One of the most recent Can O’products additions is Zoo Med’s “Can O’pillars.” Can O’pillars are soft-bodied caterpillars cooked in a can (“retorted”) to seal in the flavor. The caterpillars in question are known as silkworms. The soft, easy-to-digest caterpillars are marketed as a high-protein treat primarily for reptiles and amphibians, but they can also be fed to other insect-eating animals such as sugar gliders, hedgehogs, birds, and so on.
This product was put through its paces on eastern box turtles, wood turtles, bearded dragons, and an eastern screech owl. Due to the lack of movement of the items, the bearded dragons showed no interest in the caterpillars after numerous attempts. The study with the screech owl was, at best, inconclusive. When compared to larger food items such as mice, the owl is mostly blind and has a difficult time finding small items such as caterpillars or other bugs. We couldn’t tell if he ate any of the caterpillars or simply scattered them around the enclosure, as we had with many other insect food items given to him. The caterpillar treats were only eaten by the box turtles and wood turtles if they were sprinkled on top of their salad mix as a garnish. However, one little box turtle stood out from the others. This turtle is entirely blind and must rely on his sense of smell to locate food. When presented with the caterpillars within his small enclosure, separate from his food tray, he easily tracked them down and ate them up like a kid with candy. While I couldn’t detect any discernible odor from the caterpillars, the box turtle apparently could. I believe it was the oils in which the caterpillars were cooked that he found appealing, because even after the caterpillars had been eaten, he kept trying to eat the newsprint floor lining where the caterpillars had been dropped but some oil residue remained.
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