As crickets are an excellent source of protein, nutrients and water, there are many animals and microorganisms which will take every opportunity to eat your crickets or their eggs. Potential pests include ants, micro flies (flies small enough to move through normal fly screen) and their maggots, larger flies, spiders, cockroaches, geckoes, rodents, bacteria and fungi.
Large Pest Species (Spiders/Cockroaches/Geckoes)
Larger pest species are effectively controlled by a quality lid and screen system. Our Cricket breeding manual outlines the best lid systems for this.
Spiders and foreign cockroaches however can accidentally be introduced into a container through cardboard cartons. Small spider species such as daddy long legs and unwanted cockroach species often reside in carton stockpiles. When you place cartons into the container, inspect them for pests and remove unwanted hitch hikers.
Another source of spiders/cockroaches is the trays and tubs used in maintenance. They often reside in these areas as they take advantage of any stray insects from the previous activities. Inspect all trays/tubs prior to use and remove them by brushing with a dust pan brush.
A major pest species for crickets over the long term is Micro flies, which create small maggots that eat all the eggs In the breeding trays. The most common source of the maggots are micro flies which are 2-3mm (0.079-0.12 in) in size or less, however house flies can also be a problem. These are the small flies you see hanging around scrap food containers in the kitchen or compost heaps. There are many different species of micro flies which eat a range of foods including fruit/vegetables and meats/protein.
In your cricket colony flies will be attracted to the food you place in the container and will lay eggs in water tray gauze and breeder trays. The other sign to look out for is their egg casts which are little segmented cacoons (approximately 3mm long- “0.12 in”). When they are just laid they are white and then they gradually turn brown. These are often deposited on the container walls or lids (Refer to arrows in photo 10.34 and 10.35).
Do not underestimate the small size of these flies, as a 2mm (0.079 in) fly can produce many maggots which can grow to around 10 mm (0.39 in) in size (over three times the size of the adult fly). As the eggs of flies hatch faster than that of a cricket, the maggots will consume the cricket eggs before they hatch.
Once a micro fly colony has established it is very difficult to control and early detection is much more successful than a cure. Every time you open the container to do maintenance or to do a feed, look for signs of flies and maggots. They generally will be buzzing around the wet food, or resting on the cardboard containers. Special attention should be given to any container that house breeder containers, as this will be where they will cause the most damage. They are also common near recently dead crickets and under water trays where water has spilled.
A range of preventative strategies can be undertaken to prevent maggots and micro flies which is outlined in detail in our Cricket Breeding Manual. By far the most effective measure is to install midge fly screen on all external openings of the container (i.e. ventilation and feeding holes) to prevent them from entering in the first place. Interestingly, our Zega Substrate System (small scale production) has no issues with micro-flies, due to its special design. It is essential to have all breeding and incubation boxes screened as the breeding trays will be in there for a number of weeks. If you are using grow out containers as a breeder box (i.e. placing breeder trays in with the large grown out crickets) you may need to screen these as well.
All animals will contract diseases where basic husbandry requirements are not met and their immunity is reduced. With the techniques in this book you will be able to do basic cleaning and provide food/water with minimum maintenance. This will improve the health and reduce diseases.
Other sources of diseases can be accidently introduced when you bring in new animals from the pet store (particularly to improve genetics see later sections). This has particularly been an issue in the US where entire commercial colonies were destroyed. Carefully inspect the new animals is required to make sure they don’t have genetic defects or small parasites. Genetic defects such as deformed wings or body parts are a sign of disease or inbreeding and these animals should be avoided.
Where a disease has been introduced and taken hold, the best method is to start fresh, and sterilise containers/components with bleach or disinfectant. Bring in new healthy crickets or a new species from a reliable and reputable breeder.
Ants can be a major threat to a colony as they are able to co-ordinate quickly and attack within minutes or hours. They can be hard to control as they can be small enough to bypass many lid systems or through holes in your screening. Unless adequate measures are put in place they will consume all your crickets and will continue to do so until you have an adequate barrier.
Need More Information…
Below is a summary of the “Maintenance and Pest Management” sections of our Cricket Breeding Manual:
- Detailed information on how to manage all major pests, which often result in the failure of consistent cricket breeding.
- Our clever container design prevents pests from entering, including a special double screen system to keep out micro flies, a major pest species (for large scale production).
- Our “Zega Substrate System” special design, overcomes issues associated with Micro-flies.
- Details how to build ant exclusion devices and micro-fly traps to prevent infestations.
- How to maintain genetics and maintain productivity
- Our innovative breeding systems prevent detritus from coming into contact with wet substrate, preventing fouling (eliminates smells) and cutting maintenance frequency by half.
- 3 different cleaning systems reduces maintenance to only a few minutes for each breeding container.
- Food and water dispensers can provide food for up to 2 weeks, reducing the need for food/water changes.
- Feeding methods allows 10 containers of crickets are able to be fed wet food in just 90 seconds.
- Systems to remove all cartons together for quick and easy maintenance.
- Devices to separate pinheads and larger crickets from detritus and food during maintenance. This allows more animals to be returned back to the colony.
- Systems to streamline cleaning for both small and commercial scale.
© Zega Enterprises 2013, © Photographs, diagrams and tables by Glenn Kvassay or as credited 2013