Vivarium Animals feeding guide
1- Mealworms :
- Raising Mealworms as a live food for reptiles , birds , ... Etc.
courtesy to : www.peakprosperity.com/ by threemealsfarm
Today we are going to discuss creating a self-replicating food supply for your backyard flock. Yes, we are talking about becoming worm farmers – mealworms, to be exact (not to be confused with our previous discussion about setting up vermiculture composting systems with red worms).
Mealworms are the larval stage of the darkling beetle, and they make a great treat and food source for your backyard poultry. With very little time and cost, you can have a simple setup in place that allows you to raise a batch of mealworms that will continuously reproduce and give you an excess supply to harvest and feed to your poultry.
And if you have kids, grandkids, or are a mentor to neighborhood youth, a mealworm farm can make a great weekend science experiment that can be monitored throughout the year and bring insights to the marvels of the natural world. Who doesn’t like hearing a 3-year-old say “pupa”?
The Life Cycle :
When initially setting up your first mealworm farm, you will need to get some live worms. There are many sources – everything from a pet store, online ordering, and even a farmer's stack of grain might have some to be had. We took the easy route and ordered 5,000 online. You can find just about anything on e-Bay.
As shown below, the basic life cycle of mealworms goes from Egg, to Larva (mealworms), to Pupa, to Beetle.
Mealworms go through a complete metamorphosis during their life cycle. The female adult darkling beetle (Tenebrio molitor) lays eggs (they will lay 100 - 500 during their short life) which can take anywhere from 4 to 19 days to hatch, based on temperature and humidity conditions. The egg develops into a tiny mealworm that then eats, grows, and sheds it skin multiple times (9-20 times) before becoming a pupa. The pupa then develops into a darkling beetle (up to 20 days). Cycle complete.
Farm Setup :
The setup for the mealworm farm is very basic. All you need is a plastic storage tub or other container (some even use old aquariums) that can house a large number of mealworms and give them space to grow and multiply over time. They sit in a layer of bedding and consume the scrap food that you provide on occasion. Ventilation and humidity levels need to be monitored to make sure optimum growth conditions occur, but from our experience so far, they are pretty low maintenance and only take a few minutes every couple of days to check on.
-Large shallow plastic container or aquarium with lid that allows for ventilation
-Screening material for the lid (for ventilation)
-2-3" of bedding (mixture of wheat bran, oats, chicken crumbles)
-1000+ large mealworms
-Food scraps (carrot chunks, potatoes, bread, etc.)
When setting up your system for the first time, it is highly recommended that the bedding be sterilized to kill any pests that could be living in the grain. The problem people most often run into are grain mites. Grain mites are tiny and they bite. You do not want grain mites! For our bedding, we used a mixture of ground-up chicken feed and oats, which we ground up in an old coffee grinder. Many people use wheat bran. To sterilize, spread out the bedding material on a cookie sheet and placed it in a warm oven (at 130 -150ºF) for 20 minutes. Once sterilized, place your bedding material into your plastic tub or aquarium. Add mealworms and some food scraps. We've used carrots, potatoes, celery, squash, and watermelon rinds. The food scraps are not only a source of food for the mealworms, they also provide necessary humidity. Some humidity is important, but you don't want your food scraps to get moldy, so check on your bin every few days and replace the scraps.
As the population grows in your mealworm farm, they will eat up some of their bedding as well. Every few months we add a few more inches of fresh, sterilized bedding. The ideal temperature for mealworm growth and production is 80ºF. During the warm summer months, we keep ours in our garage. During the cooler months, we keep it in the house, in our laundry room.
Harvesting and Generational Continuation :
We let our initial mealworm farm grow for about 2 or 3 months before we started harvesting mealworms.
There are 2 methods of harvesting that we employ to not only gather worms for feeding to the chickens but also ensure we have a continuous supply of mealworms for next generations.
1- Manual Harvesting :
Harvesting by hand might be slow and tedious, but it does allow us to pick the choicest treats and ensure we get the maximum potential out of each worm. We have also grabbed “bulk” handfuls at times when the bin is teeming with worms. We try our best to get only mealworms and leave the pupa and beetles to reproduce. Sometimes we end up grabbing some bedding and other stages of the life cycle, but we don’t worry too much about it, since it is all edible for the animals.
