The task might seem daunting at first, but more and more keepers are now turning toward breeding their own feeder roaches. Having your own dubia roach colony is beneficial in many ways: you are able to control what they eat, you will always have roaches of various sizes on hand, and no longer will you have to pay for shipping or worry about the process of having your bugs sent through the mail. In this article, we will discuss how to start a dubia roach colony, how to set it up and how to ensure it thrives and produces for you and your animals.
Getting Started: How to Make a Dubia Roach Colony
It is important to have your enclosure ready prior to purchasing your dubia roaches. Set up your dubia roach colony the right way. You don’t want to be caught off guard with a bunch of roaches and nowhere to house them!
Despite the males having wings, these roaches are not very good fliers. At most, they flutter from falls, or in the instance that one might take off, they really do not get very far at all. Dubia roaches are also unable to climb slick, untextured surfaces like glass or smooth plastic.
When deciding how to start a dubia roach colony, many keepers choose to house their roaches in plastic totes that can be found at almost every retail store. An opaque 18-gallon plastic storage container will be more than sufficient to house your initial breeding group. You can easily modify the plastic top into a proper lid with hot glue and window screen or mesh. Cutting out the center of the lid and gluing the screen onto the edges allows for the proper ventilation needed for your roaches, as well as some additional safety for your colony.
Maintain Proper Temperature
Dubia roaches are native to tropical parts of Central and South America. In their home range, they are not considered pests. When learning how to start a dubia roach colony that will thrive and reproduce effectively, you need to keep your enclosure in a place where the temperature range is between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Dubia roaches can survive and breed in temperatures as low as the 70s, however, they will not grow or reproduce nearly as quickly. This can benefit you if you need a certain size to feed off for a long period of time, but remember, it will slow down the growth and reproduction of your breeding colony.
Most people, after they know how to make a dubia roach colony, keep their roaches somewhere that stays warm, such as a garage or empty closet, but they may have to provide heat if it does not stay within the aforementioned range. A heat mat attached to the bottom or side of the tote and connected to a thermostat is the most accurate and safe way to maintain the proper heating if you cannot keep the room warm by ambient temperature alone.
A substrate is not needed when keeping a dubia colony. Dirt will attract mites and other pests that could potentially harm your roaches, however, they do need some sort of shelter to reduce the risk of trampling each other. Roaches like to hide; it is no secret regardless of species. Cardboard egg flats and egg crates make excellent shelter for dubia roaches. They can be easily found in bulk online, and if ingested, the paper will not harm your roaches.
Where to Buy Dubia Roaches
Many who are unable to find a local dubia roach breeder have already turned to shopping online for feeders. Websites that offer insect feeders will sometimes offer breeding kits. The number of roaches in your initial starting kit will vary depending on the size of the colony you wish to start.
When thinking about how to start a dubia roach colony, take into consideration the kind and number of animals you are feeding weekly. Do you have bearded dragons that will eat multiple roaches in a single sitting multiple times a week? Or are you feeding a group of arachnids that might only eat one roach once every two weeks? This needs to be taken into consideration prior to shopping online for your breeders because the reproduction process is not instantaneous.
How Many Dubia Roaches to Start a Colony?
A big question you'll almost certainly ask when learning how to make a dubia roach colony is how many roaches are needed? Ideally, keep roughly a 1:4 ratio of male to female adult breeders, but if you’d really like to get your colony started, purchasing somewhere around 50 females to 15 males is your best option. The sexes of adult dubia roaches are very easily distinguishable from one another. Males are slender with long wings, while females are rounder and thicker with no noticeable wings. Adding a mixed group of small to medium-sized dubias will ensure that you will have more adult breeders already growing to replace the ones you bought instead of waiting for them to grow up from nymphs.
Feeding Your Roaches
Gut loading is absolutely necessary to ensure that your animals get the most out of their feeders. One of the many benefits of raising your own dubia roaches is that you will always know what kind of food they eat.
In their native range, these roaches are known to live off nutrient-poor food, such as dead leaves and other plant matter they find decomposing on the forest floor. Although they can survive on this, it is important to make sure that your roaches consume many nutrient-dense food items. Some keepers tend to stick with what is the easiest — "roach chow," which is a powdered or granulated mix that some breeders have created through trial and error. On a large scale, it’s the easiest way to make sure your roaches get adequate nutrients. Sometimes this food can be purchased through the breeders themselves, although others sometimes decide to create their own.
You can offer food such as bread, oats, cereals, fruits and vegetables, though take care to remove food items with excess moisture to prevent mold within your colony. Stay away from items such as cat food or dog food, as they have very high levels of proteins that can cause uric acid build-up within your roaches, which could ultimately kill them or at the very least stop the breeding of your colony.
Moisture and hydration are very important to your dubias as they can make up for potentially low humidity levels. Some keepers choose to offer commercial water crystals while others choose to offer hydration through the fruits and veggies they feed their roaches. Orange, carrot, and sweet potato slices are all excellent options for feeding (and watering) your colony. Regardless of what you choose, never offer just a plain dish of water, as the roaches will drown in it. However, keeping your food and water items in small bowls or dishes helps keep any excess moisture away from the cardboard and feces, which in turn helps keep away mold and mildew.
A Colony at Last
Congratulations! You now understand how to start a dubia roach colony. All in all, it will take some time before your colony is established. It takes a newborn dubia roach nymph 5-8 months to fully mature (based on temperature mostly), and 70 days after that before a mature female will give birth to her first clutch. This is why it's advised to buy additional mixed sizes to toss in with your colony, as it allows for staggering between mature and sub adult dubia. Until your colony begins to grow, it’s not recommended to feed from your breeder group, simply because you’re taking away from an already low population. Still, it will be necessary to replace old females and be rid of excess males as time goes on.
Do not let this deter you from starting your own colony! With some time, patience and a little bit of money for the initial start-up, you will soon find yourself with an overabundance of nutrient-dense feeders for your pets. You will have the peace of mind of never forgetting to place an online order or being unable to make it to the store before they close. The horrors of receiving dead feeders in the mail will be a thing of the past, and you might even make a little extra cash by selling some of your roaches to friends and other keepers alike!