The house cricket (Acheta domesticus) is an easy-to-breed cricket species that is widely cultivated by reptile and bird keepers for use as live food. A cricket farm also makes an excellent project for children as crickets are active and easy to keep as well as being clean and chirping when kept in the correct conditions. Most large pet shops sell live crickets that you can use to start off a cricket farm.
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For bulk cricket breeders, an opaque, 30-gallon, plastic storage container is an ideal cricket farm environment. It must be modified with air holes in the top and sides covered with fine gauze glued into place with silicone rubber. For a children's cricket farm, a 20-gallon glass or plastic aquarium with a tight fitting lid allows the cricket's behaviour to be observed. A strip of shiny packaging tape or a line of smeared petroleum jelly around the top of the inside of the container will prevent the crickets from climbing onto the lid. If the farm is kept at a temperature of more than 21.1 degrees Celsius, no additional heat source is needed, but a heat lamp at one side of the container will make the insects grow faster.
Cardboard egg crates stacked loosely on their sides allow the crickets to move about freely and provide plenty of shelter. Do not lay the egg crates horizontally as dead crickets will get trapped and rot, encouraging disease. Newspaper bunched up into loose balls is another excellent bedding substance, as are cylindrical toilet rolls. Magazine paper with potentially toxic coloured inks should be avoided
The bottom of the container can be left bare or covered with a fine layer of coarse sand to absorb excess moisture. A thick layer of sand or other substrate will encourage female crickets to lay their eggs there rather than in a specially provided container and will also trap uneaten food and dead crickets.
Dry, calcium-rich chicken food formulated for egg layers is an ideal staple diet, but whole-grain cereal or dry cat or dog food is also suitable. This should be supplemented with fresh green leaves, such as lettuce, and root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes cut into small chunks. Supplementary food should be moist but not soft enough to rot and produce odours. If your crickets are to be used as a food source, the staple dry food must be mixed with a suitable vitamin and mineral supplement. Water must be provided in shallow containers of soaked cotton to prevent the crickets from drowning.
A cricket farm needs to be thoroughly cleaned out every few days to remove uneaten food and any dead insects. Replace the bedding at least once a month or when it starts to look soiled. Water should be replaced every day and the container misted as part of the cleaning routine.
Provide a plastic container full of damp compost or fine sand when you have adult, winged crickets in your farm. The females will seek this out and lay their eggs in the substrate. After a few days the container can be removed, covered and left in a warm place until tiny, baby crickets hatch. These can then be used to start a new cricket farm or added back to your original container.
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