Where to obtain crickets, how to feed them and what to feed them!

Keeping and Raising Crickets

(Check out my checklist too)rearing checklist

It's easy to have an aquarium of field collected or pet store variety crickets in the clasroom or at home as a student project or pet. You can also rear them in order to have a continuous supply of crickets for your classroom. The species of cricket you choose is important, however, since some species require special treatment such as the breaking of diapause by cold treatment. The house cricket, Acheta domesticus, which is readily available from biological supply houses, cricket farms, bait shops and some pet stores, can be raised easily in large numbers. The field crickets in the genus Gryllus are also easy to raise provided they come from the southern parts of the US and not the northern states or Canada (these species have a diapause stage in the cold months). For the most part, the tree crickets and other subfamilies have specialized needs and are difficult to rear.

Things You Will Need

Adult male and female crickets: 5 males and 20 females would be ideal, but a single cricket female can lay as many as 800 + eggs (see how to collect crickets and a list of suppliers in the appendix)

An Egg Laying Container: A 25 gallon aquarium or some similar container which lets students see inside and allows light to enter for the crickets is needed. One such container will produce thousands of eggs. Cover the container so your crickets don't jump out. and fill it with empty egg cartons to allow hiding spaces and to increase the volume of space that the crickets use.

Oviposition Dishes: A dish about 12 - 15 cm in diameter should be filled with fine vermiculite or clean sand or soil. It's best to have a dish which is 10 - 12 cm deep filled half way with the vermiculite/ sand. The vermiculite should be kept moist to the touch but not saturated with water. Females will lay eggs in the vermiculite. If the vermiculite is too wet the eggs will drown. If it is too dry, the eggs will desiccate. After about ten days the dish will be full of eggs. You may wish to have a few dishes in the egg laying container if you want to increase your production of crickets.

Rearing Container: Some studies show that late instar nymphs or adults inhibit the growth of younger individuals. To insure a continuous supply of crickets it's best to hatch your cricket eggs and rear your juvenile crickets (nymphs) in a separate container. This can be another aquarium or if you want lots of crickets, a large ( gallon plastic garbage can). The garbage can method will produce hundreds of crickets and is easy to maintain. A drawing of the garbage can is included. Put your oviposition dishes full of eggs in the rearing container. It will take about 3 weeks for the eggs to hatch. There will be a large number hatching for a few days until all of the viable eggs have hatched into first instar nymphs.

Temperature is very important to developing crickets. The optimal temperature is 30oC. A 60 watt light in the garbage can will produce about this temperature. If you are using an aquarium you can shine a light on the outside to heat it up.

WATER

Water is also very important. Young crickets are very susceptible to desiccation and need a supply of clean water to drink. Test tubes plugged with cotton and filled with water work pretty well, but they need cleaning and checking to ensure they are clean and the cotton is moist. We also use the oviposition dish to provide water and humidity in the container. Once all the eggs have hatched from a dish, saturate the vermiculite with water. The nymphs will walk into the dish and drink from the substrate.

WHAT TO FEED YOUR CRICKET!

Purina Cat Chow is a very good food for crickets, but any dry pet food will do.(Actually Purina makes a Cricket Chow for the commercial suppliers of crickets.) Put a few dry pieces in your aquarium or throw a handful of dry food in the bottom of the garbage can. However, because of humidity the food will get moldy and will need replacing every few days. A piece of lettuce from the inside without pesticides or a piece of apple or potato is also appreciated by crickets. Again, This must be removed when moldy, but it beats cleaning a litter box

The length of the day will influence how fast your crickets grow. In the summer the days are long and this encourages crickets to go through the instars. Put a timer on the light in your garbage can or on your aquarium. Set the timer to 14 hours light and 10 hours dark.

Depending on the species nymphs will go through about 8 molts before becoming adults.

Crickets will eat anything, including each other. Put egg cartons in your aquarium or garbage can to give the newly molted nymphs places to hide. This is when they are especially vulnerable to cannibalism.

Depending on the species crickets will go through about 8 instars and molts before they become adults. The time will also vary and it depends greatly on the amount of time a culture has been going. Most people will start the next generation with the first adults to develop in a garbage can. This also selects for genes that promote fast development. A fresh stock of field crickets will using take 3-4 months to become adults. If the culture has been through 3 or 4 generations the time will be reduced to 1-2 months. If you are using house crickets from cricket farms they will only take a month or so to reach adulthood.

When the adults emerge take them out of the garbage can and put them in a separate container such as another aquarium. You may wish to separate males and females depending on the experiments you want to perform. The males will fight so egg cartons are a good idea. Newly molted adults are not yet sexually mature. This will take a few days before the females are ready to mate and the males produce their first sperm package or spermatophore.

Start your next culture with the males and females you have raised.

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