Crickets can be very useful for a number of reasons. If your primary purpose is to feed them to your pet frogs, geckos, lizards, snakes and chameleons, it is important to use crickets free of disease.
In that case, it is vital to know where you can acquire these crickets, how you should store them and how to make certain the healthy cricket you purchased or found does not suddenly become ill.
Some people consider crickets to be a delicacy. Others eat crickets to stave off hunger and some use crickets for food for their pets. Also, the Chinese have a practice of cricket fighting that is popular and some people enjoy listening to crickets singing, so to speak.
Cricket Paralysis Virus
Early in 2002, captive crickets in Europe and the United Kingdom became ill with a virus known as the Cricket Paralysis Virus. There were no obvious symptoms, however, in less than six weeks, a large percentage of the crickets were dead. Jon Coote, a professional herpetologist, reported that it started in Germany and quickly spread to cricket farms across Europe.
The two main cricket species imported to the United States, the Common Brown Cricket and the House Cricket, seemed to be the only crickets susceptible to this virus. Since there is no known cure, the only option is prevention. Research is being conducted into how and why this virus began and spread. In the meantime, Coote strongly suggests that those who purchase crickets in the United States should be vigilant about asking questions so the virus does not spread in the United States. You should not purchase crickets bred in Europe.
It is highly suggested that even though it would be far cheaper to catch your own crickets to feed your pets, that is not very safe to do. Crickets from your yard and surrounding areas could have eaten heavily fertilized plant life. Therefore, it is more prudent to only feed your pets crickets from a trained cricket breeder.
Crickets also are prone to eat other dead crickets or other dead animals and feces. The items that they have eaten could have been exposed to dangerous pathogens. If you feed your pets infected crickets, the pets get sick. If you have more than one pet, they could spread this sickness through their fecal matter and dead skin cells.
Warnings & Recommendations
In addition to feeding your pets healthy food, clean out your pet enclosure every other day. Remove any food that is more than two days old, including live crickets that might have ingested fecal matter or dead skin cells. Additionally, get rid of any dead crickets because your pets prefer to eat live crickets and there is danger of pathogens setting in the dead cricket. Make certain you do not let cricket droppings pile up. This also could cause a bad smell and disease.
Surprisingly, crickets can drown if you place water in their container. Crickets need to get water through the food they eat. Additionally, you can place a damp sponge in their enclosure for another hydration source.
Many people place egg cartons in cricket enclosures to provide shade and for additional housing. Make certain there is no sign of broken egg shells or raw eggs present in the cartons. Eggs come out of the back end of a chicken. Since this is the same location that fecal matter comes out, broken egg shells might have fecal matter on them. Raw eggs are another danger. This puts the crickets at risk of coccidian, Salmonella or other pathogens. This, in turn, puts your pets at risk should they ingest an infected cricket.
Pathogen eggs can “remain viable for months or even years.” It is best to sterilize your pet enclosure with bleach solution or even full strength ammonia. Wash your hands frequently to prevent spreading disease from one pet to another.
- “Cricket Virus Wipes Out Growers in UK & Europe.” by Jon Coote. TITAG Newsletter, The Spineless Times, 2004. Issue 1, Winter 2003-2004, The official newsletter of the Terrestrial Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group of the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA
- Geckos Etc. Herpetoculture – Lizard Health by Steve and Debra Sykes
- The Lizard Lounge - Cricket Care Sheet