Hedgehog's are insectivores/opportunistic omnivores. Its important that feeder insects be part of their diet in addition to their kibble. Insects with an exoskeleton like crickets, roaches and mealworms, contain Chitin. Chitin (pronounced ki-tin), is a fiber found in arthropod exoskeletons. Chitin is extremely important in a hedgehog's diet as it aids in digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
Next up, the Ca:P ratio. Ca:P ratio is simply the amount of calcium compared to phosphorus. Why is this important? When the phosphorus is too high, it interferes with how the calcium is absorbed and can even lead to the animal being deprived of calcium.
Some bugs, such as mealworms have a Ca:P ratio of 1:17. Since the phosphorus in mealworms is so high in comparison to the calcium, they should not be fed daily or in large amounts.
Hedgehogs lack a cecum which aids in digesting plant matter. Since hedgehogs don't have a cecum, they don't fully benefit from the nutrients of the vegetables and fruit they are eating. Fruits and vegetables can be fed as a treat but only in very small amounts. So how do we get those important nutrients from the fruits and vegetables to our hedgehogs? Through feeder bugs!
Gut loading is a term used to describe feeding nutrient rich vegetables and fruits to feeder bugs prior to feeding them to your hedgehog. Gut loading bugs 24 hours prior to feeding them to your hog, allows the bugs to absorb all the nutrients from the plants. By feeding gut loaded bugs to your hedgehog, you are providing them with nutrients that they wouldn't be able to absorb on their own.
Putting it simply, bugs are important to feed and some bugs are better than others.
Let's start with black soldier fly larva (also called phoenix worms and calci-worms). These larva are naturally packed with calcium, hence the nickname calci-worm. These bugs are so naturally filled with nutrients that they don't need to be gut loaded. With a Ca/P ratio of 2.5:1 combined with the fact that these bugs are so nutritious, makes these one of the healthiest feeder bugs.
Mealworms are one of the most popular feeder bugs because they are so easy to raise at home, but this doesn't make them the best bug to feed. As stated above, mealworms are quite the opposite in regards to black soldier fly larva. They do contain chitin, and that's good, but because their Ca:P ratio is 1:17, these bugs can actually deprive the hedgehog of calcium if they are fed in large amounts all the time. This shouldn't make you think that they cant be fed, hedgehogs love them, just feed a few mealies per week.
I'm running out of time to finish this post, but it's something to consider when choosing feeder bugs and the amounts to feed. Variety is also extremely important, we want our hedgehogs to get as much nutrients as possible. Make sure you switch up the bugs every now and then. My hedgehogs LOVE roaches and horn worms! As well as pinky mice, whole prey foods are an excellent source of calcium!