There are two main points or purpose to culturing your own live food to feed your pets. The first of course is to provide alternatives to bought food both processed and live, either as a supplement or as the entire food source. The second is to have a sufficient supply of live (or fresh killed) food always available in sufficient quantity to satisfy your pets consumption needs.
The considerations then are that the selected species must be simple and easy (i.e. not labor intensive or parameters sensitive, meaning high maintenance) to culture; moderate to high yield; short (relatively) life cycles; do not need lots of space; easy to harvest; and do not generate a load or lots of trash. Of course there are always some trade-off between easy to culture, low maintenance, low resource requirement and fast/high yield.
Superworm and mealworm (beetles larvae)
It needed to be noted that Superworm beetles' males are aggressive towards other males and will attack each other biting off each other's antennae and legs.
A few genera of small ants (of mostly small trapjaw ants) hunt Springtails. Most other ants either ignore them or are unable to catch them. They are also suitable for small "baby" spiders and Praying Mantis nymphs (aka larvae). You can also immobilized them to feed ants of average size (around 7 mm and smaller, as most large ants ignore them) and smaller which might normally be unable to catch them.
A near maintenance free method of cultivating springtails is in a pot of soil, together with earthworms, small size snails species and other small detritus eating animals such as isopods, etc. Mix the soil with dead (wet or dry) grass, leaves, twigs and wood at the start and add in more occasionally (depending on the pot and culture size) anything for a month to several months. Be sure to have a tray at the bottom of the pot that is filled with water to prevent "escape". Also with a tray of water at the base you may not need to water the pot as long as you maintain the water in the tray. You can also supplement with other food but keep the quantity small to avoid attracting flies. I use banana skin and egg shell (the waste from cooking with eggs or eggs from breakfast).
If you culture these roaches in door, you will need to house them in ventilated containers that has a cover to prevent them escaping. The humidity content requirement is similar to subterranean ants and termites.
All that is needed is a covered container large enough to house a piece of bread dampened with baker yeast dissolved in water. Of course you can used fruits (not a good idea as they decomposed too fast) or anti fungi treated culture media which will prevent fungi growth and slow down the decomposition of the media.
Insert fruit flies and they will lay eggs on the "yeasted" bread. Any uneaten bread needed to be thrown away after four or five days (at most, depending on location temperature) as they will begin to stink. Insert new piece of "yeasted" bread, and repeat.
Make sure to place the bread on a plate or petri dish and keep the rest of the container dry. If desire place a few crumpled tissue paper or paper napkin (or even newspaper or cardboard) for the larvae to pupate on to make for easy collection.
Fruit flies and their larvae are not exclusive feeder on fruits or yeast but will take most other decomposing food.
Snails, Earthworms, etc (either aquatic or land)
All that is needed is a flower pot filled with soil, wood and other plant matter, A pot tray (at the based of the pot and filled with water to prevent the culture subjects from leaving the pot), but make sure the tray always has water which might need to be changed, the duration depending on whether you lived where mosquitoes are present.
As detritus and decomposing cellulose feeders both small snails, isopods and earthworms, and also springtails (feeding on the waste excreted by the snails), can all be reared in a pot of soil mixed with dead plant matter including wood and paper (tissue, cardboard, etc).
With snails, isopods and earthworms, it might be needful to kill or crush (for snails and isopods) or cut (for earthworms) them first before feeding them to ants. Note that not all ants will eat snails and isopods so for those ants species these won't do.
I prefer the smaller species of snails and earthworms as these are easier and less messy to kill (crush or cut up) than the larger. Also the smaller species are less of a wastage if you do not have a huge quantity of ants to feed each feeding cycle.
Other live food
Practically anything that is not too large and too high maintenance (from any perspective) can be cultured as live food feeds for ants (and also other pets such as spiders, scorpions, lizards, frogs, etc.). But caution might needed to be exercised with ants (and also other invertebrates with exoskeletons (such as spiders, scorpions, centipedes, etc.). This is especially if you are collecting your "seed" culture from the wild. Wild caught crickets and termites are notorious for harboring clinging opportunistic mites. In the wild such mites are rarely ever a serious problem to the host as they are naturally dispersed. But in a confined area as often the case with housing containers for ants, the prolific reproductive rates of these mites will soon seen you insect or arthropod pets completely covered with them.
Last Updated 2018 06 01
First Posted: 2018 01 24
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