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    Default Insect Hydration


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    Tuesday Tidbits

    Today’s tidbit of information is going to cover insect hydration and the effects it can have on your feeder insects.

    Insects are much like any other living thing, mostly water with a little bit of minerals, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and proteins tossed in for good measure. The creation of these components of your insect is not possible without proper hydration.

    Take away access to water and your insects level of hydration begins to falter, then a process begins within the insect to solve the problem by utilizing the very materials that make up its body. One method among others is to modify some proteins in an effort to make the exoskeleton less permeable to water. Another is to seek out suboptimal temperatures to slow metabolism which will reduce water loss through respirations. While both of these methods do decrease water loss they are costly to the insect in terms of the insects ability to properly convert food into body mass and in the utilization of their own reserves to fuel restructuring their body to limit water loss.

    When 100% hydration is denied for a prolonged period the overall effect is much greater and impacts the insects development speed, total lifespan, and reproductive ability. In short, the grow slower, live shorter, and reproduce less if at all. The simple fix is to avoid dehydration in the first place.

    The nutritional makeup of feeder insects is often represented as Protein, Fat, Ash, Ca, and P, sometimes Water % is also shown; for these figures to be even a close representation of the insects you are rearing at home you must always provide them with access to water. Chronic dehydration in your insect colony greatly effects the nutritional qualities by reducing the insects ability to process its diet into body mass. One reason is that insects will consume much less food when their hydration levels are restricted, this limited food intake prevents the insects from receiving the nutrients they need to be as fully developed and healthy as is possible for the species. Proper hydration in combination to access to the nutrients needed for optimal development are two prime factors in the creation of nutritious feeder insects.

    Nearly all animals gain some portion of their hydration needs through the diet they consume, your insectivorous pets rely on insects to both provide great nutrition and a part of their water needs. Limiting your colonies hydration to only a fraction of what it should be not only negatively impacts the insects it also has an impact on the insectivore that consumes insects whose hydration levels are not optimized.

    Our insect colonies have access to both fresh fruits or vegetables and hydrated water crystals at all times to support their need for water, this method has served us very well over the years and can greatly improve your insect colonies value as feeders over the long run.

    Don’t under estimate the value of properly cared for insect feeders, next weeks Tidbit Tuesday will cover insect dry diets.

    Maurice Pudlo
    To learn and to teach

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    acpart is offline Senior Member
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    Thanks for sharing.

    Aliza

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    thorrshamri's Avatar
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    What do you think about "cricket jellied water" Maurice?
    "Thorr Geckos" private breeder in Normandy.

    Ptenopus kochi + garrulus garrulus, various Uroplatus species, Pachydactylus and Hemidactylus species, Ch. angulifer & turneri , Gehyra marginata, Afroedura loveridgei, Ptyodactylus ragazzi, H. caudicinctus, , Paroedura picta...

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    Quote Originally Posted by thorrshamri View Post
    What do you think about "cricket jellied water" Maurice?
    There are two forms generally available, one is the polymer crystal type that is sold either hydrated or in its crystal form in bulk or sometimes 1oz packages that absorb 1 gallon of water, or you have the agar agar based cubes which is a jelly type product similar to gelatin except the gelling agent is plant based.

    The polymer crystals are easy to use and popular, they do introduce a non nutritional quantity of nontoxic polymer into the insects diet though the quantity is very small.

    The gel cubes are often not just gelled water, calcium, vitamins, etc. can all be added to the mixture along with colorants.

    I use a three tier system in my feeding, a dry diet provides the bulk of my insects dietary nutrients, a variety of fruits and or vegetables provides most of the hydration, and lastly I always have hydrated water crystals available.

    If I had no limitations on space, time, or finances I would use just fruit for hydration, most likely oranges.

    The gel cubes are far more expensive than they are valueable, a couple oranges or apples will nearly accomplish the exact same thing for far less cost than the gell cubes.

    The polymer water crystals on the other hand are often far cheaper in use than any vegetable that is accepted by all feeder insects. For example any cricket breeder puts half a potato in each 1000 count box of crickets to keep them hydrated for one or two days, a 10 pound bag of potatoes might cost anywhere from $2-5 US depending on the season and type you buy (yes I know green skin potatoes are toxic). A similar expendature in water crystals can provide 16-40 pounds of hydrated water crystals.

    In my opinion, if you own one or two geckos and are not planning to add to that number by all means use the gel cubes to hydrate your feeders (along with a dry diet and fresh fruits and vegetables). Otherwise the cost to provide simple hydration gets a bit out of hand.

    Maurice Pudlo
    Last edited by MauricesExoticPets; 12-06-2012 at 03:59 PM. Reason: My cellphone's auto correct likes to add letters behind any numbers I type
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    Thanks Maurice, I have to agree with you on almost everything above, except for one particular point: potatoes are toxic (both leaves and tubercules) to vegetarian reptiles such as green iguanas or Uromastyx and are thus likely to be toxic on the long run for geckos through prey insects.

