Dealing with Crickets For Pet Reptiles
Caring for Crickets is Part of Keeping Reptiles or Frogs
A few years ago I gave up keeping tropical fish and replaced them with frogs and day geckos. I quickly realised that this necessitated caring for my pets' dinner- crickets. Although reptiles and amphibians are fantastic and fascinating pets, they have one serious drawback, their eating habits are quite disgusting. Most reptiles and frogs are carnivorous, and they like their meat very fresh, in fact they like it to move. This means that as well as geting your pet lizards, you will also willingly fill your house with vermin. Although there are several kinds of feeder insects available, most of them are not suitable as a staple diet. Mealworms are generally not good for reptiles since their chitin cases can cause intestinal impaction, waxworms are very fatty and should only be fed as a treat, while roaches are pretty disgusting, which leaves the slightly less disgusting crickets.
How to take crickets on public transport
I must now take off my imaginary hat to my fellow Londoners, who invariably display the famous English aloofness and stiff upper lip. Despite hundreds of rides on the Northern Line underground trains, not once was I asked why my bag was chirping. I am sured many people sitting next to me wondered about the noises, but not once did anybody enquire about what kind of animal I was transporting. I would also like to thank the people who work in the reptile shop in Camden, for securely taping the boxes, I think if any of them ever came loose and their inhabitants escaped, this might drive my fellow passenger into an uncharacteristic panic. If you ever open your morning newspaper and see headlines about a stamped on the tube caused by a swarm of crickets, you will now know the culprit.
The size fo the cricket depends on the size of your pet
I have never been particularly keen on creepy crawlies, but I really wanted my tree frogs and my day geckos, so I grit my teeth and procured the necessary tasty insects for them. Things were actually not too bad to start with, since my Amazon milk frogs and my Phelsuma geckos are quite small, hence they need small juvenile crickets. I got fairly used to having these additional "pets" and no longer had to steal myself to feed my cold blooded friends.
However, as soon as I levelled up, in the insect-keeping league, I made things much harder for myself, I saw a rare giant waxy monkey frog, Phyllomedusa bicolor, advertised online, and I just had to get! In my enthusiasm I didn't think through the fact that this large frog would need to eat adult crickets. An adult cricket is horrendously ugly! Also they sing (more about that later).
Keeping the crickets is not very sophisticated. They live in small "critter keepers" furnished with egg crate. The problem with that is that the air holes in the lid are actually fairly big and crickets are excellent jumpers and escape artists. I soon realised that the feeder insects were spreading beyond their comfortable quarters and invading the rest of my flat. Some nylon screens or even sheets of paper placed on top of the critter keepers did solve most of the problem. However some of the more 'adventurous' food was still escaping. I finally solved the problem in a fairly effective, although somewhat alarming way, I put the critter keepers in my bathtub. Yes I admit it, I have vermin in my bath.
Although this does have the disadvantage of freaking out my visitors, and a few of my friends no longer show up at my place, insisting that we meet up on neutral, cricket-free (so they hope) like Starbucks or the pub, most people quickly accept the somewhat unusual arrangements. Occasionally somebody will emerge from the bathroom to inform me that I should check my inventory because "You are losing some of your herd".
The great advantage of having them in the bathtub, is that even if some of the inventory escapes, they cannot get out of the bathtub, somehow it is too slippery for them to climb the walls. Occasionally some of them do do escape after they are put in the gecko enclosures, through the cracks in the exoterra tanks. The only solution for those are strategically placed roach motels. These somewhat unorthodox arrangements have significantly reduced stray crickets wandering loose in my flat.
The cricket diet
The diet of my crickets would bring a big smile to the face of any dietician. They get more than their five a day. Reptiles and frogs obtain a lot of their nutrition from the contents of the guts of the insects they eat, so it is important for feeder insects to be gut loaded with many nutritious fruits and vegetables. The crickets are always munching on healthy carrots, green leaves and apples, to ensure my top-of-the-food-chain pets receive all the vitamins and vegetable goodness when in turn. I must admit that even my diet has improved from eating having all that fresh produce around the house.
Death to male crickets!
I have left the most horrible habit of the crickets to the end-the incredible shrieks they emit. Whenever a book talks about the pleasant chirping of a cricket behind the fridge, I immediately conclude that the writer could have not any practical experience of the beasts. It is astounding to me that anything can make such a loud noise by merely rubbing its wings together.
I have concluded that the only solution is to kill all the males, since it is only the male crickets that produce the noise to attract females. Every time I get a new consignment of adults, a sad selection procedure takes place in my bathtub. Females can be recognised by their ovipositors (long tubes at their backs through which they lay the eggs), they are allowed to live, males without ovipositors are killed immediately, females are allowed to live a bit longer until they become dinner.