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Let me introduce what going on. I breed lots of insects, especially roaches since they‘re easy and hardy. I feed my insects potatoes bought from a bodega, sometimes carrots or sweet potatoes. For the mealworms and other darkling beetles I use what bran as their substrate, and the mealworms and superworms have a bunch of styrofoam too. I usually don’t use a substrate for crickets or roaches, making cleanup easier and easier to see the insects. I started breeding crickets and mealworms with carrots and my first batch of mealworms we’re doing great and I got maybe a hundred or so beetles and a few deformed ones sometimes, but it wasn’t a problem. The crickets didn’t seem to ever do any good, with or without vermiculite and within a week or two most died off. I didn’t clean the containers often but even doing it seemed to not help. This was in August, September, October, November 2018.
Now, the second generation of mealworms, very plentiful, along with the subsequent batches have almost NEVER pupate correctly. They always either slowly turned brown, were almost stuck in their shell even though they locked ready to hatch, or (very rarely) hatch correctly. Even with higher humidity, lower humidity, winter temperatures a bit below room temperature, summer temperatures a bit above room temp, in their own separate pupation chambers, clustered together, left alone, and with or without Substrate to pupate on, maybe 2 or 3 out of a few hundred in the last several months since late autumn 2018 all the way to now in July. They also are pretty slow and don’t move much, though that might be since they’re getting ready to pupate so I don’t know. The issue seemed to coincide with feeding them potatoes instead of carrots (I did it since potatoes are larger with a larger surface area, keep moisture well enough, and much easier to cut). They are getting to pupation stage, so clustering of mealworms doesn’t prevent pupation like the superworms, but they all develop incorrectly and die. At first I thought it could be humidity, but it hasn’t changed even as the temperature increased or I put them in a wet bin with paper towels. I have a suspect feeling it could be pesticides in the potatoes I‘m feeding them, though I haven’t found info on this issue. I hear potatoes absorb lots of pesticides, so maybe they could impede development. This could explain the issues I’m facing with all my cricket batches too, since I feed them the same vegetables. First I did house crickets, in vermiculite and then ~1000 in a 55 gal tank with no substrate but they all died off the same way in a shorter period of time than my first batch in Ate July 2018. I used to think they died off from disease but now I’m not so sure since this is much much more regular die offs that what I hear in the breeding community. In fact, I ordered a substantial batch of banded field crickets (known for disease resistance and hardiness) and probably 60% or more died (~150) in less than 4 days and I cleaned it out but they kept dying. (~2 weeks later there’s like 5 left and one is female, the crickets kept on eating their fallen brethren which could transmit disease if it were that. I bought my crickets at petsmart first and then only online from Flukers or Josh’s Frogs, the mealworms and supereorms from petsmart and petco respectively. The crickets also get gutload powder and water gels, but that doesn’t happen for my mealworms. I am now feeding them organic potatoes and sometimes organic carrots to the minimize the risk. I keep my mealworms in a dry substrate in a slightly cooled room in darkness, while my crickets and roaches in a hot attic (~90F). The water dries fast in the attic, but I don’t think desiccation is the problem since mealworms are commonly in dry substrate and don’t need much water. The crickets used to be in a room temperature room with adaquate water. No I don’t think the wheat bran is the issue, though I did introduce it after mixing it with a moldy oatmeal Substrate populated with lots of baby mealworms who hatched from eggs last year and used it from there without the oats except in one container, so it really shouldn’t be that.
When it comes to my superworms, they have taken pretty long to get to pupation since I don’t know when to isolate them for pupation so I have a few that I randomly chose to isolate and probably 5/8 of them pupated correctly, with one that went the same way as the mealworms and two that hatched with a deformed abdomen and couldn’t walk or run from their hungry and healthy peers who gutted them for scraps. They are doing great eating their styrofoam but they mix the substrate with the foam and that obviously reduced the viability of the frass for use in plants or composting, so I don’t know how to deal with that. My micro mealworms (a smaller version of mealworms, known to be probably a moderately toxic larva and quite toxic beetle for their quinones (similar to millipedes)) have seemed to bounce back from some mild issues to a decent small culture, they did have the same pupation error at some point but they seem to be doing fine now though I still fed them the same bodega potatoes and now the organic ones. My lesser mealworms (black cleaner beetles, cleaner crews, etc.) are thriving but they ruin their wheat bran substrate by turning it brown and making it smell like ammonia and vomit, and turning the potatoes into brown mush, but they don’t seem to mind and never had pupation issues to my knowledge.
When it comes to the roaches though, they seem to be doing just fine, which would make a lot of sense since roaches are known for easily and rapidly developing pesticide resistances within as little as one generation. I have many roaches all of which are living fairly well, but my lobster roaches die off semi-regularly, and my Madagascan hissers and discoid roaches have either had one litter or none at all even though they‘ve been going strong for a few months. I’m actually still feeding them the non-organic potatoes since they don’t have any major issues, maybe I should feed my hissers and dicoids the organic ones though..
If you have any idea as to why this may be happening and/or how to fix or at least help this issue that would mean a lot. I‘m a fairly new breeder, almost a year now, still expanding my arsenal and I don’t see myself stopping soon and now I catch wild insects for different cultures, pillbugs being a staple for that hobby though they‘re not insects and probably don’t taste amazing since they eat wood and decaying matter. I do eventually plan to eat these (as a diet staple, like farming my own food) and/or sell these insects at some point once they get large enough in their culture sizes to get good amounts and even to sell, so tell me if potato beetles (micro mealworms), lesser mealworms (black cleaner beetles), greenhouse millipedes, or narceus americannus-annularis (giant American millipedes) are toxic or not the best idea to eat so I know for sure if I get adventurous. I haven’t seen specific info on eating greenhouse millipedes or black cleaner beetles, but I take it millipedes might not be the safest arthropod to eat, but they‘re much easier to breed than centipedes (a bit gross, mostly top-dog carnivores who also cannibalize weaker brethren too) so I still want to have them at least for fun.