2- Food Slice Transport :
The other method we use is to place a food chunk (apple/carrot/squash) into the bin for a few minutes and let the mealworms start to feast. Then we pick up the whole chunk and move it to a new bin for the next growth cycle/farm. Keep in mind that adult beetles also like this food and sometimes will have to be picked off.
The mealworm farm is more productive during the warmer summer months. Excess summer harvests can be stored in the freezer to provide for feed during the cooler months when the production slows down.
An important word of caution: We have read about some individuals developing respiratory allergies to mealworms after prolonged exposure. The best way to avoid this is to minimize your exposure and/or wear a mask if you will be tending to your mealworm bin for any length of time. Also make sure to wash your hands after working with your farm.
Guide to basic mealworm farm
The Best Method for Breeding Mealworms!
(( I will review here different methods from different sources for this important food ))
1- 'How to culture Drosophila fruit flies'
courtesy to : www.insectivore.co.uk/
To stand a chance of keeping the likes of Poison Dart frogs, Pygmy Chameleons, Praying Mantids or other small insectivores, the art of culturing Drosophila fruit flies is something worth learning about.
There are two commonly available species of Drosophila:
D. hydeii (larger but slightly slower to culture)
D. melanogaster (smaller with a quicker life cycle)
Both can be cultured using this guide, and are available from many livefood suppliers in a "flightless" strain (also known as "vestigial winged"), making them easier to culture and feed to small insectivores.
Their small size and ease of culture makes them a big hit with keepers of small insectivores, or breeders with lots of tiny, hungry mouths to feed. Cultures cost next to nothing to set up, and provide hundreds of flies. Unlike crickets of the same size, they don't bite you or your pets, and won't wreak havoc if you have a few escapees. Once you get your own cultures started, you can provide a constant source of nutrition.
How to start culturing them at home
Cheap supermarket brands are all you need to get a culture started. The flies and larvae feed on rotting fruit (and yeasts growing on it), and to recreate this, you'll need the following:
-Disposable plastic drink cups (pint sized or larger)
-Instant oat cereal (Readybrek or supermarket's own brand)
-Fresh fruit juice (No need for expensive varieties, orange or apple juice will do!)
-White wine vinegar
-Scouring sponges or cotton wool
-Fine net curtain and elastic bands
The 5 steps of setting up a Drosophila culture:
Each fruit fly culture takes around 2 weeks to "cook", and then supplies flies for 1-2 weeks. After this, any remaining flies should be used to start a fresh culture. If you need a steady supply of Drosophila, it is best to start several fresh cultures every week in advance of when you'll need them. Dart frog and praying mantis breeders can have dozens of cultures running to keep up with high demand.
2- Fruit Flies :
A wide variety of reptiles, fish and amphibians require smaller prey – you can give them just what they need with our flightless fruit flies. We offer two sizes: D. Melanogaster which are about the size of a pinhead cricket, approximately 1/16”, and D. Hydei which are a little larger, at 1/8” in size.
Step one: Take a plastic drink cup, preferably pint sized or larger, and add a layer of instant oat cereal (a supermarket's own brand version of Readybrek will do, the flies aren't fussy), roughly an inch deep.
Step two: Mix in fruit juice to form a paste with a similar consistency to thick yoghurt. This will be the "rotting fruit" imitation which the flies will lay the eggs on and the larvae will eat.
Of course, we don't want it to smell rotten, or for fungus and mould to grow on the paste, so add 1 or 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar. This doesn't bother the flies or the larvae, but stops the culture going sour.
Step three: Place a clean scouring pad, or a small pile of cotton wool on top of the paste. This provides a space for the flies to climb on, and also for the larvae to burrow into and pupate.
Don't completely cover the paste with the sponge or cotton, as the flies will need to access it to lay eggs. As you can see from the photographs, a folded up scouring pad does the job nicely!
Step four: Cut a square of fine netting material to fit over the top of the cup. I use voile for this purpose, as both the larvae and the flies are extremely small. This allows some ventilation into the cup, and can be secured in place with an elastic band.
A small hole around 1cm in size can be cut in the netting to allow an access hole for adding/removing flies. Once the adult flies are in, I plug it with a piece of sponge to prevent escapes.
Step five:Add 50+ adult flies through the access hole in the lid using a pooter, and replace the sponge plug. After about a week you should see small maggots in the paste, which will then form casters and hatch into flies after approximately two weeks.
