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Poison Frogs – Sap Beetles as an Alternative Food for Small Frogs

Picnic beetle

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Miroslav Deml

Keepers of Poison Frogs, Mantellas, newly-transformed frogs, and other tiny amphibians face difficulties in providing their charges with a varied diet.  Wild frogs consume dozens to hundreds of invertebrate species, but captives are usually limited to fruit flies, flour beetles, pinhead crickets and springtails.  Vitamin/mineral supplements help, but dietary variety remains critical.

Throughout my career at the Bronx and Staten Island Zoos, I have relied heavily upon wild-caught invertebrates.  I recently “re-discovered” an old favorite – the various Sap or Picnic Beetles (Family Nitidulidae).  I first used Sap beetles when rearing Wood Frog metamorphs decades ago, and later fed them to Spring Peepers, Red-Eyed Treefrogs, Poison Frogs and others in zoo collections.  Many small amphibians will eagerly gobble up Sap Beetles, but Poison Frog and Mantella keepers will find them especially useful.  Sap Beetles never fail to bring an enthusiastic feeding response, and can save us some time and money while providing nutrients missing from standard foods.

Natural History

Sap Beetles are classified in the Family Nitidulidae, which contains nearly 3,000 members.  Most top out at 1/8 inch, with the largest barely reaching ¼ inch in length.  Several species, commonly known as “Picnic Beetles”, show up when sweet foods are served outdoors.  Some feed upon over-ripe fruits, corn and other crops, while others take nectar, sap, fungi and carrion. Read More »

Giant Centipedes – My Experiences with Centipede Bites and Behavior

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Whether you are considering the massive Amazonian Giant Centipede (Scolopendra gigantea) or the tiniest native species, the keeping of these fascinating but potentially dangerous creatures should not be undertaken lightly.  During the course of my career in zoo-keeping and field research, I’ve encountered many species, and have learned something of the difficulties and dangerous their care poses.  An escaped Giant Centipede once gave me much cause for concern (please see article linked below), and several colleagues have been bitten, sometimes with dire results.  Yet many of us are drawn to them, and with so much still to learn, and so many species yet to be discovered, their study offers an exciting challenge.


Vietnamese Centipede

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Matt Reinbold

Centipedes are very fast, can scale glass, and are able to squeeze through unbelievably small openings…escapes are not uncommon, even in zoos.  And once out, they are almost impossible to find – or forget! I should know – I’ve helped recapture animals ranging from Snow Leopards to Kodiak Bears, but concerns caused by an escaped Giant Centipede lingered longest of all; please see the article below for details. Read More »

How to Care for African Giant Millipedes and Their Relatives

Millipedes (Order Diplopoda) are among the most diverse yet least studied of all invertebrates.  There are enough millipedes to keep generations of fans happy – over 12,000 species have been described so far, and we know little about most!  Many species make hardy pets that adjust well to small enclosures and may even breed. All are quite intriguing – while working with arboreal South American millipedes at the Bronx Zoo, I was even involved in a mysterious “millipede emergency”…please see this article  for details.


Photo uploaded to wikipedia commons by Bubba73 (Jud McCranie)

The following information can be applied to the commonly-kept African Giant Millipede (Achispirospreptus gigas) and many of the others that appear in the trade from time to time.  Several millipedes native to the USA, such as Narceus americanus, are also large and brightly-colored…all are ignored by zoos and deserve more attention from hobbyists.  Husbandry details will vary…please comment below for information on individual species. Read More »

2012’s New Species – Spiders, Roaches, Millipedes, Wasps – Which is your Favorite?

Trogloraptor marchingtoni

Invertebrate enthusiasts have learned to expect the discovery of fantastic new species on a regular basis.  But even old timers such as I were shocked by some that came to light this past year. Large, claw-bearing Cave Robber Spiders, giant bio-luminescent roaches, brilliant arboreal tarantulas, neon-colored freshwater crabs, dive-bombing wasps…the list boggles the mind.  Today I’ll highlight a few that have entranced me; please post your own favorites (whether covered here or not) below.

Cave Robber Spider, Trogloraptor marchingtoni

The Cave Robber Spider, arguably 2012’s most “otherworldly” discovery, turned up in a place not known for hiding unseen species – southwestern Oregon.  In fact, not a single new spider has been described in the USA in the past 130 years.  Read More »

Halloween Creatures – Orange Crabs, Ghost Frogs, Vampires, Goblins…

Gluvia dorsalisHerp and invertebrate enthusiasts are never at a loss for frightening, even “ghoulish” (to “regular” people) stories. With Halloween just around the corner, I’d like to highlight some creatures whose names or habits associate them with this holiday.  Some, such as Thailand’s fanged, bird-eating frog and the skin-feeding Caecilian, are relatively new discoveries.  I’ve taken the liberty of extending beyond our usual subjects to include a parrot-eating bat and the well-named Goblin Shark.

Halloween Crab, Gecarcinus quadratus

Bright orange color and brilliant “eye-spots” on a round carapace lend this crab a pumpkin-like appearance.  Highly terrestrial, it lives along forest edges from Mexico to southern South America, returning to the sea only to reproduce.  Studies have shown that Halloween Crabs recycle vast quantities of dead leaves, acting as the “earthworms” of their ecosystems.

I’ve kept Halloween Crabs in zoo exhibits for years, and couldn’t resist purchasing a few at a recent reptile expo.  They make interesting terrarium subjects, and often give up their nocturnal ways to forage by day.  Please post a comment below if you would like information on their care. Read More »

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