Breeding Crickets for your reptiles is a great way to save yourself both time and money when you have many mouths to feed. Being able to produce varying sizes of cricket will allow you to offer the appropriately sized prey to your reptiles. Those who keep or breed smaller lizard and frog species will benefit from the constant supply of pinhead crickets being produced.
The cricket we will be breeding is know as the House Cricket, or Acheta domesticus, though this guide could easily be used for other species. The house cricket was not originally native to America. It was imported from Europe around the 18th century and has established itself in many states. House crickets are very prolific which is how they established themselves in the United States. It's also the very reason they are used as a staple feeding source for our reptiles. Their naturally prolific nature makes them easy to breed when they are properly set-up and maintained.
This guide will outline a method for raising and breeding crickets that has been proven oven the years. By following the instructions in this guide, you will be able to breed - produce as many or as few crickets as you need.
Materials Required - Breeding Crickets
Preparing your breeding container to be properly ventilated is essential for the survival and expansion of your colony. We begin by taking the breeding container and cutting out 2 holes, roughly 3-4 inches in diameter, on opposite ends of the container. These holes will allow air to circulate through the enclosure.
Breeding Tip: For cleaner looking holes, use a pattern to draw the circular shapes or opt to use a square pattern instead.
Once the holes are cut, you should cut the screening that is to cover them. You should cut it so it is at least 1 inch wider than the opening it will be covering. That means that if the hole were 4" in diameter, you would want the screen to be 6" in diameter. This will leave 1 inch of extra screen around the entire circle.
Now you should secure the screening with duct tape, taking precautions to cover every inch of the surrounding opening. If a pinhead cricket can fit through any exposed opening, I can assure you that a pinhead cricket WILL fit through that opening.
Breeding Tip: If you are looking to make these vents more decorative and appealing to the eye, you can dress them up with some cardboard that has been painted, cut with an opening for the screen, and then glued over the duct tape.
With the vents out of the way, the rest will go together rapidly.
There are several methods in which you can approach the egg cartons, or egg flats if that is what you have purchased. I prefer to take egg cartons, and cut them in half while they are still attached. (This creates 2 pieces that can still be opened and closed.) This method not only stacks nicely, but it makes removing crickets for a feeding extremely simple. Stack the half crates on top of one another, on one end of the breeding container. You should cover one half of the floor, and stop stacking when you are roughly 5 inches from the top of the breeding container.
Breeding Tip: Do not use any type of substrate in the breeding container. Cleaning - maintenance is much easier this way. The lack of substrate also ensures that the females are not laying eggs in the breeding containers substrate.
Egg Laying Box
Now you need to take some of the coconut husk and saturate it in water. Once thoroughly wet, take a handful of it and squeeze out the excess moisture. You should be left with a very damp, but not wet, incubation tray medium. Pack this substrate loosely into the containers you have chosen to be your incubation trays. Take the full tray and place it on the end of the enclosure that has no egg crate. If you are using a smaller container for breeding, you can also place the tray on top of the stacked egg cartons.
There are various methods for watering your crickets. The simplest approach is to purchase water crystals. Water crystals absorb water and turn into small square gel blobs. It is virtually impossible for a cricket to drown when these are being used.
Water crystals can be placed in shallow lids that allow the crickets easy access.
If you are looking for a means in which you can repeatedly reuse the product, you should use the water dispenser in conjunction with a plastic scouring pad.
Water dispensers can be purchased at pet and feed stores. They are plastic bottles inverted with a shallow reservoir at the base. The bottle gets filled with water and then screws to the base where the reservoir is located. As the water is depleted, the reservoir refills itself until the bottle is empty. The scour pad is cut to fit into the reservoir of the waterer. This is to prevent the crickets from drowning.
Place your water dispenser on the end of the container furthest from the egg crate.
Breeding Tip: Do not improvise and use a sponge. Sponges harbor bacteria and odor. Chemicals on the sponge could also destroy your colony.
Take some of the jar lids and place them on the empty end as well. These will be used as feeding dishes for the breeding crickets.
Crickets thrive in warmer climates. If you have a reptile room, this will likely be of adequate temperature for breeding crickets. If you do not have a heated reptile room, you may want to provide supplemental heat to the breeding container. Ideally you would like for the container to be between 80-90°. Cooler temperatures will slow growth, slow the breeding process, and will typically yield fewer crickets.
You can apply heat with a human heating pad using 2 methods. (These are the 2 methods I use and prefer. There are other ways as well.)
The first method is to place the heating pad on the shelf or floor, set on low or medium, and then place the end of the container with the egg crates on top of it. The heat will trap itself within the egg crates creating various heat gradients. This method typically works extremely well.
The second method, which is somewhat safer, is to apply the heat directly below one of the vents, on the side of the container where the egg crates are located. This will require you to supply a method to keep the heater in place. I have glued the outer cloth case that wraps the heat pad in the past with success. By lining the outer-most edge of the bag with a strong, non-toxic adhesive, you can secure it rather well. Once dried, you can then slide the heat pad back into it. This "envelope" method works well, but requires more effort on your part.
Supplemental lighting is not required for breeding crickets.