s important to help identify them so you know whether or not they’re dangerous for your squirrels to eat.
How to prevent squirrels from eating insects
If you are feeding wild squirrels you can try to prevent them from eating insects by providing other food such as lettuces, apples, acorns, and chestnuts. This will give them a selection of food that is irresistible. This could get their attention and satisfy their taste buds so they won't look for insects to eat.
If you have a bird feeder, you are likely to see squirrels eating insects around it. It is also possible for them to eat insects on the ground underneath the bird feeder or anywhere throughout your yard if they can find some hiding among grass or other vegetation. You can prevent them from getting into your feeders by putting metal mesh netting over the top of them. By covering your feeders like this, you will be more successful at keeping bugs out and reducing the chances that your squirrels by them.
To keep your pet squirrel from eating insects, just don't give it any. Also, clean out its cage and play areas to be sure no bugs are available to eat.
When do squirrels eat insects?
Most squirrels will prefer to eat nuts, fruits, and vegetables during the year. But there are times when their preferred foods are not available. This is when squirrels will start to turn to other methods of food finding. Insects present a good source of food when other sources aren't available.
The need for other food, such as insects, can arise at any time. There could be a drought or bad weather may have decimated the available vegetation. One of the main times squirrels will search for insects is during the late fall and early winter. This really depends on where the squirrels live. If they are in a warmer climate, they can find vegetation and bugs even in the winter. If they are in very cold climates, they may be limited on when insects are available. This would require them to store up before it gets cold
What Type of Insects do Squirrels like to Eat?
In addition to crickets and grasshoppers, several species of flying insects might be more likely to catch a squirrel’s attention than others. These include:
- fruit flies
- winged ants
Do squirrels eat insects summary
Squirrels are omnivorous animals and they eat a variety of things in their diet, including insects. Insects provide squirrels with important nutrients that help them stay healthy and strong. Squirrels typically eat insects during the spring and summer when there is an abundance of them. There are several ways to feed insects to squirrels, but the most effective way is by mixing them into the squirrel's food. It is important to keep a close eye on squirrels when they are eating insects because some of them can be dangerous. By following these tips, you can help ensure that your squirrel has a healthy diet that includes plenty of nutritious insects.