Keeping the culture in a warm place will speed up the process. After a couple of weeks, transfer any adult flies to a fresh culture to keep the cycle going.
If you have any questions on breeding Drosophila or other feeder insects, feel free to contact me:
2- Culturing Fruit Flies
courtesy to : www.amphibiancare.com
Flightless fruit flies are an easy-to-culture feeder insect for small reptiles and amphibians. They can be purchased from reptile or biological supply companies, as well as some specialty pet stores. There are two species commonly available - Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila hydei. The main differences between the two species are the adult size of the fly and the time that the flies take to go through their life cycle. D. hydei is the larger of the two, with adult flies measuring around 1/8 inch (3 mm) D. melanogastermatures to a smaller size of around 1/16 inch (1.5 mm). D. melanogaster takes roughly two weeks (depending on temperature that cultures are kept at and medium used) to go from egg to maggot to adult fly, and the newly morphed flies can reproduce after 24 hours. D. hydei develops slower and takes roughly one month to go through its life cycle. D. melanogaster is commonly available in two separate mutations: flightless and wingless. The flightless variety has wings but they are vestigial and can not fly.
The Container: The container that fruit flies are cultured in has to be escape proof but also ventilated. Many people use mason jars, screwing down paper towel over the top to provide ventilation. Another option is plastic 24 oz. or 32 oz. deli containers. Holes can be cut in the lid and fitted with a foam plug. There are also plastic containers designed specifically for housing invertebrates that come with ventilated lids. These can be purchased from places like Black Jungle Terrarium Supply or in bulk from Superior Enterprise. Containers can be put in the dish washer or rinsed with hot water and re-used.
Culture Medium: The medium is what serves as food for both the larvae and the adult flies. It can be purchased from both biological supply companies and some specialty reptile supply stores, or you can choose to make your own. By making your own medium you can save substantial amounts of money if culturing large amounts of flies. Below are two recipes for homemade media I have used with success. Consider modifying and experimenting with them to suite your needs.
The "Harvey Peterson Medium"
1 part white sugar
2 parts powdered/instant milk
4 parts instant mashed potatoes
Combine dry ingredients together, and then mix with equal parts water in a culturing container. For D. melanogaster 1/2 cup of medium with 1/2 cup of water seems to work well in 32 oz. containers. Use more medium for D. hydei.
The "Power Mix Medium"
In three separate containers...
1 mushed banana
½ can of grape juice concentrate
14 oz. of applesauce (half of a large jar)
1/8 cup of molasses
1 cup of instant mashed potatoes
½ cup of brewers yeast
1 cup of water
1 cup of vinegar
Once the boiled mix has cooled to a reasonable temperature add 6 tablespoons of it to a standard 24 oz. or 32 oz. plastic container. Then add 6 tablespoons of the dry mix and then 2-4 tablespoons of the water/vinegar mix and stir very well. The amount of water/vinegar mix that is added will depend on the humidity where the cultures are kept and how ventilated the containers are. Let it all sit for a few minutes until it solidifies. I find that this medium produces extremely high yields of very large, healthy flies. Unfortunately, it is not easy to make and takes more time to setup cultures that the Harvey Peterson medium mentioned above.
Baker's yeast should be added to cultures once the media sets. Between 5-20 granules of yeast per culture is usually enough. Some people find they have best success mixing yeast with warm water and sugar and then pouring a spoonful or two into each culture. Once yeast and medium are added, flies can be placed into cultures. Use between 25 and 75 flies per culture.
Store the cultures in an area where the temperature does not fall below 70°F (21°C) or rise above 85°F (29°C). The flies will go through their life stages faster when kept at higher temperatures and slower when kept at lower temperatures.
You can increase the amount of flies produced by adding extra egg-laying sites to the culture. Fruit flies will lay their eggs on pretty much anything solid. You can sink pieces of cardboard, poster board, or aluminum window screening into the medium to form extra solid egg-laying areas. Excelsior, commonly sold as American moss at craft stores, works very well for creating additional egg-laying sites.
Do not mix different strains of fruit flies in one culture. You may end up with flying fruit flies if you do.
Setup cultures weekly even if you do not need the flies. It's better to have too many flies than not enough.
Only use flies from healthy cultures to setup new cultures, avoiding using flies from cultures over 3 weeks old or that may be molding.
If mold is noticed in a culture, throw the culture out. Mold is a common problem, and spreads easily if not contained.
