Saturday, January 29, 2011

Exitement in the Neighborhood

Sounds like a fun day in the condos, but seriously if you are going to keep a big lizard, keep it locked up when you are not around.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Breeding and Raising Crickets

young crickets
If you have a lot of insectivorous reptiles and amphibians then chances are you have to buy a lot of crickets. Or maybe you already breed them yourself. If you do, read no further. if you don't, why don't you? If a1l you need is 20 crickets a week breeding them won't be worth it (but it will still be fun). If on the other hand you need 100 or more crickets a week then you should definitely look into breeding your own. Be warned, though, crickets smell and they chirp. So find a place not near your sleeping area to store your colony.

Sexing Crickets
You will need adult crickets to begin your colony. Adult crickets are about an inch long and have fully developed wings covering the abdomen. Males have 2 appendages sticking out of the end of the abdomen. Females have three. The middle one on the females is long and black and is called the ovipositor. It is from here that they lay their eggs.

How Many Crickets Do I Need?
Not as many as you might think. A female cricket lays about 5-10 eggs a day, for a total of around 100 in her life (this does not mean the only live 10-20 days just that they will lay up until they reach 100 give or take). So 10 females should give you 1000 baby crickets if you let them lay for 10 days right? Well some females will inevitably die and some may be more or less prolific (not to mention some eggs might not hatch and some babies will die also) Basically the longer you let the females lay eggs the more baby crickets you will get. I recommend starting off small. Go to a pet shop and ask for 20-30 large crickets. You should get a good mix of males and females to start with. Make sure they are adults, though. Not all crickets sold as large may be adults (look for fully developed wings- if you can see the abdomen the wings are not fully developed).

The Setup
A glass tank or critter keeper is good for a small colony. Provide the crickets with food, water, heat, something to crawl on, and a place to lay eggs. Food can include store bought gutload, cricket gels, chicken mash, fruits and vegetables, and oatmeal. Water can come from the foods if they are well like fruits, wet paper towels, or a shallow dish of water with cotton swabs on them. Heat can come from a heat lamp, heating pad or placing the cage next to a radiator. Crickets like it between 85-88 degrees F. Toilet paper tubes and egg carton (paper) will give them climbing surfaces. The egg laying container can be any old plastic container filled with moist coco fiber or other clean soil. Keep it moist not wet. I use old margarine tubs. Clear containers are nice also because you can see the eggs around the edge.

The Babies
Remember that the females will lay 5- 10 eggs a day. The average of that is 7. If you have 15 females, in 3 days you will have around 315 eggs (I you do not heat the crickets you will have significantly less). I would remove the egg laying container at this point, since you don't want to many for you first time. Put the container in another heated cage. Keep it moist! The eggs will hatch in 10-14 days. The young are called pinheads because they are very small. If you have small animals you may use them now. If not you will have to raise them. The young eat what the adults eat, but I would chop it smaller for them. Crickets go through eight sizes. How fast they grow depends on temperature, but in a few weeks they should be standard pet shop "small" size.

Breeding Crickets can be a fun and rewarding experience. It is not all that difficult either. It is so easy. I did it by accident many yrs ago. I was feeding my toad Ben large crickets (the pet shop was out of small). As usual I poured the crickets directly into the cage. Ben ate greedily but missed a few. "He'll get those later" I said. Sure enough he got them. well two weeks went by. I look into his cage and what do i see?. An area of soil covered with little white dots. My first thought was "springtails! why are they swarming?" But upon closer examination I noticed they were baby crickets hatching and I wasn't even trying!

You can buy crickets from many places including Amazon using the link below.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Feeder Insect Nutrition Facts

Nearly all amphibians and many reptiles kept as pets are insectivorous. While larger species can eat mice for health reasons the bulk of your non-herbivorous herps diet should be insects. Their are well over a million species of insects in the world so their is no end to your options for feeding your pets. Indeed if you live in a relatively rural area you can get away with turning on the porch light at night to attract all the insects you need. Alas most of us have to buy our feeders. Nearly all pet shops sell four main feeder insects: crickets, mealworms, waxworms, and superworms (all of which you can breed on your own but that's another post). I call these the "Big Four". If you can't find them you're looking in the wrong place. Their are many other feeder that you usually have to order. These include fruit flies, springtails, phoenix worms, cockroaches, butterworms, and flies. I will be dealing with the "Big Four" here.

There are many charts online outlining the basic nutrition facts for various feeder insects. You may find that their numbers differ. This is due to the fact that no to feeder population sill be the same. One company may have more fat in in their gutload. Another may have more calcium. These charts are simply guides and they are usually not far off. Below I will compare the fat, protein, fiber, phosphorous, and calcium for the "Big Four". No exact numbers will be given since they are not useful here.

Crickets are the lowest in fat. Wax worms are the highest.

Crickets and mealworms have nearly the same amount of protein with waxworms and superworms not too far behind.

Waxworms and superworms have the most fiber with crickets a far second.

Crickets have the most phosphorous with mealworms close behind. Waxworms and superworms are almost the same with the least.

Crickets have the most Calcium, followed by waxworms, superworms and mealworms have the least.

What Should I feed my Pets?
Short answer: crickets. Of the "Big Four" they can't be beat. Long answer: use your better judgment. You obviously wouldn't want to feed them waxworms regularly because of their high fat content. Also keep in mind that in the wild these creatures have a wide selection of insects to satisfy their nutritional needs. so it is good to give them a selection. Gut loaded crickets fed a healthy diet (like Flukers high calcium cricket food) and dusted with a vitamin/calcium powder can make up the majority of the diet but supplement it with other insects too. Even venture into more exotic feeders (cockroaches are great).

You can buy Flukers cricket food by clicking on the link below.