My feeder set ups

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soundspawn

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For anyone thinking about breeding feeders, here is some documentation on what I have. Up front I would say it is worth the time effort and energy if you have a lot of mouths to feed. The crickets will breed out of control in no time so you either need a lot of predators or someone to sell excess to. The mealworms are a little more manageable so far, but I believe that would spiral out of control as well.

Be sure to check prices before blind ordering from these links - in some cases I have not done diligence for pricing - I'm linking so you can see the product.

Crickets


What you need:

Nice to have:

Basically just throw everything together. No seriously, put the food in the small containers, put the small containers and egg crate in the big containers. Congrats you are almost done. Now make sure your large container lids have good ventilation (drill holes as needed), and cut any holes in the lid to fit your lighting, see my pictures for examples. I reinforced one of the lids with a dowel and hot glue because it liked to dip under the corner of the light fixture. For heat I use incandescent light bulbs to great effect. Crickets like it hot, so shoot for 90 F and don't be worried if you peak in to low 100's from time to time. Humidity they really don't seem to care, but too high and they will get infections, mites, etc. Shoot for under 40%. *Exception* the incubator should be like a swamp, 70% or even more is fine. If the eggs dry out the pinheads will die.

Now for the repeatable part:

  • When you hear chirping, you have adults ready to mate. Make sure you have fresh damp peat moss in small containers. Peat moss holds a lot of moisture so you have to flood the container several times. You want it to be a soggy mess, but not a swimming pool. Use things like toilet paper tubes to act as ramps if your containers are high walled like mine. You can also use the cardboard from the stuff you bought to make ramps.
  • Keep the peat moss moist by watering it regularly. The adults will also drink from these containers. If you watch closely, you should see female crickets dip their ovipositor under the surface of the soil and push out tiny rice-like eggs. Those are you pinheads.
  • After a week cycle out the soil to prevent the pinheads from hatching in your adult bin - move them to your incubator
  • Your incubator should be like the bath room from Red Heat (http://www.metacafe.com/watch/mv-WgQHx/red_heat_you_should_be_used_to_the_heat) except with less testosterone and, if you can find it, more Arnold. That is to say, make it hot and stuffy. You may notice I put an extra bin inside my incubator, the high humidity in there will condensate and drip off, and by putting the small containers in Noah's Ark, I can keep the peat moss hot even though that standing water will cool down a bit. I'm blasting my incubator with a 60 watt bulb in a ceramic light at close range.
  • Once your pinheads start to hatch, throw some food and water in there (this is where gelatin comes in handy). After a few more days they should be pretty well hatched out and you can move them to the nymph bin. You should continue to see them climbing out of the soil for up to a week.
  • Nymph bin is easy. Feed them and wait. If one gets huge or is obviously adult move them to the adult bin. Alternately you can get the nymph and adult bins to kind of flip flop, so the nymphs naturally grow to adult and become the adult bin around the time the old adults die off and get new pinheads.
Mealworms/Superworms


These are way easier. Grab a couple 6qt sterilite tubs, some carrots and a ton of oats. FIll the bin with oats, add worms, throw carrots in from time to time, and take the carrots out after a few days to prevent mold. That's pretty much it. I go an extra step and separate the pupae to a new bin. They eventually come out as darkling beetles and lay eggs. This helps keep a size offset otherwise it's chaos (but you could still find what you want with a little digging). The superworms won't pupate unless you isolate them so you can throw them in 2oz cups with oats. Back to the main bins, eventually they will convert all/most the oats in to "dirt", at which point you just sift out the worms like a litter box and start over.

Fruit Flies (melanogaster/hydei)

This is a really common and straightforward feeder so I won't reinvent the wheel here.

Black Soldier Flies

(Perfecting, will report back)

I think that covers it - I will edit this as needed if I missed something. Q's? Feel free to ask!

 

dmina

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Wow missed this... What a good job.. I wish I would have read this before I went through trial and a lot of errors!

Thanks for sharing!

 

Sticky

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My mantids treasure soldier flies! I'd love to grow them myself. I thought I heard you use coffee grounds as food/bedding like keeping the mealworms and supers in oats. Is it true?

 

soundspawn

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My mantids treasure soldier flies! I'd love to grow them myself. I thought I heard you use coffee grounds as food/bedding like keeping the mealworms and supers in oats. Is it true?
I've heard of something like that but never tried it. The larvae like food waste, so we give them table scraps. I doubt the nutritional benefits of feeding them something as bleak as coffee grounds so I stayed away.

We follow a GIGO philosophy with the feeders - garbage in garbage out. Feed them well and they will be of high value to the mantids.

 

Sticky

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I looked around and you are right about giving them scraps and composting material. I would love to try them, set up like a vermi composting system?

