House crickets are insects and belong to the order Orthoptera, and family Gryllidae (true crickets). Crickets are omnivorous, eating both vegetable and animal matter. Their life span is dependent on temperature and environmental conditions, but they generally live for 2-3 months. Higher temperatures will decrease their life span but increase growth rate. A cricket will usually reach sexual maturity around 5-6 weeks depending on temperate and environmental conditions. The short lifecycle of the cricket means that you must continually produce young crickets to maintain the colony. In summary the house cricket has the following life cycle:
– Male actively seeks the female, or attracts the female with a chirping sound made by rubbing the serrated edges of his forewings (stridulation). Fast chirping is made when a threatening male approaches, and a slower chirping is made to entice a female to mate.
– Mating takes place and the male fertilizes female eggs. The female lays eggs approximately 1cm into damp earth or organic material. When conditions are suitable the house cricket can lay eggs every second week throughout most of their adult life. Productive females can lay approximately 200 eggs in a batch. Eggs are whitish/yellow in color and around 2-3mm long. A female cricket can produce approximately 600 or more eggs over her life time.
– Eggs hatch approximately 11-14 days later (when bred at around 30 degrees Celsius). The young are approximately 2-3mm in length and are small replicates of their parents called pinheads or nymphs.
– As the crickets grow they need to shed their skin (moulting) having a number of nymph stages. A cricket that has moulted is white/yellow in color and is susceptible to being eaten until its exoskeleton (outer body casing) hardens (Refer to below photo-right).
– The young pinheads grow rapidly, shedding their skin regularly. The growth stages of a cricket are:
- Pinheads (2-3mm long)
- Small crickets (up to 10mm body length)
- Mediums (10 to 20mm body length)
- Large (20-30mm body length)
LEFT- Medium cricket on left, large cricket on right hand side.
RIGHT- Old exoskeleton on left, newly moulted cricket on right
The general distinction between medium and large crickets is when they obtain shiny wings and an ovipositor as shown in photo above (left).
Crickets are ectothermic (cold blooded) and are not able to raise their body temperature to optimize growth or movement. Commercial production systems maintain rapid growth rates by maintaining optimal environmental conditions, balanced nutrition and strict hygiene standards. This will prevent disease and pests from affecting the colony.
While they can survive a range of temperatures, they breed and grow best when temperatures are consistently between the range of 32-35 degrees Celsius. Crickets are nocturnal in the wild, though in captivity they are active all times of the day and do not require lighting.
In a commercial situation, hundreds of crickets are placed together in close proximity. This un-natural situation will result in either fighting or significant cannibalism unless their basic requirements are met. It is therefore essential that adequate food and water be available at all times combined with plenty of hiding spaces for animals to escape from each other. Young crickets and recently moulted animals (yellow skin) are most vulnerable. Management options to reduce cannibalism are outlined in the manual. Crickets are nocturnal in nature and do not require lighting.
© Zega Enterprises 2013, © Photographs, diagrams and tables by Glenn Kvassay or as credited 2013