Care & Breeding of Feeders: crickets, Blaptica dubia, hornworms, & silkworms

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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
Care & Breeding:crickets, Blaptica dubia, hornworms, silkworms, Phoenix worms, others


Diatomaceous Earth Alert: Some chicken feeds contain diatomaceous earth. If diatomaceous earth is in a product, it should be listed on the label!

I only recommend Albers' All Purpose Poultry Feed or Purina Layena Crumbles poultry feed, because they don't contain diatomaceous earth. If you cannot find those in the USA, don't buy poultry feed.

"Diatomaceous earth is a natural antiparasitic for bird flocks. If ingested by insects, diatomaceous earth is fatal. :( The microscopic diatoms cut up insects' insides and cause a nasty death. It is also used topically for insect infestations as it will cut through exoskeletons or soft bodied worms and cause "bleed out." I have not read of anyone accidentally using a chicken feed with it in there and what effects it had on a colony of roaches/crickets/mealworms, et cetera, but I believe better safe than sorry and to warn people of it in case someone wants to use a different brand."

Quoted from hmarie186 -- 1 February 2015

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(click to enlarge)
combined efforts of Mark Finke, Ph.D. +​

Click: Mark Finke, Ph.D.'s Nutritional Analyses of Feeders chart

Click source: Nutritional Value of Commercially Raised Insects - Gecko Time - Gecko Time

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Cricket Care Guidelines
1. For 112 click: Updated Cricket Care Guidelines II -- April 2019

2. Click: Cricket Care Guidelines I -- with detailed thread

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Blaptica dubia Care & Breeding​
13 May 2020 update​

Keeping and breeding Blaptica dubia roaches is easy! All you need are several adult females and several adult males to get started. Then the following:
  • ~70ish*F (21ish*C) room
  • + a 15 watt incandescent bulb right above the dubia enclosure 24/7 winter and summer
  • 10 gallon glass enclosure with a screen top
  • 8.5 inch or 10 inch diameter Fluker's clamp lamp
  • 5 cardboard egg flats trimmed a bit so they fit standing up. Alternate the egg flats front-to-front, then back-to-back, and so on. That method creates large hiding places for your Blaptica dubia.
    • When you place the egg flats upright, roach poop falls to the bottom of the cage. :)
    • Get free egg flats from restaurants, bakeries, and WalMart. Use the clean flats.
  • FOOD
    • Keep the dry food DRY to prevent mold!
    • Provide a good dry insect diet 24/7.
    • Vitamin A acetate (retinol) is an important ingredient in the dry insect diet. Retinol can't be found in plant, vegetable, or fruit sources! Vitamin A palmitate is an ingredient of dry milk. Vitamin A palmitate is found in Cricket Crack insect food.
    • Keep finely ground Zoo Med's Natural ADULT Bearded Dragon Food, (Albers' All Purpose Poultry Feed, or Purina Layena Crumbles) in a shallow lid off to one side of the egg flats. Jif Peanut Butter lids work especially well.
    • OR: Aliza (GU's acpart) uses this already ground dry diet from "Professional Reptiles" for her insect and worm food as well as for her mealworm/superworm bedding.
    • You can feed dubia finely ground chick starter feed as long as the chick starter feed is non-medicated and does NOT contain Diatomaceous Earth!
    • Do NOT feed Blaptica dubia any type of dog, cat, puppy, or kitten food no matter how organic. Stay away from fish flakes/food as well.
    • Lay 2 layers of paper towels on top of the egg flats. Moisten the paper towels daily either by spraying the paper towels or by wetting them underneath the faucet and thoroughly squeezing out excess water.
    • To provide additional moisture add chopped high calcium, low phosphorus, veggies in a separate lid off to the side. Collard, mustard, and turnip greens, and pesticide-free dandelion greens and flowers are excellent calcium and moisture sources!
    • Add carrots for pro-formed vitamin A beta carotene.
    • Blaptica dubia give birth to live nymphs when temperatures are sufficiently warm. Females have this pointy body part called an ootheca. The babies emerge from the female's ootheca. The males "sprout" wings when they are mature. Mature dubia are way too big for most leopard geckos to eat.
    • In a room which ranges upwards from 67 F/19.5 C add either a 15 watt or 25 watt incandescent bulb inside either an 8.5 inch or a 10 inch diameter Fluker's clamp lamp/dome.
    Avoid cross contamination by not returning Blaptica dubia to the dubia enclosure if they are not eaten. They'll do fine in a leopard gecko's enclosure for a few days as long as they are contained within a feeding bowl. Add some ground dry diet to the feeding bowl.

