If you have a collection of exotic pets then there is a good chance that you get through a lot of live food each week. Whether that’s mealworms, locusts or fruit flies the fact is that crickets are not only the easiest of all the feeder insects to breed but are available in a wide variety of different species offering suitably-sized prey to most insect-eating exotic pets.
Having tried out a number of systems for breeding crickets over the years I would today like to tell you about the simplest and most effective method I have ever used which I use to produce a constant crop of crickets ready and available to feed to my exotic pets.
The fact is that breeding your own crickets is not only fun (and very easy with this method) but it also has two other major benefits. Firstly you are able to save a huge amount of money each month if you have a decent collection of exotics, and secondly you can ensure that you have crickets of exactly the right size.
For example if you have a load of baby tarantulas you can easily produce pinheads on demand in order to feed to your tiny spiders rather than worrying about the crickets you have being too big (or small) for your needs.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at the exact method I used to successfully breed crickets.
The first thing to remember is that crickets can jump and climb so you will need some containers to house them. Personally I use the clear plastic containers with vented lids that you can buy from pet stores. I like to use the largest sizes possible which not only means I can house more crickets but also means the walls are that bit higher meaning far less chance of escapees when you take the lids off.
Crickets are omnivores and will eat virtually anything. As a basis I like to feed mine on breakfast cereal with a variety of grass, fruit and vegetables added and replaced at least once a day to prevent them going mouldy. The plant material provides moisture so you do not have to provide a water bowl for the crickets which reduces the chances of them drowning. I don’t feed the food in food bowls but simply scatter it across the base of the container.
For breeding crickets I actually don’t use a substrate, I simply let the critters run around on the bare plastic floor because it makes catching crickets, and keeping the cages clean and hygienic, far easier.
Into the cage place a tub or two of adult crickets from your local exotic pet store. Obviously you want to try and ensure you have both males and females in the cage and most crickets are very easy to sex by looking at the wings on their backs. The female’s wings are normally smooth and veined while the males typically have patterns on them and of course it is the male that “sings”.
Now your crickets have their basic set-up it is time to add in some old egg boxes or screwed up newspaper. Crickets have a nasty habit of eating each other and providing these hiding places will not only make your crickets feel more secure but they will also likely survive longer and so produce a larger crop of eggs for you.
Speaking of eggs, this is really the final piece of the puzzle. You need to provide places for the mated females to actually lay their eggs and for this purpose I have found plastic flower pots filled with damp sand or compost works well.
Simply place two or more of these flower pots into your cricket tank and ensure that the egg box or newspaper in there will allow them to easily reach the surface of the substrate in the pot.
The insects will quickly start mating in this environment and will commence laying eggs into the flower pots. Then every few weeks I simply remove the pots and replace them with fresh ones.
The old pots which by now should contain hundreds of eggs can be moved into a new cricket tank where the young pinhead crickets will hatch a few weeks later. Kept as adults, with places to hide and fresh plant material to feed on their will grow easily and rapidly. Appreciate that most crickets will eat smaller crickets so each “generation” should be kept on it’s own rather than being mixed back in with the adults.
By simply keeping on changing the pots, placing them into new containers and taking out what crickets you need to feed to your exotics you can have a constant, never-ending supply of livefood for them. Which makes your life easier and saves you a lot of cash along the way!