Dubia Roach Colonies and Breeding
Dubia Roach Colonies and Breeding
What exactly is a “roach colony,” and why are they one of the best reasons why you should be using Dubia roaches as your primary feeder insect? The term “colony” refers to the housing that you keep your roaches in, and the practice of raising your roaches in a sustainable manner so that they breed and re-populate.
Maintaining a colony takes a bit of work, and it certainly isn’t the “easy way out” when it comes to keeping your reptilian friend fed. But keeping a roach colony has some big benefits too. First, if your roaches repopulate, you will save money, as you won’t need to order new feeders as often if at all. Second, your food source will be reliable: with a well run colony, you won’t have to worry about running out of roaches or if your next batch will arrive on time, since you will already have all of the insects your lizard could ever eat.
So how exactly can you get your colony started? First it is important to learn a bit more about Dubia roaches, and specifically about what kinds of conditions they need to be kept in in order to thrive and reproduce. Dubias aren’t as finicky as crickets or other feeders, but they are still
a tropical insect, and there are some things you need to consider when designing your feeder colony.
Since they are accustomed to the tropics, your roach colony will need a heat source if you want your Dubias to reproduce. You will want to keep your roaches at a minimum temperature of 68 degrees to insure they survive, but higher temperatures are preferable and will insure your Dubias breed like they should. Daytime temperatures ranging from 85-95 degrees are ideal. Generally, many of the same techniques you would use to keep any reptile warm can be used to heat your Dubia colony, though you should stay away from heat lamps. A basic reptile heat tape or heat mat is your best bet.
A second byproduct of the Dubia’s tropical heritage is that they prefer mid to high humidity. But while Dubias prefer some moisture in the air, they can breed successfully and your colony can survive fine if you live in a moderately humid area. To be extra safe, invest in a basic hygrometer to gauge the humidity levels of your roach colony, and shoot for a 40-60% humidity rate. With a full bowl of water crystals (more on this later) you won’t have to worry too much about hitting these rates. But if you live in a very dry area some basic misting can be performed to keep your colony in this range.
Now that you know some of the basics of what Dubias need to thrive and reproduce in their new colony, what do you need to do to get your colony established? First, make sure you have the right materials on hand to build an appropriate colony for your roaches. Here is a basic material list of what you will need:
●Roaches! 100 is a good number to start with, and more is fine. For a healthy colony, you don’t want to start with too few Dubias, as you want your colony to have lots of genetic diversity and you want to be sure that reproduction happens quickly.
●A large plastic bin with a lid. Any plastic storage container will do fine, but you want to be sure it is solid colored and isn’t letting too much light in, as your Dubias love the dark. You will want a bin that is at least 22 gallons, and a Sterilite storage bin is a good choice.
●A large piece of cloth/mesh/netting or aluminum mesh. We recommend screen door mesh, which you can buy at a hardware store for cheap. This will be used for ventilation, and a 10” by 10” piece should be fine. Whatever material you use for this step make sure it is something that is durable, and will let in air without letting in other insects or letting out any Dubias.
●8-10 egg crates.
●Your heat source (tape or pad, no lights!)
●A sharp knife, exacto knife, or razor blade.
●Hot glue gun
●Food and water source (more on this later)
Once you have assembled all you need for your roach colony, it is time to get to work building your Dubia’s new home! This whole process isn’t too hard and won’t take you long, but be sure to take care and pay attention in every step to ensure that your colony leads to healthy, happy roaches.
Once you’ve gathered your materials, use your knife to cut a hole in the lid of your storage container. Your hole should be 8” by 8”, and doesn’t have to be too straight or pretty, as long as it gets the job done. PLEASE NOTE: don’t let a child perform this step, as cutting plastic can be dangerous and lead to cuts in inexperienced hands.
Once you have an 8” by 8” hole in your lid, use your mesh to cover the hole. We recommend the kind of wire mesh used in screen doors, which you can get at any hardware store, because it is very sturdy and durable, and will provide an effective barrier while letting in enough air. Once the hole is covered by your mesh, use a hot glue gun to glue the mesh in place. NOTE: be sure that you are gluing on the OUTSIDE of your new roach colony, as glue can be toxic to roaches if it finds it’s way into the actual colony.
