Advanced Guide to Breeding Dubia
Dubia roaches are quickly becoming the preferred feeder for reptile keepers everywhere. The hearty nature of the Dubia and the nutritional value of Dubia far outweigh all other feeder insects by leaps and bounds. Keeping and breeding Dubia Roaches is a very simple process if you understand the insect and
create the proper environment for them. We have been breeding Dubia for close to three years and produce hundreds of thousands of Dubia Roaches each month. This guide will teach you all you need to know to maximize your own production and provide you with countless feeders. When breeding your
own feeders you have to pay close attention to the colony and ensure the proper setup and care.
Master the techniques in this guide and you will save lots of money and time.
About the Dubia Roach
Dubia roaches are a South American species of roach. They are a non-climbing non flying species of roach. This makes the storage of Dubia roaches easy to manage in plastic or glass containers. Dubia roaches require warm temperatures to sustain life and breed. They can survive in temps as low as 75degrees and as high as 100 degrees. They prefer to feed on fruit and vegetable matter as well as grains. They tend to stay away from high proteins matter such as meat or animal droppings. Dubia roaches are sexually dimorphic and can be sexed at a very young age. As adults you can visually distinguish the males from the females with a quick glance. Male will grow long wings the entire length of their bodies while females will only have wing stubs. The adult male Dubia on the top has long wings the entire length of the body. The adult female is much wider and has only wing stubs.
Dubia Colony Setup and Storage
Once you have decided to keep and breed Dubia roaches you will need to create a way to safely store them to prevent escapes and store them in a stress free setting. Dubia roaches are very susceptible to stress and too much will kill them. Most people use Rubbermaid totes or bins to store their feeders as
well as glass terrariums. Both methods work well and provide a container where the roaches cannot escape. If your terrarium has a screened lid then you’re all set. If you purchase a Rubbermaid bin then you will need to alter the lid a bit to allow for air flow to your colony. Most breeders will poke holes in the lids or cut out a portion of the lid and hot glue pieces of screen to cover the holes. My preferred method is to remove the lids completely and fashion a new lids altogether. We use simple window screen cut to size and a bicycle inner tube cut into strips. Simply place the window screen over the top of the bin and tie the cut inner tube around the bin. This method allows for maximum air flow and
prevents escapes and accidental infestations of other insects such as spiders, flies or other hungry critters that are attracted to heat and a constant food source. Once you have your storage method in place you have to find a warm dark place to keep your bin. Most at home breeders elect to use a closet since it’s usually always dark and does not have a lot of traffic from humans. The quitter and less human traffic your roaches experience the better they will breed. You will need to have hides for your Dubia to find sanctuary inside the bin. Egg flats, toilet paper rolls, newspaper or ripped up cardboard usually provide the perfect medium to allow the Dubia to hang about within your colony. I use egg flats as it is easier to remove the Dubia when it is time to feed or sort them out. Your Dubia will need a constant food, water, and heat source to prosper. These topics will be discussed in later chapters.
Creating the right environment for Breeding Dubia Roaches.
This chapter will be broken down into 3 main topics. Heat, humidity and air flow.
Heat: The most important factor in any colony is the heat. If you don’t provide at least 85 degrees the roaches will breed very little or none at all. There are a few methods that you can safely use the heat your colony. You can safely use infrared heat lamps similar to those used to heat reptiles cages, ceramic heat
emitters, or Flex Watt Heat Tape. Under the tank heaters is not suggested as it could melt your plastic bin or crack your glass terrariums. When using heat emitters or infrared bulbs you would use just a standard globe fixture and clamp or hang it above your bin. Be sure the globe fixture has a ceramic end.
You can find the globe fixtures at any hardware store or Wal Mart. See image 3 for illustration on the proper light fixture to use with emitters or bulbs. Heat tapes are used commonly as a heat source for heating the container you keep your Dubia in. They do not get hot enough to melt plastic or crack glass.
They are a low wattage method that will keep your colony at a constant temperature. If you live in a warm section of the US this could be your primary source of heat, but if you live in colder climates this will be a secondary heating source. Heat tapes can be taped directly to the side of bottom of your bins
to apply heat directly to the colony. The come in many different sizes and can be cut to length to match the exact size you need. See image 4 for an illustration of heat tapes.
Humidity is just as important as heat. They both go hand in hand. Dubia roaches need humidity like heat to trigger the breeding process and to shed their exo skeletons. This process is called molting and is a normal process the roaches do when they grow. When dealing with humidity in a roach colony it is
important that you have enough, but not too much. If your humidity is to high humidity the colony will grow mold and mildew and begin to smell. This will ultimately kill the colony. The techniques below will help you maintain a suitable amount of humidity within your colony. It is important that you realize that
anything wet you place in your colony will increase the humidity. For instance cutting up oranges will add a significant amount of humidity. Any moisture that you add to your colony has to evaporate of be absorbed and/or ingested by the roaches. This is not always an easy thing to accomplish. Choosing the
proper fruits and vegetables for your colonies diet is essential. We will discuss that topic in chapter 4. The best way to ensure you have a clean humidity supply is to use water crystals in a dish and placing it above or below your heat source. This creates a heat index similar to what you can expect in the tropics.
