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Crickets and Carotenoids – Study Examines Cricket Nutrient Levels

veggiesHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Captive insect-eating reptiles and amphibians (and perhaps invertebrates) are often plagued by nutritional deficiencies. A highly-varied diet is a great way to ensure adequate nutrition, but most keepers have access to only a few feeder-insect species; gut-loading (providing nutritious diets to feeders) is helpful, but detailed studies are lacking. While touring several Japanese zoos a few years ago, I was intrigued by the number of cricket species being bred as herp food, and resolved to investigate the species and diets I saw in greater detail. A recent article in Zoo Biology (2011, V. 30), which provides insights into carotenoid supplementation in three different cricket species, has re-sparked my interest. I’ll summarize below.

Carotenoids

Carotenoids are pigments that occur in plants. Animals, as far as is known, cannot manufacture carotenoids but rather must obtain them through their diet. 

Carotenoids benefit the immune system by acting as antioxidants, function in the reproductive and other systems, and are believed partially responsible for the health benefits enjoyed by people who regularly consume fruits and vegetables.  We know little of their role in reptile and amphibian health, but many zoo nutritionists believe them to be important. Read More »

Pet-Safe Cricket and Roach Control for Reptile and Amphibian Owners

Camel CricketHello, Frank Indiviglio here. Almost every zoo building in which I’ve worked was home to roach (2-3 species) and House Cricket populations.  In most, pesticide use was not an option. An older animal keeper whom I befriended let me in on his favorite insect pest control technique – the molasses trap.  He was content to let management wonder how he did such a good job so, out of respect for him, I did not share the secret until he retired. Then, for a time, molasses traps became standard in several zoo buildings. Molasses is also useful in outdoor traps, where it never fails to turn up a variety of interesting species. I’ll expand on that below as well.

Pesticide Problems

House Crickets, roaches and other escaped “feeder insects” can be problematic in private collections. In the damp basements favored by amphibian keepers, Spotted Camel Crickets (Ceuthophilus maculatus, please see photo) may also set up housekeeping. These unusual creatures are very interesting in their own right, and I’ve featured them, and a large African relative, in several exhibits. However, most folks find their size, appearance and jumping abilities quite unsettling (please see comments in the article linked below – insect fans will find them very interesting!). Read More »

Live Food Care – Reptile, Amphibian, Tarantula and Scorpion Diets

Poplar Hawk MothHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  I’ve covered a number of less-commonly kept food animals in this care guide, along with pet trade staples.  Please consider as many as you can, as dietary variety is critical to the health of most pets.  The extra effort on your part will be very worthwhile…novel foods also inspire enthusiastic feeding responses, and may even stimulate reproduction. 

There is an endless supply of useful live foods, so please post your ideas and observations. 

Earthworms, Red Wigglers, Nightcrawlers (Lumbricus terrestris, others)

I’d like to see earthworms replace crickets as dietary staples for those species that accept them.  Highly nutritious, they are readily taken by most amphibians and turtles, some lizards, insectivorous snakes, and tarantulas.  Most reproduce rapidly when kept in a screen-covered plastic container with alternating layers of dead leaves and moist topsoil; they can also be stored under refrigeration.  Keep earthworms at 70 F or below if possible (certain species tolerate warmer temperatures). Read More »

Hatching Praying Mantid Egg Cases to Feed Tiny Amphibians and Invertebrates

Mantis Laying EggsHello, Frank Indiviglio here. Dietary variety is the key to success in rearing many herps and invertebrates.  Unfortunately, options for newly-transformed frogs and salamanders, Poison Frogs and other small species and hatchling spiders are limited. A diet of fruit flies, springtails and pinhead crickets sometimes suffices, but as I learned when rearing the endangered Kihansi Spray Toad, other foods are often necessary.  Praying Mantid Egg cases (properly termed “oothecum”), which may be collected or ordered from commercial dealers, are a useful but under-appreciated resource for those who keep small insectivorous pets.

Foreign Mantids in the USA

The 2 most-commonly encountered mantids (or mantises) in the USA are both introduced (not native).  The largest and most widespread is the Chinese Mantid, Tenodera aridifolia sinensis, brought here in 1896 to battle insect pests.  The European or Praying Mantid, Mantis religiosa, arrived as a stowaway around the same time.  They and the world’s other 2,400+ species, consume vast numbers of beneficial and harmful insects…in fact, a single Chinese Mantid may consume 20,000 or more insects in its lifetime! Read More »

Reptile and Amphibian Foods – Breeding and Rearing Grasshoppers and Locusts

Hooded GrasshopperHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  The Domestic or House Cricket is perhaps the world’s most popular herp food, the closely-related locusts, grasshoppers and katydids have been neglected as a food source here in the USA.  However, many are easily collected and bred in captivity, and offer important nutrients lacking in commercially-bred insects.  What’s more, they are colorful, active and extremely interesting to work with – don’t be surprised if you begin keeping them as more than just a food item!

Natural History

Grasshoppers, crickets, locusts and katydids are classified in the Order Orthoptera.  Over 20,000 species, inhabiting environments ranging from deserts to mountain tops, have been described.  The USA is home to 1,000+ species. 

Many grasshoppers sport a fantastic array of colors and shapes; some are barely visible to the naked eye, while others, such as New Guinea’s Phyllophora grandis, top 5 inches in length (please see photo of a Hooded Grasshopper). Read More »

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