Now, you can position your heat tape or heat pad into your new roach colony. A good rule of thumb is to put heat tape on one side of your plastic housing, so that roaches can get away from the heat source if it is too hot or they are uncomfortable. Once your heat source is positioned, place your egg crates into the housing next. Lean the crates vertically against one side of your plastic container. These will afford your roaches some places to hide, and leaning them rather than stacking them makes your colony easier to clean and affords more space for your Dubias.
That’s about all that it takes to set up the physical landscape of your new feeder colony. Next you will want to make sure there is enough food and water crystals in your colony to keep your new roaches nourished (more on this later) and then you can begin introducing the Dubias to their new home. Feel free to dump your roaches into their new colony somewhat unceremoniously: while you shouldn’t drop them from too high, they are durable and you don’t need to handle them too delicately to make them happy. As a side note, be sure to wash your hands before and after handling your roaches, to make sure that they and you don’t get contaminated.
To recap, here are a few things that you DON’T want in your new Dubia colony. Don’t use a heat lamp for a heat source, as Dubias are nocturnal and won’t respond well to the light. Make sure there are no other bugs or animals in your plastic storage bin before you introduce your Dubias. Be sure that water is provided through water crystals and not a water bowl (more on feeding soon). Don’t use a substrate. Some guides recommend it, but roaches don’t need it, and it will make it harder to keep your colony clean and to catch small roaches.
That’s about all you need to do to get your colony under way. But how often can you expect your roaches to breed, and what will the breeding patterns of your roaches be like in general?
When they breed at their maximum rate, your Dubias will reproduce very quickly, part of what makes them an ideal food source. Newly born Dubias are called “nymphs,” and these nymphs will start reproducing themselves within about 3 months and reach full adulthood in 4-5 months. With males living about 9 months to a year and females living about 18 months to two years, and with females birthing a new “clutch” of 20-35 nymphs every two months, your colony will grow quickly and can sustain itself indefinitely from a start of 100-200 roaches.
In order to optimizere production rates, you want to shoot for a ratio of about 3-5 females for every male in your colony. In order to maintain this ratio, “feed off” either the older and larger males or females if you notice one gender dominating. If you are feeding a large number of pets and want to absolutely optimize reproductive levels, you can set up three housing containers: one for nymphs, one for reproductive age medium sized Dubias, and one for older non-reproducing roaches. Though for most people’s needs, this is overkill, and your colony will do just fine reproducing itself if you take care to meet the conditions above.
If your Dubias aren’t breeding, there are a few things you can do. First, wait and be patient. Your females will only lay nymphs every two months or so, so even if everything is going as it should you may not see any nymphs getting laid until you’ve had your colony for six weeks or more. Second, make sure that all of the conditions above are met. Especially, make sure that your colony is warm enough and wet enough, as your Dubias won’t breed if they aren’t living in conditions that are good for them. If you set up your colony right, make sure your roaches get enough food and stay warm, and have some patience, breeding shouldn’t be any issue.
To maintain your colony and ensure that your roaches continue to breed at high rates, there are a few simple steps you can take to make sure that your colony is healthy and functioning well. First, keep a general eye on the male to female ratio of your roaches, and “feed off” a gender if the balance goes too far from the recommended 3 to 5 females to males. Second, inspect your colony for mold often, and make sure that none is forming. This shouldn’t be an issue as long as you are careful about food and water, but it is something worth being extra careful about since mold is so deadly to roaches. Finally, your roach colony shouldn’t take too much cleaning, but you can clean your colony if it starts to smell, as any odor related with Dubias is usually from dead and decaying roaches in your colony. To clean your colony, transfer your roaches to another storage bin temporarily, and brush out your colony container with a paper towel or small broom.
One last thing to note is that you should wait until your colony is actively reproducing before you use it as a primary food source for your pets. If you wait until your colony is self sufficient, you may never have to buy feeder insects again, but if you rush the process your colony won’t stabilize and you won’t see the kind of reproduction rates you need in order to keep your roach numbers where you want them.