How to Feed Crickets

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Guide to Feeding Crickets

Crickets will require differing feeding regimes depending on the phase of their life cycle. The types of food presented to them will also depend upon their final use, the keeper’s budget, their age, and certain aesthetic parameters.

Adult crickets order in bulk are easy to keep alive.  They will thrive on both prepared rations and food scraps. The keeper feeding crickets to pets will need to manage a gutloading vs daily maintenance equation. 

Daily Maintenance for cricket colony

Daily maintenance of a colony of adults can be done with a varied diet of dry foods. Cricket chows are clean and convenient, but can be pricey.  Other dry foods such a dog or cat kibble are choices that will offer plenty of protein and are more cost effective that bagged cricket food. A very cost effective strategy is the use of chicken feed.  A decent chick starter formula will cost around 40 cents per pound, whereas a formulated dry cricket food will cost around $2.00 per pound.  So for daily maintenance of adults who are not going to be fed out within the next 24 hours, a dry ration of pet food is cheap and convenient. 

Gut Load your feeder crickets

Crickets that are destined to be dinner shortly should be gut-loaded with items that are not just high in protein, but other macro and micro nutrients as well. These unlucky individuals should be placed in a separate feeding container and provided with a gut load that includes calcium, and essential vitamins. Foods with vitamin C, D3, and B complex are needed in a gutload, not for the cricket’s sake, but for the pet’s sake. 

Leafy greens should be offered, along with a yellow vegetable. For really busy people who want to stick to a dry feed, chicken starter mixed with a good gutload formulation and supplemented with a smidgeon of dried pumpkin powder or paprika will help to stretch the feeder budget while providing all the necessary ingredients. Egg shells ground into a very fine powder in the blender or food processor can supplement the available calcium in the prepared dry food if it is not a calcium supplemented formulation.

Crickets will certainly do very well on all sorts of table scraps. The rationale behind offering a dry ration instead boils down to two things, convenience and odor. Temperature and humidity will affect odor.

Cricket Habitat Humidity

Crickets that are not emerging from eggs, and females that do not need a moist substrate to lay eggs in do fine in a humidity of around 40% . That isn’t terribly high, but when combined with temperatures of 80-90 F that they prefer, food scraps can go bad fast. Nymphs need even more heat and humidity than adults, so their habitat can become foul very quickly.

Don't Let Food Get Moldy

Moist foods in the container that are not cleaned away and replaced daily will go bad pretty quickly. Some lazy keepers have even sadly reported feeding bacteria infected bugs to their pets and making them sick. Feeder crickets presented with a dry gut load do not run the risk of this. They will need water in some form, such as a damp sponge, paper towel, or water gel. 

Stay at home DYI keepers can choose from a huge assortment of moist food stuff if that is the route they choose. Candidates for a moist gut load include the following items (and there are even more).

  • Dandelion greens
  • Kale
  • Water cress
  • Collards
  • beet greens 
  • Berries
  • Mulberry leaves
  • Grape leaves
  • Carrots
  • Red pepper
  • Bee pollen
  • Mushroom powders
  • Chia, flax, hemp seeds
  • Spirulina
  • Dried Kelp Powder
  • Pumpkin rinds
  • Butternut Squash
  • Turmeric
  • Paprika

Some of these ingredients will just be hanging around in the refrigerator; others are more specialized and will need to be ordered and measured out sparingly. For instance, one tablespoon of spirulina provides…

  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 11% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 15% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin): 4% of the RDA

The percentages are for human diets and just included here to provide a reference as to relative quantities. One pound of spirulina costs about $11 and should last all year for most hobbyists. So a dash of spirulina mixed with well ground Quaker oats and a little bit of eggshell makes a complete accompaniment to the moist items listed above. 

When to avoid calcium in crickets

If feeding the crickets to other insect pets such as tarantulas and emperor scorpions, avoid added calcium. They don’t need very much due to their exoskeletons and too much can actually be harmful. So what you gut load your feeder crickets with just before offering them to a pet will depend on the kind of pet that is on the receiving end of the meal. 

Protein for Young Crickets

Hatchling crickets are voracious. They need plenty of protein to mature at their best rate. Rice cereal, wheat germ, alfalfa seeds are all convenient and appropriate food items. These dry foods definitely mean that water must be offered. However, cricket nymphs drown incredibly easily in less than a single droplet of water. A piece of apple or potato that is very fresh can serve as a drinker, as well as a soaked cotton ball.  

As the cricket colony matures, an odor will become detectable. Some of it may be rotting vegetation, and some of it may be frass.  Frass is the term for cricket poop. Crickets themselves do not smell regardless of what they eat.  Their poop however, is another matter.  Also, dead crickets will decompose and smell bad very quickly as well. It is this odor, which can become incredibly strong and disgusting in as little as one week of neglect, that argues in favor of a dry ration for people who are too busy to sanitize their cricket colony daily. 

Change substrate daily

With large collections of 1,000 or so crickets, the substrate needs to be changed daily. All food items and dead crickets need to be removed. Crickets will eat each other and their own dead, which may contain bacteria, so that is another good reason for food and excrement management.

Pregnant female breeding crickets will require protein above the quantities required by non-breeding feeder insects on a maintenance diet.  For those, a dietary protein allotment of 20-22% protein is sufficient. Egg-laying females need to be offered a ration that contains ½ as much in the way of carbohydrates and twice as much protein. This can be accomplished by withholding all vegetables except those needed for moisture, and doubling the amount of protein powder, such as the spirulina mentioned above, in the provided dry ration.

In a pinch, a high quality cat kibble such as Diamond Naturals Chicken and Rice Formula at 40% protein content will do. Any pelleted food will need to be crushed a little to allow the hungry future mothers easy access. Females will need to be removed from the breeding area after one week. If they have laid their eggs, they will die after about two weeks, contributing to odor and the potential for disease in the hatching container. 

Understanding cricket nutrition takes a little work, as will finding the right combination of cost, complete ration formulation depending on the crickets’ age and use, convenience, and sanitation. Once a routine is established, they are not that hard to raise and maintain.

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