  • "Keep Blaptica dubia around 70*F (21*C) to slow their growth (and if you do not want to breed the roaches). Eventually, if not fed off, they will grow larger than is safe for a gecko to eat.

    "At 70*F (21.1*C), a dubia's metabolism is running on reserves and they won't eat or drink very much. Somewhere between 75*F (23.9*C) and 85*F (29.4*C), they turn into eating machines. For the health of your lizards, feed Blaptica dubia wholesome, nutritious, foods that are high in moisture for 48 hours before feeding them off.

    "My breeders are kept at about 90*F (32.2*C)-95*F (35.0*C). Those seem to grow 2-3 times as fast as the ones I have set aside for feeders." [Thanks to GU's in October 2013 & January 2015]

  • "You can tell when Blaptica dubia are sexually mature simply by looking at them. When they molt past their final instar, they are sexually dimorphic- that is, the males and females have different physical characteristics. The females will develop a more noticeable orange color to their patterns, more obvious than with the nymphs, and will have tiny wing nubs. The males when mature will have full wings upon the final molt.

    "The males develop their wings immediately during the final molt. Wing size, along with general body size, can sometimes vary, so when you say the males don't seem to have the wings like males should have, they may just be smaller wings than usual. If the wings cover the length of their backs, then they're adult males.

    "I read that dubia aren't cannibalistic although it's difficult to say for sure unless someone were to test this. I know orange head roaches are cannibalistic and even readily eat live insects." [Thanks to GU's Mogey in May 2014]

  • Click this excellent link:

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Click: Hornworm Care Guidelines

illustrated by XoVictoryXo's leos Rex and Xena chowing down on hornworms

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Click: Silkworm Guidelines I

illustrated by Hilde's leos eating silkies

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Black Soldier Fly Larvae (Hermetia illucens) Care
Phoenix/calci/repti worms & NutriGrubs

chart2 (1).jpg
(click to enlarge)
(quoted from the Phoenix Worm website)​

Black soldier fly larvae (BSFL -- Hermetia illucens) are also known as Phoenix worms, reptiworms, calciworms, and NutriGrubs. They are naturally calcium-rich.

Phoenix worms, calciworms, reptiworms, and NutriGrubs have been fed differently.

Genuine Phoenix worms retain all their nutritional values and must NOT be fed. Feeding PWs would restart their digestive system; they would defecate in the cup; and soon you would have bacteria growing and dead stinky worms. Simply keep the worms in the closed cup, store in a cool location (~55*F, ~12.8*C), and feed off as needed. Keep them in a picnic cooler with a solid ice pack changed out every 12 hours.

Keep Black Soldier Fly Larvae like this:
(click to enlarge)​

For many geckos order the largest size: 3/4 inch (2 cm).

Here's how to make Phoenix worms (BSFL) more palatable:
  1. Rinse off the packing medium. A fine mesh sieve works great.
  2. Let them crawl around on a paper towel to dry, then feed. If they are dry, they will not climb.
  3. Even some of the black ones "rejuvenate" when rinsed if they are not too far gone.
  4. The darker ones are higher in calcium.
  5. Save the dead ones. They may morph into flies, which your gecko may eat.
  6. > > > Right before feeding BSFL to geckos poke 1-2 holes in each BSFL with a pin. Their skins are tough. That should help the gecko digest them.
Click: The Phoenix Worm Store Home Page

Click: Frequently Asked Questions – Phoenix Worm Store

Phoenix worm feedback:
The Phoenix worms I received 4 Nov 2015 from the online Phoenix Worm store seem to last forever! I ordered 100 Ls and 150 XSs. I fed off the Ls quite soon to several geckos, but the XS were much too small for the geckos who approved. I still have a handful of the XSs 3.5 months later! All I've done is keep them in a cool room (62-67*F, 16.7-19.4*C) and add a little water occasionally.
  • HOWEVER: The Phoenix Worm company suggests only ordering a 3 week supply.
  • Q: Should I refrigerate Phoenix Worms?
    A: NO. Phoenix Worms can tolerate high temperatures and will survive short exposure to freezing temperatures, but will have the best shelf life when stored at 50-60*F (10-15.6*C). A wine cooler or basement are great storage places, but setting the cups near an A/C vent will work just fine in the summer. Although it's possible to keep these worms alive for months when stored at 50*F (10*C), you should only order the number of worms that will be fed off within 3 weeks so your animal will have fresh food.

