Are you tired of going to the pet store and buying crickets weekly to feed your scaly, sticky or furry friend? If you really are someone who likes to do things on your own, you might be interested in creating a cricket colony, which will provide a stable – and free – source of insects within the comfort of your home.
Part 1 of 3: Getting Started
Step 1. Buy several large containers or tanks
You will need a container/tank to store your crickets. It is easier to have two containers, one for adults that can breed and one for young growing crickets. Decide how many crickets you want to raise and buy an appropriately sized container(s).
- You will want to ensure that your container or tank is large enough for the cricket colony. A big mistake some make when raising crickets is not buying a large enough container. When crickets interbreed in confined spaces, they eat each other to avoid competition for resources. This is something you don't want. Make sure you buy a big enough tank!
- Purchase a storage box with a safety lid to store the crickets. Large plastic cases are a common choice. A 53 liter container can house a colony of 500 crickets with enough cardboard or egg crates to allow for climbing. Smooth surface storage boxes will reduce the number of escapes.
Step 2. Make the container breathable
Cut one or two 6-inch holes in the box lid for ventilation. Cover the top with a metal fly screen to prevent escapes, as crickets can chew on plastic screens. Try using hot glue to secure the screen. You can experiment with using multiple holes to have more control over the heat.
Step 3. Coat the container floor with vermiculite
Place 3-7.5 centimeters of vermiculite in the bottom of the box. This will provide a platform for the crickets, keeping the container dry to prevent bacteria from building and reduce odors. This vermiculite will be changed every 1-6 months, especially in larger colonies. So prepare in advance.
Step 4. Place an expendable plastic container, filled with very wet soil, into the box
Females will need this to lay eggs. Try to make the container a little taller than the vermiculite so that the crickets can get into it. Make sure the soil is free of fertilizers and pesticides.
You can put a screen on the surface of the ground to prevent crickets from digging or eating eggs. Females can deposit eggs through screens using their ovopostors
Step 5. Buy 50 or more crickets
Make sure you have enough crickets to feed your pet and an extra 30-50 extras to raise. It is important to have a mix of males and females – preferably more females than males.
- Female crickets have three long extrusions on their backs, with a main one (called an ovipositor) that is used to lay eggs in the ground. Females will also develop wings.
- Male crickets have two extrusions. They have short, undeveloped wings used to produce the famous cricket song.
Part 2 of 3: Starting the Crossover Process
Step 1. Gather your colony and allow it to feed
Place all crickets in their complete container. Place a deep dish of cricket food or some substitute (premium ground cat food works well) in the box, away from the ground.
- You can treat the colony with fruits, potato slices, vegetables and other vegetables to supplement the insects' diet. Be sure to remove unfinished fresh foods before they rot or mold.
- Other more bizarre foods can include tropical fish feed, pond fish feed, rabbit food, or anything that has a high protein content.
- Try mixing the feed to keep your crickets happy. The health of your crickets will translate directly into the health of your pets. Try supplementing dry foods with fruits and leftover vegetables as well as vegetables such as lettuce. This will ensure that your crickets really are ready to become nutritious snacks for your pets.
Step 2. Be sure to give the crickets adequate hydration
Crickets need constant supplies of water to stay alive and well. Watch your crickets go to the water whenever you sprinkle it into the container. Here are some creative ways to keep crickets well hydrated:
- Try placing an inverted reptile bottle with a sponge in the reservoir in its container. The sponge should help prevent any flooding or drowning in the box.
- Cut one side of a roll of toilet paper and unfold it into a rectangle. Wrap a very absorbent paper in this cardboard – like a paper towel – and insert it vertically into the corner of the box to form a kind of fort.
- A dish of water in gel (also sold as a soil substitute, eg “polyacrylamide”) or unflavored gelatin kept in a corner also makes a great well.