    Potato Glycoalkaloid Toxicity: Solanine

    This glycoalkaloid toxicity is much higher on reptiles than on humans (source: Vet. Dr. Lionel Schilliger, 2004, Guide pratique des maladies des reptiles en captivité).
    "Thorr Geckos" private breeder in Normandy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by thorrshamri View Post
    Thanks Maurice, I have to agree with you on almost everything above,...
    Thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by thorrshamri View Post
    ...except for one particular point: potatoes are toxic (both leaves and tubercules) to vegetarian reptiles such as green iguanas or Uromastyx and are thus likely to be toxic on the long run for geckos through prey insects.
    Not true, while direct ingestion of glycoalkaloids can be toxic, as in the case of herbivorous reptiles, mammals, and insects for that matter, the insectivorous reptile does consume enough undigested active glycoalkaloids to present any issue at all.

    A mealworm of medium size comes in at close to 0.07g, of which 0.04g is water, 0.008g is fat, 0.01g is protein, 0.005g is fiber, the ash content is .001g, (the remainder of weight is because I did not carry out the decimal point) may consume 0.02g of total feed per day, even if this consumption equaled the larva weight at 0.07g the majority of consumption is grain with a moisture content of 3% to 4%, and potato with a moisture content of 79.3%, eating just the potato and nothing else the mealworm would consume at most 0.01449g of dry matter.

    Total potential glycoalkaloids is 0.00173mg

    Toxicity begins to present itself at higher than 12mg/100g, and that is at total weight not dry matter weight, but we will continue regardless.

    Toxicity is additionally reduced to negligible levels by digestion, a process the insects are doing at all times.

    So our 7g (70mg) mealworm has a glycoalkaloid content of 0.00247mg/100g, assuming it would survive consuming the glycoalkaloids itself.

    Even doubling the 12mg/100g glycoalkaloid content does not bring us to anywhere close to toxic levels.

    In addition to all that, the average consumer should have access to human safe foods such as not yet green or sprouting potatoes, and use them prior to the point where the potato begins to develop higher levels of toxins.

    Another interesting factor is that on average insects avoid toxic foods if access to nontoxic food is available, mealworms do not consume the skin of potatoes, which happens to also be where the majority of glycoalkaloids are located.

    Quote Originally Posted by thorrshamri View Post
    Thank you for the link.

    Quote Originally Posted by thorrshamri View Post
    This glycoalkaloid toxicity is much higher on reptiles than on humans (source: Vet. Dr. Lionel Schilliger, 2004, Guide pratique des maladies des reptiles en captivité).
    Mainly due to reptiles slower metabolism, still it would have to be many hundreds of times worse for reptiles to have an effect.

    Nearly all insect breeders use low cost potato as a hydration source, and have been doing so for generations upon generations with no relatable evidence that glycoalkaloids found in potato are toxic when consumed secondary to being ingested by insects.

    On a personal note: In the past I had something on the order of 100.500 breeding leopard geckos whos diet consisted of 25% mealworms 75% lobster roaches, both insects reared at the time on a dry diet and potato for hydration. I did not experience losses, calcium crashes, and still maintain a number of those geckos as pets today, though their diet is slightly different the lobster roaches now get water crystals and a variety of fruits and vegetables (including potato) for hydration.

    It is my opinion that the total package of nutrition needs to be addressed, and the avoidance of every potential toxin is simply not possible. I am not sure who said it, but, everything can kill you if you put enough of it in your body fast enough. Radiation is toxic to the point of being able to kill you quite quickly, but in measured doses it can also save your life. Phytic acid blocks the uptake of calcium and other minerals, but in measured doses it to can save lives in cases of excessive uptake.

    Maurice Pudlo
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    Thanks for this very interesting input Maurice. I have so far only followed a "just in case" policy to feed my insects but that is really good to know.
    "Thorr Geckos" private breeder in Normandy.

    Ptenopus kochi + garrulus garrulus, various Uroplatus species, Pachydactylus and Hemidactylus species, Ch. angulifer & turneri , Gehyra marginata, Afroedura loveridgei, Ptyodactylus ragazzi, H. caudicinctus, , Paroedura picta...

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    Very informative, Maurice and thorrshamri .
    Last edited by Elizabeth Freer; 02-21-2013 at 08:11 PM.
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    Very interesting thread. I raise dubias (250 estimated at present) for our two juvenile crested geckos. I put apple cores, pear cores, banana peels, mango peels/cores, crushed dogfood, <18% protein chicken mash, occasional microwaved eggshells, orange slices, Cheerios, dried oatmeal flakes, and dried out leftover CGD into the colony every day. I see lots of baby nymphs running around. I have a shallow lid with water crystals covered with a paper towel to keep poop out, and a pint sized plastic open-topped water container with paper towels draped over the edges to accelerate evaporation. Colony humidity is around 80% and the temperature is 85-90 degrees.

    Two questions: (1) how often should I throw away the used water crystals? (2) Is there any reason to spray the inside walls of their colony box?

    I worry about mold growth. Try as I may, it's nearly impossible to get mushy fruit remnants out before mold starts to grow on it. Eggshells never stay in longer than 18 hours. I use those as a weekly treat.

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    P.S., Polymeric water crystals may be as inexpensive as eight pounds per dollar (if I calculate correctly from Maurice's first post) in huge wholesale volumes, but most online retailers charge pet owners $9-10 per pound + shipping. So potatoes may make better financial sense to the average hobbyist... or mixed fruit remnants (free) and a plastic water jar (free) with papertowels (nearly free.)

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