Squirrels are adorable, but can they hunt and kill? Do squirrels eat insects?
Squirrels do eat insects. These mammals are omnivores, they eat both plant and animals matter. Insects are rich in protein which squirrels need. Insects are generally eaten when fruits are scarce. The insects that squirrels are known to eat include crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies, ants, caterpillars, larvae and even bees.
A lot of people think squirrels only eat nuts and fruits in the wild – this is a misconception. This small mammal eats a lot of other foods. Foods we never thought they were capable of eating.
Squirrels are omnivores, they eat plant and animal matter just like their distant relative’s mice and rats. These mammals will eat anything from plants to animals and even insects.
It may surprise you to learn that insects are part of a squirrel’s natural diet in the wild. When a squirrel can’t find nuts to eat, it goes on a food hunt and will eat any insect it can find.
Benefits that insects offer squirrels:
Squirrels, like all other animals, need to eat foods rich in protein if they are to stay alive and healthy. The amino acids in protein-rich meals are necessary for growth, maintenance, and reproduction in squirrels.
Plant-based foods are great and contain protein and other essential nutrients, however, insects offer squirrels far more protein than they can get from eating nuts.
The bodies of most insects are rich in protein, these protein levels are comparable to meat. The cricket, for example, is 65% protein. The bodies of grasshoppers contain more protein than beef by weight. For grasshoppers, we are looking at a shocking 72% protein content.
Aside from being rich in protein, insects are also rich in fats and can provide a high caloric contribution to a squirrel’s natural diet.
There’s no telling how many insects a squirrel can eat in a day. But we’re certain that when a squirrel’s favourite foods of nuts and fruits are scarce, it can eat an awful lot of insects, its busy body constantly needs fuel.
How do insects defend themselves against squirrel predators?
Insects aren’t safe in the wild. In fact, they aren’t safe anywhere. Birds eat insects, lizards eat insects, frogs eat insects, squirrels eat insects, even insects eat insects. Almost anything larger in size than a said insert will try to eat the insect.
With so much threat to their survival, an insect will only thrive if it’s able to defend itself. The good news is that most insects are sufficiently equipped to defend themselves. For some insects, it is their sting, venom, poison-filled hair, and their ability to blend into the background that keeps them alive.
Some species of beetles can spray predators with irritants much as a skunk does. The bombardier beetle for one defends itself with a mixture of noxious chemicals. Once a predator tries to sink its teeth into this beetle, the insect takes aim and sprays a powerful acid from its back end into the face of the predator.
Squirrels and other predators will have a hard time feeding on this troublesome insect. That’s for sure.
Are squirrels the reason for the decline of insect populations?
Are insect-eating animals like squirrels and birds the reason why insect populations around the world are plummeting?
The answer is no. A lot of other factors add to this issue. Habitat changes, deforestation, climate change, and the use of pesticides by humans are the primary factors responsible for the decline in the insect population.
Other factors include diseases, parasites, and invasive species.
What else do squirrels eat?
Nuts: Nuts are no doubt a squirrel’s favourite food. Nuts have an excellent taste and also offer squirrels the essential vitamins and minerals they need.
Seeds: Seeds are a necessary part of a squirrel’s diet. They contain as much protein, vitamins, and minerals as nuts.
Vegetables: Vegetables are vital sources of essential nutrients like potassium, folate, dietary fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
Eggs and other smaller animals: When a squirrel can’t find plant-based foods to eat, it either raids a bird’s nest or eats smaller animals. Eggs and animal meat are part of a squirrel’s natural diet. These provide squirrels with lots of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals.
What food is poisonous to a squirrel?
Squirrels will eat almost anything, but shouldn’t be fed everything as some foods are harmful to them.
If you own a pet squirrel, do well not to feed it the following:
Chocolate: Squirrels love the taste of chocolate. However, this snack shouldn’t be fed to squirrels as it can be extremely toxic to their system. Chocolate contains a substance called Theobromine. This substance is known to cause diarrhoea, hyperactivity, trembling, muscle tremors, seizures, increased heart rate, and even death to squirrels.
Dairy Products: While dairy products are good for humans, squirrels may suffer after ingesting ice cream, cheese, butter, and processed milk.
Raw Peanuts: Squirrels shouldn’t be fed raw peanuts as they contain a fungus that can be harmful to them.
Why is it bad to feed squirrels?
As much as you love the squirrels in your backyard, it’s advised that you don’t feed them, as this could cause the animals to lose their natural fear of humans.
Another reason not to feed squirrels is that they may become over-dependent on humans for food.
The only exception of feeding these animals is when the squirrel in question is your pet.
A much better way to provide food for squirrels would be to plant trees that contain their favourite food in your backyard.
Squirrels don’t just eat nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits; they eat insects too. No one can say if they enjoy the taste of insects or not, but we like to think squirrels only eat insects when other food sources are scarce.
Insects may be far more nutritious than nuts, but if a squirrel had to choose between nuts and insects, it sure would choose nuts.
Even as insects around the world face a lot of threat from predators, it feels good to know these creatures aren’t entirely defenceless.