Raising Roaches
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Generally speaking, running a colony of roaches isn’t too difficult, some species might require more attention than other, Macropanesthia rhinoceros as an example, some others really keep up with their fame of being pest bugs requiring very little care and breeding. Just to name one of the most common species among keepers is Nauphoeta cinerea, a real roches making machine.
True is that talking about roaches leads our mind to the the idea of pests, our home infested by them, but out of almost 4000 known species barely 20 are the real plague and of those only few of them are wiely spread and concern, Blattella germanica, Periplaneta americana, Supella longipalpa (S. supellectilium) and Blatta orientalis. Is a fact that these species are carriers of pathogens such as salmonella and staphylococcus, a real health hazard, if we see them in our house, we’d better call an exterminator to get rid of them, let’s just focus of tropical ones that have been captive breed for decades, therefore, safe for our health.

However, keep in mind that some of the tropical species produce allergens as well, escrements (frass) and molth (skins) soon become part of the environmental dust, some breeders found to have allergic reactions to Blaptica dubia, I can confirm that cleaning dubias enclosure afterward results in an unpleasant itchy sensation and runny nose/eyes allergic reaction, I haven’t had any reaction with other species. Something to keep in mind wherever we decide to breed roaches in our home.

container_big.jpgMoving back on to the topic of this article, in order to raise roaches we need the proper enclosure to house them. Nothin comes better than those plastic tubs commonly found at Wallmart ot Target, they are cheap and come in different size. A colony of Gromphadorhina portentosa requires a larger enclosure compare to Blatta lateralis, aside the difference in size of the two species, G. portentosa‘s males are more territorial, they conquer a space, attract females and keep away less combative opponents, therefore the importance to provide enough space is critical in thery case.

Plastic container can be either semi-transparent or completely opaque, some species are nocturnal, they like dark and quite places, this will drive the choice torward one or the other kind, if we can’t house them in a dark place an opaque container is preferred and vice versa. Almost mandatory is the use of a lid, some species are climbers, they can easely climb glass and plastic while other cannot, anyway a good lid will keep our climber roaches inside and at the same time outside predators away (spiders, centipedes etc.) Not always a good lid can stop them from escape, roaches can squeeze in incredibly small spaces , in this case as an addition to the lid we can smear a 2 inches wide layer of petroleum jelly all along the inside border of the container, just an inch below the top edge, roaches will not be able to pass this barrier and desist from escape. In my case I hace some containers housing climbers without any lid, the petroleoum jelly keeps them inside and in many years I haven’t had any escape from the enclosures.

We should cut a hole on the lid or on the side of the box to ensure adeguate ventilation, with the help of a hotglue gun we place a piece of metal mosquito net on the hole. Air circulation is essential, we lower the chance to develope mold and mites. If we notice that condensation is forming on the inside of the container probably the hole we made does not provide enough circulation, in this case another hole should be made on the opposite side of the box.

Egg flats are the best solution to provide our roaches a shelter, also they increase the internal surface area, placed in vertical position, with alternate sides close to each other, this way they won’t collapse and will be easier to change when too dirty or ruined. About 1/3 of the container should be left empty, we are gonna place a shallow container with food. Water should be in a form that will not be directly accessible from the roaches otherwise some of them could drown, we could use water cristals or a bird fountain drinker with a cotton ball inside the opening, in this way the cotton absorbs water and roaches can safely drink it from it.

Roaches eat pretty much whatever we throw at them, but most likely we raise our colony as feeder insect for our beraded dragons or geckos for instance, in this case we should considering a proper nutritional diet, if our roahces eat well so do our lizards!

We can prepare a food mix ourselves, usually some bran, red and white, crashed otas, dry cat food or koi carps fish food, it’s a good selection, we could also integrate some powder milk and a little bit of dry yeast, in some cases also vitamins and D3 calcium carbonate, many breeders have their own secret recipe. Roaches love fresh veggies as well, usually no more than 3-4 times a week, never let uneaten vegetables sit in the enclosure for too long otherwise the decaying matter soon will develope mold, if the colony has not consumed the previous carrot mean it’s no time for a new piece, we remove the old one and wait a couple of days or more before feed more fresh veggies. Carrots, apples, oranges, green beans, watermelons, collard greens, potatoes ect. are among their favorites, do not feed herbs like parsley, basil or sage, some herbs are toxic to insects and other transmit their flavor to the roach, I don’t think you beardy would enjoy a spicy roach for dinner.

So far we got our container, we set some egflats, food and water, anything else? Well, since our roaches are tropical species we should make them feel at home, nothing is better than a quite and warm place. That’s right, warmth, a key factor to succed in our colony, in fact difference in tempereture can quite drive our colony to success or total failure. As mentioned above roaches can breed a lot, but only with the right temps. The optimal range is something in between 80F and 95F (26C and 35C), the lowest the temp the slower their activity (breeding, eating, running), it is true the other way. We can control how fast our colony will grow, raising temps to 95F (35C) will speed up breeding while at 72-75F (22-24C) there is a clearly drop in newborn. I noticed in my experiance that some species, like Blaptica dubia, breed faster at high temps but this would over stress the insects, as results, in a long run, more egg cases are dropped by female before complete incubation.

Temperatures below 70F (21C) for too long can cause death, this is way we should not fear to have our house infested by tropical roaches, they just cannot survived outside their enclosure, unless of course we live in areas wehere temperatures are constantly in the high range. Just as a reminder, in some states, like Florida and Hawaii some species are forbidden (i.e. Gromphadorhina portentosa).

In conclusion, we should by now have enough material to start our colony of roaches, if we intend to breed them as feeders our choice will porbably be either Nauphoeta cinerea, Blatta Lateralis (Shelfordella Lateralis) or Blaptica Dubia. All great breeders and feeders, is wise to invest in about 50/100 adults, this way a good colony is estabilished in a couple of months, ready to be feed to reptiles and anfibians.

Monday July 31st 2006, 5:33 pm Filed under: Raising roaches

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