How To Start a Dubia Roach Colony?
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Dubia roaches are one of the most common feeder insects for a number of reasons. They are nutritious, they have a thin exoskeleton, and they do not stink nearly as much as crickets or other roaches. Further, dubia roaches range form ⅛ of an inch, all the way to large 2-inch adults. And these are just a few of the reasons why reptile owners buy dubia roaches as feeder insects. But, if you're open-minded, and feeling adventurous, starting a dubia roach colony will allow you to feed almost any sized insectivore, whether it be a reptile, amphibian, or arachnid!
Sexing Dubia Roaches
Before you can set up a colony to start reproducing, you need to learn how to distinguish dubia roaches by both age and sex. Juvenile roaches are easy to spot because they are considerably smaller than adults. Plus, all cockroaches show incomplete metamorphosis. This means that the juveniles, or nymphs, have no wings or reproductive organs. If wings are present, the roach is a mature adult!
Start by separating all the winged adults into a separate container. From here, it is relatively easy to tell between males and females. Males have long wings which entirely cover their abdomen, as seen in the image below.
Females, on the other hand, have tiny, vestigial wings. These wings are only about ¼ of the roach’s total length, leaving a large portion of the female’s abdomen uncovered. This simple wing observation is all you need to separate males and females!
In a new container that you will use as a breeding colony, place 5 females and a single male. If you want to start a much larger colony, simply use a bigger container and add males in this same ratio, or 5 females to every 1 male. This ratio ensures that there won’t be fierce competition or fighting between the males.
Set up a Colony!
Cockroaches can be raised in almost any container, as long as they have room to spread out and not trample each other. Most breeders prefer large Rubbermaid containers, while others prefer glass terrariums. Most importantly, you want to keep your roaches in a dark place with only a little exposure to light. Translucent housing, such a glass terrarium, must have plenty of hiding spaces for roaches to get away from the light.
Many breeders prefer a colored, opaque plastic box. If you have children or pets, you will want to put a lid on the container. However, dubia roaches are terrible climbers and cannot use their wings to fly. So, if your container is in a dark space without light, pets, or children, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about a lid. Roaches will be able to climb surfaces such as wood or brick, so it is not recommended to make your container out of these materials. Glass or plastic is best.
Temperature and Humidity
Dubia roaches like it hot, and humid! They are a tropical species of roach, occurring naturally on many Caribbean islands. As such, they prefer a temperature of at least 85 degrees Fahrenheit. You may need to purchase a heating pad and apply it to the bottom of the container to reach these temperatures consistently. Dubia roaches will not breed reliably below these temperatures. But remember, as you raise the temperature, you will have to add moisture to keep the humidity consistent.
Dubia roaches prefer the humidity to be around 60%. If the humidity is too low, you may need to add a humidifier to the container to keep it high. Dubia roaches will not be able to molt properly at lower humidities, and lower humidity promotes the creation of potentially allergenic dust.
Substate and Hiding Places
These roaches can be raised without a substate, but a good substrate can increase the health and quality of your breeding colony. Most commonly, roach breeders use coconut fibers which have been saturated with water. This also ensures that the humidity will stay relatively high. Be careful not to use any cedarwood, which can be toxic.
Your roaches will also need a good place to hide. The classic choice is egg cartons, which you can get for free just by saving them when you buy eggs. The cartons provide ample surface area for many roaches to hide. If you stack them so they overlap slightly, you can build a large egg carton structure and provide much more room for your roaches to spread out. The carton material is also good at retaining moisture, which will help your roaches molt properly. You can also use cardboard, toilet paper tubes, or just about any type of carboard waste to provide hides for your roaches.
Dubia roaches are a much more fruit-focused species compared to other roaches. They love fruits of almost every kind including apples, bananas, cherries, and oranges. They will also eat many other kinds of plants, from leafy greens to avocados. You can also supplement the protein in their diet by giving them a grain-based, dry dog or cat food. If your females are not producing babies. This is a great way to supplement them with plenty of protein to produce eggs.
Problem-Solving Your Dubia Roach Colony
If you have followed all of the suggestions in this article, you should see baby nymph roaches after about 1 month. The nymphs will be around ⅛ of an inch at birth and will be a white color until their exoskeleton hardens. Females are ovoviviparous, meaning they give live birth to 20+ nymphs after storing an egg sac within their abdomen for a month.
After 4-6 months, your nymphs will have gone through around 7 molts to become sexually mature adults. These adults will be about 1 ½ inches long, and adult roaches can live for a year and a half producing new babies.
If you have not seen babies after a month, there are several important aspects of your colony you must check. First, check the temperature, humidity, and lighting. Dubia roaches need it to be over 85 degrees, over 60% humidity, and they should be kept on a 12 hour light cycle. While the cycle of light is important, it is also important that the roaches have plenty of places to hide during the daylight hours. If none of these strategies work, try giving your roaches a wider variety of food, as they may have a nutritional deficiency preventing them from breeding.
If you follow all of the instructions in this article, you should have no problem creating a sustainable, healthy colony of dubia roaches to feed to your bearded dragon, leopard gecko, or other insectivorous pet! Good luck!