Did you know that crickets are one of the main feeder insects for reptiles? They’re loaded with vitamins and minerals, and reptiles love them!
In short, they contain all the yummy goodness your reptile pet needs to stay healthy and strong. The good news is they’re sold in almost all pet stores, as well as online.
The problem is that many of these crickets die as soon as you bring them home.
Many reptile owners are asking, “Why are my crickets dying so quickly?” and “What can I do to keep them alive a bit longer?”
Having dealt with different types of pets all my life, I know how frustrating it can be. So I decided to dedicate this post to all you reptile lovers out there.
Keep reading to find out possible reasons why your feeder crickets are dying and what you can do to prevent it.
Most cricket feeders sold in stores are known to scientists as Acheta domesticus. To the rest of us, they’re simply known as ‘domestic crickets.’
Domestic crickets have a passive, mild demeanor that makes them easier to manage. They’re considered better feeders than their wild counterparts because they contain more protein.
Yet, they’re pretty fragile and have a short lifespan. This increases their risk of dying off once you bring them home from the pet store.
Below, you’ll find several reasons why they’re dying so quickly. I’ll also share some tips to help you keep them alive for as long as you need them.
Here are some points to consider when buying feeder crickets for your reptile.
The first tip I’ll share with you is to stop thinking of these poor creatures as mere food for your pet. They’re living creatures that require at least some form of basic care, like eating.
You need them in good health until you feed them to your pet. This means you have to feed them as well.
The problem is that people usually put out small amounts for the crickets. Some don’t even bother.
I know it seems like it’s the last thing you want to think about, but it’ll be worth it in the end.
Providing food for your crickets is actually pretty easy. Ask the same pet store where you got the crickets.They should sell some. Many even offer special food mixes that contain a blend of the following:
- Dog food crumbs
- Turtle food
- Fish food
- A sprinkle of oatmeal
Crickets don’t just need a proper diet to survive; they also need to stay hydrated.
If they go more than a day without water, their bodies will begin to break down.
One way to provide them with proper hydration is by soaking kitchen paper towels with water. Then, bunch them up and put them in the corners.
When the crickets get thirsty, they can use them to drink. Paper towels also make great bedding for their enclosures.
A nice alternative is to provide the crickets with fresh fruit, like pears, oranges, and apples. They don’t ferment as rapidly as other types of fruit. Plus, they’re juicy and delicious.
If any of the fruits go bad, remove them immediately before they make the crickets sick.
In addition, some people feed their crickets cubed vegetables. A few great options include cooked carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash.
Another way to give your crickets the hydration they need is to give them a combo food/drink product. These products offer crickets a nourishing diet.
They almost always contain essential nutrients including the following:
- Brewer’s yeast
- Calcium carbonate
- Vitamins E, A, D3, and B12
I mentioned how important it is to keep crickets well-hydrated. Unfortunately, crickets aren’t intelligent creatures nor are they good swimmers.
The first thing they’ll do as soon as they see a water bowl is to drown themselves.
If you decide not to use a water bowl, great! Use some of the methods we mentioned above to keep them hydrated and prevent them from drowning.
If you’re adamant about using a water bowl, make sure you pick something small and shallow. Fill it with about 1/4-inch water.
The main cause of crickets drowning is that they can’t crawl back out of the bowl and keep falling back in.
You can add small pebbles or cut up a piece of soft sponge and place it inside the water bowl. This way, if they do get stuck, they can use it to climb out.
Are your crickets jumping out of their containers? Then, you need to get an enclosure with a screen mesh cover.
A cheaper alternative is to cover the opening with a nylon stocking.
Stretch the stocking between the top of the container and lid to keep it in place. It’ll boost proper airflow and prevent crickets from hopping out.
Remember that crickets are nocturnal. So, during the day, they’ll usually seek shelter in a nice, dark corner to burrow in and stay hidden out of sight.
The average cricket has a lifespan of about 8 – 10 weeks, provided the conditions are right. They mature into adults at about week five or six.
By the time you buy them, they’re already halfway through their life cycle.
Try this the next time you buy crickets: go for the small or medium sizes. They’ll live for a few more weeks longer than the large-sized crickets.
Plus, medium crickets will mature into large ones within one or two weeks anyway.
If you prefer buying them in bulk, buy several hundred from each size. This way, you can keep using them as they mature. The best part is they won’t die as rapidly as when you buy them all the same size.
Crickets are small insects that are easily prone to many illnesses. Not to mention that these tiny insects are usually just thrown in together by the hundreds.
So, what happens if you place one sick cricket in the same container as healthy ones? They’ll all become sick within a matter of hours!
What’s even sadder is that if you discover a sick cricket among the bunch, there’s no way to nurse it back to health. Your best bet is to throw it out to avoid contaminating the others.
