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do tortoises attract bugs?

How To Get Rid of Bugs in A Tortoise Enclosure

Last Updated on October 21, 2023 by Samantha Harris

Tortoises don’t have a species-specific smell, but all animals poop and pee. Their enclosures get dirty, attracting bacteria. Inevitably, when this happens, it’ll attract insects.

To get rid of bugs in a tortoise’s enclosure, change the bedding every 2-3 weeks. Most bugs nest and lay eggs in moist soil, wood shavings, and sand, feeding on leftover food and microorganisms.

Also, use food-grade diatomaceous earth and hang sticky paper traps above the enclosure to kill flies.

Tortoises themselves don’t attract small bugs. Some tortoises eat bugs, and fleas usually ignore tortoises because they don’t produce enough carbon dioxide.

Do Tortoises Attract Bugs?

If not cleaned regularly, tortoises’ enclosures can become breeding grounds for bugs and other pests. Decaying food and tortoise poop will be irresistible food sources for insects.

The warm and moist air in the enclosure can attract bugs because they breed in dark and humid areas. These conditions are ideal for incubation and hatching cockroaches, flies, mites, fleas, and other bugs.

As bacteria lead to rot and decay, insects can feed on these organisms and the rotting matter itself.

If tortoises contribute to this problem, they need thick layers of bedding where they can dig and bury themselves. This substrate may become infested with insects if it’s not changed regularly.

When you find white bugs in a tortoise tank, it’s usually in the soil or bedding. These may be the hatchlings and juvenile offspring of insects trying to live in the substrate.

Peat and moss can be good substrates for a tortoise tank, but they can smell bad if left for too long, especially when they become overly damp, which will attract bugs over time.

Change part of the substrate every 2-3 days and completely change the bedding every 2-3 weeks to eliminate the bad odors and prevent bugs from entering the enclosure.

Do Tortoises Attract Flies?

Some wild tortoises not only eat plants but also pursue and eat insects.

According to the British Ecological Society, this includes millipedes, flies, and other bugs. However, nothing will keep flies away from a stinky tortoise enclosure; it’ll attract flies if a tank is dirty and smelly.

Fruit flies are the most commonly attracted to an enclosure. Since tortoises’ diet mainly consists of vegetables, flowers, and fruits, fruit flies gather around any leftover food.

As the leftover fruit and vegetables decay, they’ll release a smell that attracts flies. Cleaning all food dishes and disposing of leftovers within a few hours is always sensible.

tiny bug in tortoise cage

Do Tortoises Get Fleas?

Tortoises don’t get fleas because they only like hairy or feathered animals.

Fleas can’t live on tortoises long-term since they’re covered in scales and have keratin-bone shells. This makes it difficult for fleas to latch on and feed, especially on thick-skinned areas of the body.

Moreover, fleas are attracted to the carbon dioxide that mammals produce. Since tortoises are cold-blooded animals, they don’t release high amounts of carbon dioxide, limiting the draw of fleas.

Like all ectotherms, the metabolic activities of a tortoise tend to be slower since they can’t regulate their body temperatures. According to the Journal of Thermal Biology, this impacts the amount of carbon dioxide they produce.

Do Tortoises Get Mites?

Mites are less picky than fleas and will latch onto a tortoise.

Of course, this will only happen if the tortoise’s enclosure is left dirty and unkempt. Tortoises may not attract mites, but they can doggedly pester them once they arrive.

Tortoises rarely get mite infestations when correctly cared for. However, using various natural, pet-friendly sprays, you can eliminate this tiny bug in a tortoise’s cage.

What Attracts Bugs To A Tortoise Enclosure?

To avoid infestations, check for these attractants:

Decaying Food And Leftovers

Rotting foods and vegetables are bound to attract insects to a tortoise’s enclosure. Bugs and pests feed on decaying food and microorganisms, hastening the decomposition process.

Dirty Feeding Dishes

Dirty food dishes and water containers will attract bugs to a tortoise’s enclosure. According to the University of Florida, bugs have a strong sense of smell and can detect leftovers from far away.

Even if the bowls are empty, you’ll find food debris, stains, spills, and algae growing on a bowl.

Overly Damp Substrate or Bedding

Like most reptiles, tortoises require adequate humidity to stay hydrated.

You can achieve this by adding a thick substrate layer to your tortoise’s enclosure. However, bugs also like dark and moist environments, which means damp bedding can attract pests and insects.

As discussed, the substrate should be spot-cleaned regularly and changed every 2-3 weeks.

Tortoise Poop

Tortoise poop becomes smelly if left in the enclosure for a long time.

The unpleasant odor may attract pests and bugs as the poop decays. This will become more likely if the waste contains undigested food, so you should dispose of the poop regularly to avert bugs.

Are Fungus Gnats in Tortoise Enclosure Dangerous?

Fungus gnats don’t pose any threat to tortoises.

These small, dark, flying insects thrive in damp soils. Since tortoises love moist substrate, where they can burrow and bury themselves, you may find fungus gnats in a tortoise’s enclosure.

Fungus gnats play an essential role in the ecosystem, pollinating various plants and fungi. They also feed on organic matter and decaying roots, thus aiding decomposition.

The only concern is that fungus gnats can destroy some plants in a tortoise enclosure, reducing their food sources. You may struggle to eradicate fungus gnats if your tortoise enclosure is outdoors.

fungus gnats in tortoise enclosure

Why Are There Springtails in A Tortoise Enclosure?

Springtails or snow fleas are tiny insects that live in damp areas.

Their preference for moisture is because they’re in the tortoise’s enclosure. These tiny bugs feed on decaying plants and are harmless to tortoises.

Since springtails don’t bite tortoises or cause structural damage, most owners leave them alone.

Getting Rid of Cockroaches in A Tortoise Enclosure

Here are some ways to remove cockroaches from a tortoise’s enclosure:

Clean Regularly

Whether the infestation is cockroaches or another bug, thoroughly clean the enclosure. Change the substrate, clean all food and water dishes, and remove all leftover food.

Natural Pesticides

To get rid of cockroaches in a tortoise enclosure, use only natural, pet-friendly pesticides like diatomaceous earth.

Food-grade diatomaceous earth kills pests with exoskeletons and their larvae. It works by dehydrating them because it damages the exoskeleton, resulting in water loss.

Most importantly, it’s safe to use around tortoises and won’t harm their skin.

Sticky Paper Traps

Hang sticky paper traps in strategic positions within the enclosure to trap fruit flies, fleas, cockroaches, mites, and other unwelcome bugs and parasitic insects, allowing you to dispose of them later.

Although tortoises don’t attract insects, they may get bugs in their enclosure if not cleaned regularly.