----------> 23 April 2018......Addendum by Zux:
"Be careful with feeding large numbers of BSFL in one sitting, particularly if the Gecko is very enthusiastic about its newfound prey.

"The outer skin on these worms can be quite tough and if consumed too quickly by an eager Gecko, and not sufficiently pierced, will not be digested effectively and either passed whole or regurgitated, neither of which you want.

"In my case, for Geckos who get too excited and wolf them down, I pierce each worm with a pin once right before feeding them off, this solves the issue.

"Good Luck !"

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Blue Bottle Fly Larvae Care
"Our choice of wriggly noms here are blue bottle fly larvae! They are waxworm sized, supplements stick to them like glue, and they are super healthy.

"You can get blue bottles cheapest from Jada Bait. Remove them from the PINE shavings they come in, rinse the PINE dust off them with warm water, and then place them in fresh, dry aspen. Store in the fridge. Do not feed them. I've had this last batch for a month or more. I order 2000 at a time and they last about 3 months.

"You can get 2 bags of 1000 for $25 shipping included."

/\ Special thanks to CWilson13, hmarie186, and to's thread for Blue Bottle Fly Larvae info......February 2015

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Peanut Beetle Breeding

Peanut Beetle larvae are good feeders for micro-geckos and/or for hatchlings!

Shared by Wally Kern:

  • Wally keeps his peanut beetles a bit differently -- mostly peanuts.
  • He says they absolutely need the shells.
  • They hate moisture of any kind.


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Bean Beetle Breeding
Added: 23 February 2019​

Bean Beetle larvae are good feeders for micro-geckos and/or for hatchlings like mourning geckos! Bean Beetles only eat dried black-eyed peas.

"Use a 32 oz deli cup with tiny holes in the lid - the type that are used for culturing fruit flies. Put about a half cup of dried black eyed peas in. Add bean beetles. Top it off with a crumpled paper towel, and wait. They don't reproduce as quickly as fruit flies. The beetles will lay eggs on the peas, then die, and the culture will look empty. But the eggs will hatch, and the larva will consume the peas, and then transform into beetles.

Keep making new cultures, and keep them someplace warm and dry; excess humidity will spoil the peas."

Herpin Man read somewhere that bean beetle larvae are more nutritious than fruit flies.

Josh's Frogs is an excellent source for bean beetle starter cultures. Check out Josh's website for more information.

Much appreciation goes to GU's Herpin Man for sharing this information!

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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#2---The Pros and Cons of Mealworms as a food for reptiles......Dr. Danny Brown

Click: The Pro's and Con's of Mealworms

Click: Welcome to Geckodan - Geckodan

The Pros and Cons of Mealworms as a food for reptiles
By Dr. Danny Brown BVSc(Hons), BSC (Hons), MACVSc (Avian Health)

"For many reptile keepers, supplying a reliably available source of live food for their insectivorous reptiles is a challenge. This means that many rely on what is available with an expectation that it is also good nutritionally. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Mealworms are the larval stage of a beetle (Tenebrio molitor). Whilst availability and ease of culture are their major advantages, they fall very short in many ways.

"The nutritional content of the average mealworm is as follows:
(find the chart in the link)

"The primary issues to consider are the lower protein levels, higher fat and appalling Calcium:phosphorus ratios. Please note that from a Ca:p point of view, crickets are no award winners either, but at least they have some things going for them.

"The ideal Ca:p ratio is 1:1.3. The reason we get so hung up on Ca:p ratios is that the body determines how much calcium it needs to absorb based on phosphorus levels in the blood. In a situation like we see in the mealworm, not only is very little calcium available, but the body is tricked into thinking it doesn’t need it by the gross imbalance of phosphorus.

