During sommer, meadows offer a rich meal for chameleons – you just have to harvest it. Feeders from the meadows have no need for gutloading and offer a wide variety. From time to time, keepers are concerned that feeders from outside may transfer parasites to chameleons. In Germany, this is not the case, because reptile parasites here can be neglected either due to their low occurence or low infectivity for chameleons. This might not be the case in other countries. Especially in areas with high occurence of reptiles and even own populations of chameleons, e.g. Florida or Hawaii, you should definitely think of possible parasite transfer via feeders from the meadows.
When to catch?
Season begins around the mid of April in Europe and ends in autumn around August. Crickets and grasshoppers are especially easy to catch in the morning (when it is still cool outside) and in the evening.
Where to catch?
Please look for an unmown meadow which is not located nearby heavily trafficked streets or right next to industrial areas. Also keep your fingers away from very special habitats such as moors, swamps or wetland meadows. Protected areas are of course taboo, too.
What to catch?
Generally, you can catch anything you can get. Do not take away protected species but directly release them again after catching. You should avoid insects that may bite or have a painful sting, although chameleons usually have few problems chewing wasps or bees.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and EU species protection regulation list several insects and arachnids as protected. Germany has a a Federal Act for the Protection of Nature which protects e.g. dragonflies, longhorn beetles, wild beeds, some butterflies, jewel beetles, certain species of ants, wasps and hornets. Other countries may have similar regulations, so please respect these rules and do not catch protected species (or release them immediately).
The easiest way is to catch insects on meadows by hand, you just need a little practice and a box. Some insects such as e.g. aphids can be collected from wild roses and stinging nettles from May to August, they are suitable especially for small chameleons. You can also take the spiders (e.g. pholcid spiders) inside your house. Using a net, catching insects is more comfortable. Like mowing a lawn with a scythe you can use the net on the meadow. For chameleon keepers who do not like to touch insects by hand, it may be a good idea to install a plastic bottle at the end of the net. Catched insects then directly enter the bottle and can be easily taken to the chameleon’s cage. You can buy useful deep nets with a long handle in entomology and aquaristics shops.
Nocturnal insects, e.g. some moths, can be easily catched by a white blanket that you hang on a rope at night and put a light behind. The light and the white blanket attract moths and other insects, so you can catch them by hand. An extraordinary way to catch insects are pitfall traps – generally, everything is possible as long as you respect the regulations mentioned above and do not use substances that may be toxic for chameleons.
- Ehlert & Partner: Nets for insects
- Wisia: Search the page by species name for its protection status
- Identify insects
- Identify butterflies and caterpillars
- Another page for butterflies and caterpillars
- Moths and butterflies of Europe