Two questions come to mind: how can you tell when a cricket is sick? And how can you avoid sick crickets?
One way to tell a cricket is sick is by the way it sort of hobbles rather than walks. Also, they won’t be able to jump quite right, if at all. Other times, you may notice some type of goo on their mouths.
To answer the second question: the best thing I can think of is to buy your crickets in small amounts. A medium-sized box of about 50 to 100 crickets is pretty reasonable.
It’s worth mentioning that you should only buy crickets from a well-known pet store chain. If there are any local pet shops known for selling reliable products, then, by all means, buy from them.
Another valuable tip is to keep the enclosure clean. Remove damp feed, dead crickets, and other wastes as soon as you can to help prevent crickets from getting sick.
It’s also essential that you maintain a clean enclosure and routinely replace old bedding. Plus, a clean cricket enclosure means fewer bad odors, which definitely makes up for all the hard work.
Yes, we know crickets aren’t your actual pets, so why bother keeping their enclosures clean, right?
Well, you’d actually be doing it to make sure your pet reptile has a healthy, wholesome diet.
If waste and food leftover by crickets aren’t cleaned up daily, they break down into toxic ammonia gas. In addition to wastes and food remains, dead crickets are another source of ammonia.
Even if they’re exposed to it for one day, it can make the tiny insects sick, which, in turn, will make your reptile sick. The worst thing that can happen is that, over time, ammonia gas will suffocate and kill the crickets.
The solution is to clean their enclosures no less than three times a month. Plus, try to change the bedding every 3 – 4 days.
Remove any damp or dirty food mixtures. More importantly, remove dead crickets as soon as you notice them.
Another vital tip is to place the enclosure in a place with ample ventilation.
Make sure the enclosure has a screen top to allow for proper airflow. You can also set up a small fan to create a gentle breeze across the top of the enclosure.
The temperature of their enclosure is another crucial point to factor in when you buy crickets. For best results, keep it anywhere between 75℉ and 90℉.
Anything below 75℉ will cause them to become lethargic and sluggish. It can ultimately result in their untimely death.
On the flip side, temperatures over 90℉ affect their health and could shorten their lifespan.
Also, try not to overcrowd the crickets. A proper set-up would be placing anywhere from 100 to 500 crickets in a 10-gallon tank.
Humidity is another factor to keep in mind. Ideal humidity levels should be between 50% and 70%.
Crickets thrive in hot and dry areas. If their enclosures are humid, they’ll develop entomopathogenic fungal infections. As a result, they’ll become sick and die.
One way to prevent that from happening is to keep their enclosures well-ventilated.
Moreover, make sure you cover the enclosure with a mesh screen or nylon stocking. This will help boost airflow and prevent humidity levels from rising.
A nice alternative is to use an indoor dehumidifier. It’s a great tool that helps fight humidity build-up.
Desiccants are another option to help you control humidity levels within cricket enclosures.
For a more natural approach, you can place potato wedges in the corners of the enclosure. Potatoes are known to absorb extra moisture and humidity from the atmosphere.
Another idea is to put a lot of dry egg cartons over the bedding. The cartons will help decrease humidity levels and soak up any extra moisture.
No, you should never feed your reptiles dead insects. They can make them extremely sick and can even be fatal.
How? Dead insects harbor parasites and different types of bacteria that can be harmful to your pet.
The only safe ‘dead’ insects are those that have been freeze-dried or canned. These are made by killing and processing live, healthy crickets. They’re completely safe and don’t come with any health risks. Plus, let’s be honest, they’re much more convenient than dealing with live prey.
The problem is that they’re not as nutritious as live crickets. Not only that, but they don’t contain the right amount of moisture content found in live insects.
So, it’s best to stick with live food sources. These alternatives should only be used sparingly or in emergencies.
Once your crickets are dead, the easiest thing to do is to throw them in the garbage.
However, if you’ve got the time and the inclination, why not offer them to other insects as a healthy snack? All you have to do is dig a small hole in your yard and bury the dead crickets.
As they decompose, they’ll start producing fungi, bacteria, and algae. These microorganisms provide a well-balanced diet for a wide variety of insects, including:
- Beetle larva
- King worms
After reading my post, you’re now fully qualified to answer the question: why are my crickets dying?
You understand the various causes of their deaths and what to do to avoid each one. You also know the best available options are and what alternatives you should take.
Treat your crickets as living creatures that need food, water, and a decent shelter to live. In return, they’ll pay you back by not dying before you’ve had a chance to feed them to your pet.
I have a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house. Growing up, I had pet dogs, cats, deer, sugar gliders, chinchillas, a bird, chickens, fish, and a goat.