Step 3. Warm up your crickets
Crickets absolutely need to be kept warm to promote interbreeding and hatching of their eggs. Heat can be provided by various methods such as reptile heaters, heat pads or lamps. Placing a heater in a cabinet will provide heat to the entire cabinet. This will provide heat for your crickets and keep your eggs in good condition.
To breed, males need a temperature between 55-100 degrees Fahrenheit (30°C). Crickets do best when kept in a warm place between 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit (26°C)
Step 4. Give the crickets time for them to cross
If you give enough food, water and heat, the crickets will be happy – so they will breed profusely. Wait about two weeks for them to mate and lay eggs in the ground. Crickets will dig about 2.5 centimeters of soil to lay eggs. After two weeks, the soil will be full of small, oblong eggs half the size of a grain of rice. Remove this soil and place it in a nesting container to incubate the eggs.
While waiting for the crickets to lay eggs, be sure to keep the soil moist. Completely dried eggs will die and be useless. Fill a spray bottle with filtered water and periodically spread it on the ground to ensure the heat doesn't dry it out completely
Part 3 of 3: Finishing the Creation Process
Step 1. Incubate the eggs
Crickets need heat to incubate eggs before they hatch. Place the expendable container in a larger box that can be tightly sealed and place it where there is a temperature between 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit (25-30 degrees Celsius). After about two weeks (extend the time if the temperature is low), the eggs will begin to crack and crickets the size of a grain of sand will emerge from the ground daily for two weeks.
Step 2. Collect the small crickets and place them in a growing container
This container should be filled with water and food to allow the insects to grow to the proper size to be returned to the original box – typically 7 or 10 days later.
- Remember to moisturize the soil in your breeding container occasionally to ensure the crickets have enough water.
- Consider placing the breeding container on top of a heat pad heated to 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit (25-30 degrees Celsius).
Step 3. Repeat
By following the above steps with your new crickets, you'll produce thousands and thousands of insects, which will be enough to feed your pets (and, who knows, your friends!). You will soon be a notorious cricket breeder! If your crickets die, pay attention to these details:
- Insufficient space. Crickets need a lot of space to be able to live and feed. If the box gets too crowded, insects will start eating to remove competitors from the ecosystem.
- Lack/Excess of water. Crickets need more water than you think – spraying the soil and filling their water reservoirs occasionally is extremely important. At the same time, don't “drown” the crickets. Regularly spraying the water and refilling the liquid reserves is enough.
- Insufficient heat. Crickets like high temperatures to live and breed. Try to keep your container between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them happy.
- Replace the cotton in the water dish every two weeks as it will get dirty. This will prevent bacteria from growing in the water.
- Remove all dead crickets – crickets will eat your dead, spreading bacteria and damaging the rest of the colony.
- Foam strips used to seal door cracks can be used to seal the lid and prevent crickets from escaping.
- A strip of duct tape stuck inside the box will keep crickets from escaping. It is too slippery for crickets to climb.
- If you have low supplies of food and water for your boys, you can replace both with a slice of potato.
- Every six months, you must buy new crickets to restart this process. This reduces the problems that can occur in breeding. This is also a good time to replace the vermiculite soil with fresh material.
- Watch out for pests that can invade the environment, such as mold, mites, flies and bacteria. Take proper precautions to keep out these pests and eliminate them.
- Male crickets can make a lot of noise. You might want to put them in a place where they won't bother you.
- Eventually some crickets will escape. If you don't like the idea of having crickets running around your house like crazy, set traps.
- Don't keep them too wet. Keep a dish of water nearby for them to drink, but try to keep the humidity to a low level. This will reduce cricket mortality, remove molds, mites and flies.
- Only use soils that do not contain fertilizers and pesticides. This prevents crickets, eggs and pets from being poisoned.
- 50 breeding crickets are expected to bear about 2000 offspring during the breeding cycle. You might end up with a lot more crickets than you expected.
- When the eggs crack, the little crickets will be the size of a grain of sand. Make sure they can't escape (They shouldn't be able to climb glass or plastic).