Discard cultures after 5-8 weeks even if they are still producing to avoid mite and mold problems.
Write the date that you setup a culture on the cup to keep track of when you should start new cultures and dispose of old ones.
Re-use your culturing containers, which can be put in the dishwasher or soaked in the sink with hot water to clean them
Using Fruit Flies as Food: Once the first set of flies have gone through their life cycle (around two weeks for D. melanogaster and about a month for D. hydei), some of the flies can be removed for food. A good way to remove flies is to gently tap the culture on the side of another empty container. Once the flies are in the empty container they can either be coated with a high quality reptile vitamin and/or calcium supplement or can directly be fed to your hungry animals.
3- Josh Frogs Mixtures and articles :
courtesy to : www.josh's frogs .com
A Comparison of Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila hydei
Fruit flies are easy to culture, making them one of the most popular feeder insects for animals requiring small prey items.
Fruit flies (Drosophila sp.) are a common feeder insect when animals that require small prey items are involved, such as dart frogs. Although several different species have made the rounds in the hobby, 2 have consistently been cultured over the years, and remain the most common and easy to work with. Please keep in mind that Josh's Frogs offers 2 different species of flightless fruit fly, as well as 2 different 32oz cultures. If you need fruit flies ASAP, please order a producing culture. These cultures have already been incubated for 10-20 days (depending on species), and will be ready to feed from within 1-3 days of it arriving at your house. The other fruit fly cultures may take 1-2 weeks until they can be fed from.
- Drosophila melanogaster :
Drosophila melanogaster (also know as melanogaster, melanos, or mels) are probably the most commonly encountered species of fruit fly in culture, and measure about 1/16th of an inch long, making them ideal as the staple food for a variety of dart frogs and other animals that prefer smaller prey items. Melanogaster fruit flies have been used to years in genetics experiments around the world, and as such, there are several different genetic mutations of them available. Perhaps the most useful to the average hobbyist is the ‘wingless’ form. These flies lack wings, and as such are unable to fly. Unlike the ‘flightless’ D. melanogaster, the wingless form cannot regain the ability to fly if it gets too warm (the ‘flightless’ deformation is linked to protein folding – if the flies reach a certain temperature, the proteins fold properly and the next generation will be able to fly). The ‘wingless’ trait is recessive – both parents have to carry the trait in order for the offspring to remain wingless. If a ‘wild type’ fly (one with wings) mates with a ‘wingless’ fly, the offspring will be able to fly.
Drosophila melanogaster are a smaller fruit fly, measuring about 1/16” long.
The life cycle of Drosophila melanogaster is very quick. Within 14 days of setting up a new culture, the next generation of flies is emerging. After that 14 day waiting period, new flies emerge every day. This quick generation time means that the culture will produce thousands of flies, fairly consistently, from day 14-28, when the culture is disposed of. Because of this, melanogaster fruit flies are generally preferred by those who are new to culturing fruit flies – melanogaster tend to be more forgiving and easier to culture consistently.
Melanogaster fruit fly cultures will produce thousands of flies over a 28 day period.
Drosophila hydei :
Drosophila hydei (also known simply as hydei) are another commonly encountered fruit fly in the hobby. Hydei measure about 1/8”, and are quite a bit larger and ‘meatier’ than D. melanogaster – perfectly suited for dart frogs that prefer larger prey items, or other pets with similar needs. A ‘flightless’ form of hydei is most commonly available – this strain will not revert back to fliers at a higher temperature, unlike ‘flightless’ melanogaster. Like the ‘wingless’ form of melanogaster, this trait is recessive, requiring both parents to carry the trait in order for the offspring to be flightless. Every care should be taken to insure that flying Drosophila hydei do not get into the culture, as the resulting flying insects can quickly become a nuisance.
Drosophila hydei are a larger fruit fly, measuring about 1/8” long.
Compared to that of D. melanogaster, the life cycle of D. hydei is much longer. At average temperatures, it will take 21 days or more until the first new hydei being emerging in a culture. Hydei fruit fly cultures show a particular ‘boom and bust’ cycle – the culture will appear empty, only to suddenly be filled with flies overnight. Most cultures will have 2-3 booms, with 5-7 days between each one. With the large period of time between active booms, hydei cultures are much more likely to dry out than melanogaster, and as such are more prone to crashes and grain mite infestations.
Drosophila hydei fruit fly cultures are more prone to drying out and crashing, due to their ‘boom and bust’ life cycle.