"There are ways that we can attempt to improve calcium levels, but we can’t reduce phosphorus levels. Dusting of the mealworms with calcium powder prior to feeding is not terribly efficient as the shiny
exoskeleton does not hold a lot of it for any length of time.

"Gut loading (or feeding calcium to the mealworm prior to feeding it to the animal) has its limitations. Primarily, the higher the calcium content of the “gut load”, the more unpalatable (and often metabolically toxic) it is to the mealworm. Secondly, the gut size of a mealworm is such that improvements are at best marginal.

"How the mealworm is bred also has its issues.

FOOD %PROT %FAT Ca Phos Ca:p ratio

mealworm 20-22.3 12-14.9 133ppm 3345ppm 1:25
cricket 55.3 6 345ppm 4238ppm 1:12

"Phytic acid or cereal phytates are concentrated in the aleurone layer of the seed coat of all cereal grains. This is third outermost layer of the seed coat (2nd is the testa, 1st is the pericarp). These three layers are what makes up the product we know as bran once processed. Cereal phytates have the property of being able to immobilise dietary calcium and magnesium i.e the phytates bind to calcium and magnesium and form insoluble complexes that are not readily absorbed. Calcium is therefore not removed from the reptiles body, BUT it is prevented from entering the reptiles body in the first place. When we consider that mealworms are very low in calcium in the first place it is safe to consider that virtually none of this will be available to the reptile if the mealworm also has a gutful of phytate rich cereal bran when it is fed to your reptiles. Not all cereal grains have the same level of phytates in their aleurone. The highest levels are found in oats, followed by barley, rye, wheat and lastly millets.

"In order to feed our mealworms (and maggot cultures) on a substrate that has reduced phytate levels is to therefore prudent to use a cereal based product not made from the seed coat. Two products are recommended. Pollard (or wheat fines) are processed from the endosperm (the starchy central part of wheat) and therefore have significantly reduced phytate level. The disadvantage of pollard is that many manufacturers produce it very fine which makes it (in my hands) too “gluggy” for maggot substrate, BUT excellent for mealworms as it is easier to sieve. In addition, on a personal note, I do not suffer from hay fever when working with pollard, but I most certainly do with bran. Some manufacturers produce a coarse pollard which is excellent for both purposes. Mill Run is an alternative product which has a coarseness suitable for both maggots and mealworms. It is made up of coarser pollard with remnants of bran. I use it by preference as its texture is always ideal for maggots, it has about 6% more protein than bran (which is essential protein for use by the mealworms or maggots), and it doesn’t flare up my hay fever.

"In addition to the calcium issues, the high fat content of mealworms has obvious disadvantages.

"The tough exoskeleton of the mealworm can be difficult to digest and impactions of the gut from undigested mealworm skins is not uncommon. This can be partly alleviated by only feeding very small mealworms or by feeding “white” (freshly shed) mealworms.

My usual recommendation is that mealworms should comprise no more than 10% of the diet and that it is better to feed them smaller rather than larger."
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#3---The "Science" of Breeding Mealworms

Click, then scroll to posts 35 ~~~> 41+ for Jeff's multiple drawer setup "in progress": [thanks to swisswiss/Jeff]

More thanks to JessJohnson87 for this contribution:
  • "I'll probably get another tub once the babies start getting bigger to house the adult worms and pupae in. The beetles will eat the pupae and not let them morph into beetles...."
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#4---Mealworm Tips......GU's Spotted Dragon -- 8 March 2019

"A little late for this hatch, but have you considered raising your own mealworms and/or dubia?

"I raise literally thousands of mealworms for cheap. (I use Professional Reptiles' Pro Gutload dry diet for the geckos' supply of worms and oats for the rest of the colony since chickens don't need to worry about calcium/phosphorous ratios.) That way I have all sizes from barely large enough to see (small enough that I can feed them to my betta fish) to giant. Once you have beetles to lay eggs it takes about 7-30 days for the eggs to hatch, then 1-2 months for them to get large enough to be of use, 3-5 months to reach 'large' stage, and 5 to 7 months to be 'giant', after which they pupate and become beetles. (This is a much faster process in warmer temperatures.)

"I've not tried raising dubia, but I'm sure it would work the same since you'd have all life stages. I'm not sure how small the nymphs are though. Good luck with your hatchlings!"
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