 

soundspawn

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I looked around and you are right about giving them scraps and composting material. I would love to try them, set up like a vermi composting system?
Exactly, we bought a thing called a "Biopod Plus", which is just a smaller composting bin. http://www.thebiopod.com/pages/biopod-plus.html

Ordered ours through Amazon (3rd party merchant). We put in a small base of cedar shavings, and then threw the food scraps each day in there. Bottle flies infested it at one point which was a pleasant surprise, as it turns out the larvae will co-exist. I'm told they can generate enough heat to keep rolling all winter, but our guys started to hibernate, so we moved them under some heat to keep them producing. I do not recommend keeping them inside unless you like the smell of turned food :p

 

Krissim Klaw

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Nice sheet, although I feel it could be mentioned crickets don't need that extreme of a heat source, especially if you are already overproducing for what you need. Heat speeds the the process up, while sacrificing longevity. Since a lot of people are producing for multiple reptiles/amphibians/ect this is considered a boon and one of the plus sides of crickets. If however you are only feeding for a handful of mantises there isn't such a rush. I had a breeder tank going for over a decade and never added extra light/heat source just letting it run at room temp, which at my house is 78-81 degrees. Even so, I still overproduced and was regularly pushing excess off on others I know that use crickets. Actually that was the thing I found most annoying about crickets since if the numbers get too high in the tub they blow through food and it gets messy fast.

 

soundspawn

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Nice sheet, although I feel it could be mentioned crickets don't need that extreme of a heat source, especially if you are already overproducing for what you need. Heat speeds the the process up, while sacrificing longevity. Since a lot of people are producing for multiple reptiles/amphibians/ect this is considered a boon and one of the plus sides of crickets. If however you are only feeding for a handful of mantises there isn't such a rush. I had a breeder tank going for over a decade and never added extra light/heat source just letting it run at room temp, which at my house is 78-81 degrees. Even so, I still overproduced and was regularly pushing excess off on others I know that use crickets. Actually that was the thing I found most annoying about crickets since if the numbers get too high in the tub they blow through food and it gets messy fast.
Noted. This is documentation for a larger scale set up though, as stated, so the heat really is par for the course. These notes could be adjusted for a smaller situation but that's not what I'm going for.

 

Krissim Klaw

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Yah, I just thought I would mention it since you brought up how easy it is to get an excess of crickets and I am guessing a good portion of the people on this forum probably have under 100 mantises at any given time. Even only having a few mantises myself I do find having a breeder bin way more low maintenance then constantly needing to run to the store or order crickets online. Hopefully this guide will help give unsure beginners the encouragement they need to try. Starting a new project can often seen daunting but crickets are insanely easy once one gets the initial setup going.

 

soundspawn

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Yah, I just thought I would mention it since you brought up how easy it is to get an excess of crickets and I am guessing a good portion of the people on this forum probably have under 100 mantises at any given time. Even only having a few mantises myself I do find having a breeder bin way more low maintenance then constantly needing to run to the store or order crickets online. Hopefully this guide will help give unsure beginners the encouragement they need to try. Starting a new project can often seen daunting but crickets are insanely easy once one gets the initial setup going.
Absolutely. Not only do I agree with all of that, but breeding your own crickets helps you control what goes in to your mantids nutritionally. Store bought crickets often can hardly be considered "food" suitable for anything... so you already almost have to keep them for a week to get them properly gut loaded... you're nine tenths of the way to breeding at that point!

I imagine the volume of pinheads would be an issue though without a proper outlet for them, how did you deal with that? with probably 500 mantids on average we have no trouble making them go away but as you said a person with only a few or a dozen... when you get 1,000 pinheads overnight how do you make that work?

 

Krissim Klaw

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Absolutely. Not only do I agree with all of that, but breeding your own crickets helps you control what goes in to your mantids nutritionally. Store bought crickets often can hardly be considered "food" suitable for anything... so you already almost have to keep them for a week to get them properly gut loaded... you're nine tenths of the way to breeding at that point!

I imagine the volume of pinheads would be an issue though without a proper outlet for them, how did you deal with that? with probably 500 mantids on average we have no trouble making them go away but as you said a person with only a few or a dozen... when you get 1,000 pinheads overnight how do you make that work?
That is one of the aspect the temperatures can help since it slows down the incubation period. You still do get a ton of pinheads though when they do start hatching in waves. I didn't find them so much of a problem as long as there was lots of space to cling. They barely eat anything at that size. It is once they start getting larger they became more of a strain. I was constantly unloading crickets on friends to keep numbers manageable. I am guessing an easier method for one looking to keep numbers down would be to simply cull the eggs laid on a regular basis by removing the substrate the girls are laying into in letting it dry out versus hatching it.

I should note I didn't have a separate setup for nymphs/eggs and adults since I wasn't looking to maximize production. In truth when I started out I wasn't even looking to breed them. I find it cruel not to provide the females with a substrate to lay in and adding that naturally resulted in nymphs on my end.

 

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