One cause for concern when you start keeping exotic pets is that in many cases you will need to learn to deal with live food in the form of crickets, locusts, mealworms and the like.
While many people quickly get used to this task and treat it as a necessary evil of keeping exotic pets many other people have concerns over handling livefood. Whether those concerns are based on having to touch some wriggling crickets or more about how to control them properly to making feeding your exotics as easy as possible help is at hand with these handy tricks for dealing with livefood…
Choose The Right Live Food
There is a large range of different feeder insects currently available and each have their strengths and weaknesses. As crickets are one of the most popular forms of live food available let’s take them as an example. Of all the various live feeder insects it seems that crickets are the ones that cause the most potential problems.
One example of this is how many people get squeamish at the thought of having to touch them. Another is that they can be quick and jump well so can easily make a break for freedom when you open the tub. And the adult males can also chirp loudly at night which can be annoying for some people – especially if they manage to get behind a heavy piece of furniture.
However there are alternative insects that can be bought that will resolve many of these problems.
For example many livefood suppliers now offer “silent crickets” which make far less noise than standard black or brown crickets so if you’re going to keep your livefood in your bedroom you may be better to opt for these insects instead.
In general locusts are slower and less flighty than crickets, and cause less people to squirm, so they can also serve as an alternative to the classic cricket. Of course they also make no noise and so while they need to be kept warmer than crickets if they are to survive until “dinner time” I personally base my livefood purchases around locusts with standard crickets being more of a treat than anything else.
One final example is that some very small exotic pets – hatchling tarantulas, froglets and so on – require very small insects to eat. Pinhead crickets are a common suggestion, closely followed by fruit flies. But these can both be very difficult to work with as they easily and regularly escape.
However if you search around you can often find wingless fruit fly cultures for sale and these tiny insects offer just as much nutrition as standard fruit flies but as they have no wings they are unable to fly making them easier to handle.
So before you buy any livefood consider your options. You might be surprised by how much easier you can make your life by selecting the correct livefood to begin with.
Cool The Live Food Down
Insects are cold blooded so the warmer they are the more active they will become. And while your exotic pets will appreciate active insects trying to handle them yourself can be a challenge.
Therefore another trick can be to place your feeder insects in the fridge for a few minutes before you feed them to your pets. This will noticeably slow down their movements making them easier to catch and handle and then once they get into the warmth of your vivarium they will quickly start to speed back up again (well, until you pet gets hold of them anyway!)
Buy Live Food In Smaller Tubs
Many livefood suppliers offer varying sizes of livefood tubs and it’s tempting to go for a really big tub in order to try and get the best possible value for money.
Appreciate, however, that the more insects there are in a tub, the more likely it is that one will manage to escape when you take the lid off. And it is for this reason that it can sometimes actually make your life easier to buy a number of smaller tubs. Quite simply smaller tubs mean fewer insects which means fewer potential escapees.
Set Up A “Holding Tank”
For livefood which can jump – crickets and locusts being two perfect examples – the use of a “holding tank” can be useful. Rather than opening up a corner of your cricket tub to try and catch some insects it can be easier to place the whole tub into a larger container before removing the lid.
That way when you remove the lid, should any insects try to jump out and make a break for freedom they will still be safely contained and can be returned to the tub (or sacrificed first to set an example!).
Examples of containers that can be used include old aquariums or even the bathtub. Be aware that the container should have sides at least 30cm high and ideally more because a surprised cricket can jump an impressive distance into the air.
Use A Pooter
A pooter is a small piece of equipment for handling tiny insects so is an ideal way to deal with fruit flies and pinhead crickets. Quite simply it has two plastic tubes attached to a plastic holding vessel. You stick the end of one tube over an insect and suck hard on the end of the other one and the vacuum created sucks the insect into the plastic vessel in the middle. A small filter prevents you from sucking any insects into your mouth.
Once they are safely inside the plastic container at the centre you can simply remove the lid and tip the required number of insects into your exotic pet’s home. It is through the use of a pooter that I can quickly and efficiently feed hundreds of tarantula spiderlings in a very short space of time.
Getting Hands-On With Live Food
Let’s say the worst happens and a cricket or locust does escape from the tub. What next? I have personally found the following technique is the most effective for recapturing those little beasties.
Firstly, act quickly. Crickets in particular will quickly disappear under or behind furniture though locusts can be a bit slower to vanish out of sight.
As soon as you see an insect escape place a cupped hand over the top of them to contain them and gently curl your fingers up beneath your hand to contain them firmly but gently in the palm of your hand.
From here you can stick the forefinger and thumb of the other hand into the closed palm of your other hand to secure the insect.
Buy A Cricket Trap
Lastly if you suffer from regular escapes consider buying some cricket traps as available from many live food suppliers. These can be placed behind furniture to deal with any escaped insects and improves the chances of you getting a decent nights sleep undisturbed by either the non-stop chirping of a cricket out of arms reach or by nightmares about waking up to find the cricket in your bed.
Are there any tips you think we missed out? Anything you disagree with above? Why not leave your opinions in the comments form below…