Crickets are dying off

Hello - I have started breeding crickets (acheta domestica) and trying to do it in a larger quantity but having some issues.

We keep them in larger totes (30 gallon) and we usually place 20,000 pinheads in each tote. We noticed that as they grew they were dying off so we reduce the number down to 5,000 per tote. Now that we have less in each tote we still don't see them growing much. They tend to get to their 4th instar and then they start dying off.

The are watered using a chick waterer and we use chick starter (ground up). Temps are at or near 27C.

We disinfect each tote after each use with bleach and water.

If anyone can help would greatly appreciate it.

Comments

  • Hi jgonzalez, - Although I don't rear crickets the following may give you some leads while awaiting more expert advice.

    I wonder if the dying ones are mostly females. Looking at the Acheta domesticus body through their 3rd instar it's conformation is like a cylinder.

    Females' in the 4th instar get an oval shaped abdomen, preparatory to developing their ovipositor which then shows in the next instar. Your recognized die off phase coincides with some developmental changes that involve insect hormonal ratio shifts.

    In Clifford & Roe's (1977) "Rearing methods for obtaining house crickets, Acheta domesticus, of know age, sex, and instar", the team reported that (Quote): "... crickets older than the 4th instar are no longer so susceptible to dessication and, in fact, do better if the humidity is not too high ...." Which brings up the question of whether your breed line of females in their 4th instar are coping with a humidity issue.

  • thanks gringojay. i will have to check them cause not sure.

  • Hi jgonzalez - did you manage to solve the problem and if so what was the cause

  • edited October 8

    Thanx for this response, pal!

  • Hello, I'm breeding crickets, got Gryllodes sigillatus which is quite common over here. I don't get what's the true reason of their disease, they start to move weird and kinda paralyzed. All them are nymphs less than 1 cm (quite few are pre adult nymphs and look to be ok), and are about the 10% of this colony. At a glance must be 200 individuals in a 60x40 plastic box The past generation haven't observed this disease, maybe because they were less than what I have now? Conditions are all the same, temps range from 21°c 26°c. I fed them raw veggies and lab rats food, clean them 1 or 2 times per week with a small vacuum cleaner

  • Hi Maximus, - My response has to be hypothetical. Although based on the way G. sigillatus was promoted as an alternative to house cricket A. domesticus colony susceptability to virus the following may make sense.

    Bacillus thuringiensis ("Bt") form spores & can be introduced into insect environments with food, since Bt is naturally occuring. This (Bt) has occurred in silkworm farming & other; however not in G. sigillatus projects that I have heard of.

    B. thuringiensis bacteria are not all the same in regards to their insect toxin ("Cry"). There are 70 different forms of this "Cry" toxin & I wonder if you have unfortunately encountered a Bt variety with the genes for a Cry toxin that G. sigillatus are not immune to.

    The spores of "Bt" can live for a long time. You can find it not only in the soil, but also on leaves. If it kills an insect then the bug cadaver can carry it.

    My question relared to the above is: what do you know about the raw veggies that you fed the colony?

  • Well, i gave spinach and fresh lettuce, sometimes raw brócoli and peas. I just rinse them with water. I found a pair of crickets past week with that simptoms, just removed them. There is a way to detect if it's BT? However none of my older gen of crickets (now adults) got this simptoms

  • edited November 8

    Hi Maximus, - Determining Bt is quite involved. The following (2010) report is available on-line in 2 free formats: "The detection of Bacillus thuringiensis in mass rearing of Cactoblastis cactorum ...."

    Authors believe their contamination came from "ground bean flour". The resultant "gut paralysis" caused their bug to stop eating with vulnerability extending to 4th instars.

    Technically, merely having a Bt "Cry" toxin bind to mid-gut epithelial cells is not what does the damage; that water soluble protein toxin must undergo conformational change (oligomer-ization). Then the toxin form causes pores to form in any afflicted cell(s) leading to lysis (breaking open) of cellular contents (this causes the "sepsis" contamination which report's authors mention). So if not too many toxin oligomers are formed the degree of disgorged cellular contents is low enough for the bug to overcome sepsis (in humans sepsis is also a life threatening condition).

    Depending on the level of report's experimental exposure (in spores/square cm) either all died or only half died. Inside the gut Bt can replicate, but it does not always reach the phase allowing it (Bt) to replicate inside before killing it's host.

    If the host dies and Bt has sporolated then via spores it can spread. However, if only vegetative phase Bt cells are involved there is "no impact on healthy" members of the colony.

    An answer to your "way to detect Bt" is possibly (?) found in authors' observation that their bugs showed unusually dark melanin coloration. Melanin is produced by insects as part of their immune system response & if your suspicious crickets are unusually dark for their age it means they are fighting something.

    While on the subject I think should mention (in case not commonly known) that Bacillus thuringiensis is commercially available as a "natural" insect control gardeners can spray on their crops. Possibly your veggies were dosed recently with some Bt; insecticidal sprays always involve a surficant to prolong clinging to keep active ingredient in place.

  • Thanks for the info, however the nymphs were very clear pigmentation. If I got time would be interesting working on that microbiological essay to detect BT. In other times old crickets became darker especially on articulations many times lost segments or entire limb.

  • Hi Maximus, - There are other insecticidal compounds. Another popular "natural" insecticide is Neem tree seed oil extract azadirachtin.

    Do you know the veggies' source - market place or grower? In theory there are time restrictions on how soon after insecticidal use the produce can be harvested for human consumption.

    Broccoli is a commercial crop that many spray with anti-feedant compounds to keep bugs from eating the plant. The flower head configuration is not something you scrub & concievably there might have been traces of insecticide legally non-toxic to humans, but levels (part per million) young bug bodies had problems dealing with.

  • I suspended raw veggies for now, i remember too last thing i gave was some fresh corn grains. Veggies come from supermarket, dunno much about its treatment. At least havent noticed more casualities until now. By the way, i have another hypothesis... maybe have something to do with the fact that this generation came from incest? Wonder if incest causes recesive genes to be expressed, the same with inbreeding, but at the same time it could reinforce some strenghts on this poblation.

  • edited November 30

    Hello again someone breeding crickets have noticed this ? What can cause this on its tails and cerci, almost all of them showing this signs just simply go to a moist or water surface and just stay there until death comes. https://imgur.com/a/5ufBq

  • edited December 3

    My primary suspect is Serratia marcescens (there are pigmented & non-pigmented variety) whose infections are long known yo be common in lab reared insect operations. They have flagella (can "swim") & can grow on starch.

    Humans also have problems concerning Serratia marcenscens. Among other issues it can go for our urinary tract.

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