Keeping/Breeding Feeder Insects
In this section you will find information about starting your own feeder insect colony/breeding program of some of the more popular species of feeder.
The Surinam Cockroach (Pycnoscelus surinamensis)
- by James T, bug lord of the forums
Housing: For housing I use a gasket sealed bin(adults can climb smooth surfaces, but it is very rare that they leave the substrate other than to feed) with a 1" ventilation hole cut and screened over on one side and on the lid.
Substrate: These are burrowers so give them at least 2-3" of substrate. My preferred mix is coconut fiber with some hardwood leaf litter(oak in my case) and a few handfuls of horticultural charcoal mixed in. This is not absolutely necessary either, they will do well in many types of substrate. I keep the substrate moist, but not wet.
Clean up crew: Isopods and springtails make perfect cleaners for this kind of set up.
Temperatures: I like close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit for maximum production. In my experience they will still breed even down to the high 70s.
Humidity: I keep close to 100%(condensation on the walls), I get this by having minimal ventilation as mentioned above.
Feeding: I offer a lot of nutrient/protein rich vegan options. I was never a fan of feeding processed animal products such as dog food, so I go with things like bee pollen, spirulina, alfalfa/Timothy pellets, and seeds. I also offer them organic fruit/veggie scraps. Since they are in a moist environment already, I try to offer foods on the dry side as they get plenty of water in their substrate already. Mine get fed once a week, as much as they can eat within two days to avoid mold(rarely a problem, the clean up crew and overall soil bioactivity take care of any mold fast). These roaches are not picky and will compost almost anything you add in. In my case, they are used as feeders, so I only give them what I would want my reptiles to be eating too.
Heating: I personally use a space heater in an insulated room for my large collection. Others have used heat pads, heat tape, heat bulbs, and many other methods with success. In my opinion, the most important thing is setting up something safe that does the job. Do not risk a fire! Have precautions in place; Smoke alarms, temperature alerts, keep on nonflammable surfaces, no daisy-chaining electrical cords, etc.
Lighting: I keep a dim LED light on in the room for 12 hours a day. This gives the roaches a day/night cycle which I feel is healthy for them. Mine will even come out when I turn a flashlight on because to signal feeding time. Roaches do not seem to hate light as much as we tend to think.
Pycnoscelus surinamensis, AKA surinam roaches, make great feeders and/or composters. They are active, always seeming to catch my chameleon's eye during feeding time. Adults get about the size of a banded cricket, with nymphs being as tiny as small ants. They could make a good option for feeding very small reptiles and amphibians, while the adults could still be suitable as feeders for larger reptiles. Surinam roaches are also parthenogenic, meaning they are all females and do not need males to breed. This speeds things up! Give a colony a few months to mature and you will get the pleasure(or disgust) of seeing hundreds swarm the food you throw in.