Keeping Bulk Crickets to Feed Your Reptiles and Amphibians
Although there is a good variety of commercial live food available for your pet reptiles and amphibians, crickets are the most easily found. You can save time and money by ordering in bulk over the internet, and then house them until needed. Here's how.
Although there is a pretty good variety of commercial live food available for your pet reptiles and amphibians, crickets are the most widely available. You can find them in most large commercial pet store chains, as well as small, independent pet stores. Many people raise their own, but every time I have tried, my cultures turn into a wet moldy mess that isn't worth the time and trouble. You can save a significant amount of money, however, by ordering 500 or 1000 at a time via the internet, and then maintaining them until you need them. If you choose to give this a try, here are some things to consider.
How many should I buy?
Crickets only live for a few weeks, so you need to keep that in mind when ordering. Think about how many crickets you currently buy to feed your herps, and order a month's supply. Keep in mind you will have some mortality along the way. I also advise ordering them a size smaller than you would buy in small quantities so that they will live a little longer in your care.
How do I house them?
A tall aquarium with a screen cover works well. Although you are bound to have some escapees no matter what, the tall glass sides of the aquarium will help keep them confined.
What do they eat? Although you can purchase commercially available cricket food, I always make my own out of whatever I have in my cupboard. Some of the ingredients I commonly use are oatmeal, crushed corn flakes, powdered milk, instant mashed potatoes and cornmeal. I also add a little powdered reptile vitamins to the mix so that I do not have to dust them with vitamins before feeding them to my herps.
How do I provide moisture?
Crickets will drown quite easily, so adding a dish of water is not an option. I suggest cutting a potato into thick slices and placing the individual slices on a jar lid so that the crickets can get to the underneath side of the potato as well. This method not only provides them with needed moisture, but provides extra nutrients as well. If you run out of potatoes, you can dampen a clump of cotton balls and set them atop a jar lid. Be sure to replace the potato slices when they dry significantly or at the first sign of mold. You will also need to sterilize the jar lids frequently. I do this by boiling them for ten minutes.
How do I clean the enclosure?
Crickets are pretty nasty insects, and smell pretty bad. If you don't keep the enclosure cleaned regularly, they not only will stink you out of the room, but the mortality rate will be higher as well. It is a little tricky to clean the enclosure when it is still full of crickets, but it is possible. I dampen paper towels and have them ready as I herd as many crickets as possible to one end of the aquarium. I then quickly wipe up as much of the debris as possible before they start migrating back over to that side. I do this several times until I have removed most of the debris, which will consist of dead crickets, cricket legs or other body parts, spilled food, and cricket excrement. Once the colony has been depleted to just a few, I temporarily relocate them and thoroughly clean and disinfect the aquarium before adding the next shipment.
How do I harvest the crickets?
First, I advise that you try to only feed the largest ones your herps can handle. This will save the smaller ones for later, making them last longer and getting the most for your investment. Cardboard toilet paper tubes are excellent for catching a large number of crickets at one time, as they retreat inside them to hide. The only problem with this method is that you are not able to harvest by size.