Raising and Breeding Crickets
by Web Wheeler
A bucket containing adult crickets with splatter screen lid.
A couple of 5-gallon plastic buckets and clamp-on lights, a Styrofoam tropical fish shipping box, a 6-watt night light, and a frying pan splatter screen are the only equipment that one needs to keep and breed crickets on a small scale. Since crickets can climb most types of plastic and Styrofoam, you will need to line the inside top of each bucket and Styrofoam box with some packing tape - the type that's sold for taping up boxes. The shiny packing tape is too slippery for crickets to climb and will prevent their escape. The handle of the splatter screen may be cut off and the screen used as a cover for the bucket that will be used to house the adults to prevent the odd one from jumping out.
Buckets with clamp-on lamps for heat.
Crickets are best kept warm and dry. A good temperature is 25C degrees for the babies and 30C degrees for the adults. The clamp-on lights are used to keep the crickets warm - just select a bulb with enough wattage to reach the desired temperature inside the bucket (25 and 50 watts are usually about right). The crickets will also need a place to call 'home', and for this, one or two cardboard egg flats, cut into quarters and placed into each plastic bucket will do nicely.
Food and Water
A bucket filled with baby crickets, egg flats, food on one side and water on the other.
Crickets should be fed two types of food - duck starter for maintenance of medium-sized and adult crickets and 'gut-loading' food for babies and crickets that will soon be fed to your animals. Duck starter is cheap and can be ordered from a farm co-op. To make the 'gut-loading' food put the following ingredients into a plastic bag and shake well: 1-part spirulina powder, 3-parts brewers yeast powder, 3-parts plain soy protein powder and 6-parts hard whole wheat flower. All of the 'gut-loading' ingredients can be purchased from a health food store, and while you're there, you can also purchase some coral calcium powder, some vitamin D tablets, some powdered multi-vitamin capsules, some powdered amino acid capsules and some phytonutrient powder that will be used later.
At a temperature between 30C and 32C your crickets will grow as follows: 1 to 2 days they will be called 'pinheads', 3 to 5 days '1/16th inch' crickets, 6 to 8 days '1/8th inch' crickets, 9 to 12 days '1/4 inch' crickets, 13 to 20 days '1/2 inch' crickets, 21 to 35 days '3/4 inch' crickets and 36 days to 49 days 'adult' crickets.
Adult female crickets laying eggs in the peat moss.
Crickets are considered to be adults and are ready to breed after they develop their wings. The male cricket will rub his wings together, making the familiar cricket chirp, to attract a female. The female is the larger of the two and has a spear-shaped ovipositor extending from the rear of her abdomen.
A small plastic container filled with slightly moistened peat moss placed in the bucket on top of the egg flats is the favourite egg-laying site for adult crickets. To make sure the crickets can get into the egg-laying container, it may be necessary to tape a small section of egg flat to the side of the container to act as a ladder for the crickets.
Female crickets will enter the container and deposit their eggs, which are white and about the size of this - hyphen, into the peat. The egg-laying container should be removed after 8 hours and placed into the incubator that will be described next.
Crickets hatching in the peat moss. The white babies have just hatched and turn dark after several hours. The shiny things that look like rice are the unhatched cricket eggs.
A cricket egg incubator with night light, peat moss and eggs.
Cricket eggs are best incubated between 30C and 32C degrees. The incubator is constructed from the Styrofoam tropical fish box and the 6-watt night light as follows: the night light is inserted through a small hole cut into the side of the Styrofoam tropical fish box and taped into place. A few 2cm holes are cut into the lid of the box to allow for ventilation and for the adjustment of the temperature inside. Plug in the night-light and using a weather thermometer to measure the temperature inside the incubator, either tape over the holes in the lid or make more holes until the temperature is between 30C and 32C degrees.
The container of peat moss and cricket eggs is placed inside a small plastic bucket or shoebox and then inside the incubator. The outer bucket or shoebox will contain the baby crickets after they hatch and make for easy removal from the incubator. At 30C to 32C degrees the cricket eggs will start hatching in about 12 to 15 days. Baby crickets are removed daily from the incubator and fed to your animals or raised in plastic buckets as described above.
From time to time it may be necessary to add water to the peat moss to keep it from drying out inside the incubator. The peat moss should feel slightly moist to the touch - not wet or dry - just moist.
One of the main challenges will be to easily catch your crickets without having them escape in the process. The best technique for this is to carefully insert one or more egg flats containing crickets into a plastic bag and shake them loose. Once the crickets are in the plastic bag, they can be easily moved to another container or fed to your animals.
Before feeding crickets of any size to your animals it is always best to 'gut-load' them for a day or so by feeding them the powdered food mix described above. This will greatly enhance their nutritional value. In addition to 'gut-loading' the crickets, they should also be dusted with vitamin and mineral powder. Once the crickets have been transferred to a plastic bag, a small amount of vitamins and minerals are added and shaken with the crickets to coat them with the powder. The powdered coral calcium, mixed with vitamin D, can be used as the mineral supplement and is a lot better, and usually cheaper, than the powdered calcium sold in pet stores. To make the mineral supplement, grind 2,000IU of vitamin D into a powder and mix well with 100 grams of coral calcium powder. The vitamin powder is also better and cheaper than the pet store variety and is made using the phytonutrient powder as a filler to which is added the vitamins and amino acids as follows: for every 100g of phytonutrient powder, add the powder from 2 multi-vitamin capsules and 4 amino acid capsules.
The main problems associated with raising and breeding crickets are: temperature - too hot or too cold - and poor ventilation. Open-topped or screen-topped containers are by far the best. If the cardboard egg flats feel even slightly moist to the touch or the food begins to get smelly or moldy, there is too much humidity and not enough ventilation.
Another less frequent problem is mold growing in the peat moss or on the cricket eggs. If mold does start to develop, then the peat moss is too wet and should be allowed to dry out. Mold growing on the cricket eggs will kill most of them and result in a poor hatch.