Both species of fruit flies popular in culture are relatively easy to culture. Generally speaking, Drosophila melanogaster – the smaller fruit fly – is easier to culture for novices, and is perfectly suited for most species of dart frogs. Drosophila hydei – the larger fruit fly – will produce more ‘meat’ over the life of the culture, but is more prone to crashes.
Do I want Drosophila Melanogaster or Hydei? :
Video describing dusting fruit flies and feeding them to poison dart frogs
Feeding Fruit Flies to Your Animals :
Size:1/16th of an inch
Great For:Poison Dart Frogs, Tropical Fish, Praying Mantids, and other animals that need very small prey.
Why pick Melanogaster over Hydei: Melanogaster fruit flies culture in about 14 days whereas Hydei fruit flies culture in about 21 days. They are less likely to mold, less likely to crash, and are much more forgiving to low humidity or incorrect temperatures.
Size:1/8th of an inch
Great For: Newly hatched Chameleons and other animals that need small prey, but are too big for Melanogaster.
Why pick Hydei over Melanogaster: Hydei are larger than Melanogaster fruit flies. Hydei fruit flies are also a great way to add variety to the diet of animals that are too small to eat crickets.
How to Culture Fruit Flies :
Fruit Flies are a popular feeder insect for a variety of exotic pets, such as bettas, killifish, poison dart frogs, and praying mantids. JoshsFrogs.com is the leading supplier of fruit flies in the United States, and carries all of the supplies, materials, and knowledge you need to produce healthy, booming fruit fly cultures!
Life Cycle of Melanogaster vs Hydei:
Bug Blade: Mite Prevention :
Loose mites or fruit flies have you down? Then step up with Bug Blade, an all-natural powder from Josh's Frogs that will stop bugs in their tracks. Made of diatomaceous earth, Bug Blade will form a barrier that all kinds of small insects and other invertebrates will be unable to cross.
Simply spread a thin layer of Bug Blade around the base of your vivarium and prevent escapee fruit flies from crawling to freedom! A small amount of Bug Blade around the base of fruit fly cultures will prevent the movement of mites from culture to culture. Bug Blade is also effective in protecting your vivarium from ant invaders!
What is wrong with my Fruit Fly Culture?
Fruit Fly Troubleshooting Guide
While fruit fly cultures are simple to make and use, many things can go wrong with a fruit fly culture. This helpful guide from Josh's Frogs will aid in solving any mysterious fruit fly ailments, and put you on the right path to proper fruit fly production. I'll list common issues with fruit fly cultures, then offer solutions to get your culture producing like they should.
1. Dead, few, or no flies in culture.
There are several potential reasons for this. If the fly cultures were shipped to you, the flies may have perished during transit due to extreme temperature or rough handling by the delivery service. With hydei fruit flies, it's normal for the adults to die off before the next generation hatches. If you made the culture yourself, insure that you added enough flies initially. Remember, it takes about 2 weeks for a melanogaster culture to start producing, and 3 weeks for hydei to begin to produce.
As long as the culture is being kept in the proper conditions (60%+ humidity, 75-82F) and larvae or pupae are visible, give the culture time and it should produce flies.
2. Small, globular tan/white bugs in culture.
These are grain mites. Grain mites are present in every fruit fly culture, as well as in every pantry. They are interested in eating fruit fly media, and do not directly harm fruit flies. Grain mites can take over a culture and outcompete the flies for resources, causing the culture to crash. Generally, this is due to not enough fruit flies being put in a culture to begin with, or the culture being kept at improper temperature/humidity.
If a culture is heavily infested, throw it out. Josh's Frogs recommends disposing of all cultures older than 4 weeks, as older cultures tend to become mite magnets.
3. Moldy or Crusty media.
The fruit fly media has dried out, due to being kept in conditions without adequate humidity, or not enough water was added when making the culture. When the media dries out, methyl paraben (the mold inhibitor we use in our media) becomes inactive, and mold can grow. A crust can form at the top of the media, trapping and suffocating fruit fly larvae underneath and stopping production.
Add chlorine free water to the culture. Keeping fruit fly culture in Rubbermaid or Sterilite plastic storage drawers can help maintain higher humidity, as well.
How to Culture Fruit Flies : Keeping Mites Out of Fruit Fly Cultures
How to Culture Fruit Fly Cultures