A heat index is simply how much water is in the air. This happens during evaporation and is a great way to add extra humidity to your roach colony.
Air flow is important to your colony. A good air flow keeps the roaches supplied with suitable oxygen and adds other key benefits to your colony as well. Any time you apply moisture to your colony you have the potential for negative results such as attracting other unwanted insects such as gnats. If your colony
has to much moisture and the air become to wet or thick the roaches could have a hard time breathing resulting in death of the colony. Air flow is the key to drying the colony back out after the introduction of any moisture type. Be sure that your colony has adequate air flow allowing all the moisture that is evaporating to escape without condensation building up and dropping back in to the colony. This is the main reason we use all screen lids instead of cutting holes or using partially screened lids. Many times the water condensates on the lids and drips back into the colony. The screens allow all the water vapors to escape. This is especially true when heating your bin in from the bottom. In theory and any moisture you add to the colony has to escape.
Feeding your Dubia Colony
The food you choose for your Dubia colony is of paramount importance. A good food source keeps your colony healthy and thriving. Our feeding guidelines are simple. We keep dry chow down for them around the clock and supplement their diets with fruits and vegetables. We feed them fruits and vegetables that do not have a high concentration of moisture that tend to dry out rather than mold. My
favorites are sweet potatoes, apples, carrots, zucchini, squash, and pumpkins. I tend to stay away from citrus as it has a high water concentration and it adds to the overall moisture level within your colony. Any fruits or vegetable you add to your roach colonies diet has to be consumed completely or removed within 12 hours. Allowing any food that molds or mildews to sit in your bin and be consumed will result in the death of your colony. Our chows are grain based and provide a stable diet that the roaches can partake in at any time. Adding other supplements to their diets like bee pollen and alfalfa powder provides them extra nutrition that can cause a feeding frenzy. As with any living organisms variety in a diet is the key to success. To hydrate your Dubia colony use water crystals as the main water source. You will find that these water crystals stay wet and do not mold or mildew. The roaches will also consume the fruits and veggies and
get extra hydration while eating. Be sure that your water crystals do not come in contact with any frass or chow. Plastic feeding dishes or lids from plastic deli cups work perfect for keeping the crystals clean
and all other matter inside the colony dry.
The Dubia Roach Breeding Cycle
To start this chapter we should discuss the reproductive cycle and the frequency of the reproduction cycle. Dubia roaches give live birth to their off spring. During matting the female will extrude an ootheca. See image 5 for illustration. She extrudes this ootheca twice for each complete breeding cycle. The first time is when she is ready to mate. The ooteca will appear to have reddish or a pink color. Once a suitable mate is located the pair will face away from each other and the ootheca is inserted into the male for fertilization. Once they have completed the mating the ootheca is sucked back into the female for gestation. They gestate the baby roaches for approximately 30-45 days. When the female is ready to deliver the babies the ootheca is extruded again, this time with a tan or off white color. Once extended out of the female body the baby roaches begin to move off the ootheca. Sometimes the female will drop the entire ootheca off and leave it lying. This is usually due to stress or low moisture levels. The babies can still survive if the ootheca is dropped. Once the babies are born they are white and very soft. Usually within an hour they turn to their normal dark color. Once the babies are born the breeding cycle begins again. In your colony, if you’re just starting, you will want to have a 2 female to every 1 male ratios. If the colony is already established you can maintain a 3 females to 1 male ratio without any problems. It is important that every 2-3 months you completely replace your males with fresh males to maintain your breeding. The males after a 2 month cycle begin to become less productive or even sterile. The fames in your colony can produce young for 8-12 months before they become sterile and die. It is important during the breeding cycle that you’re feeding them as much as possible to ensure complete nutrition.
Producing a super-sized colony
Now that you have your container set, your feeding schedule laid out and your heat and humidity
perfect, and your roach breeding and producing it is time to think long term.
Most people start their colonies with as little as ten females and a few males. It is likely you’re going to need thousands of little roaches to keep your reptiles stuffed. From the time you noticed your first babies in the bin you have been desperately looking for that explosion in the colony. To make that explosion happen it is extremely important to not feed off your new babies. If you have 10 females capable of producing 30 babies that makes your production roughly 300 babies from the whole colony every 30-45 days. Half of these babies will be male and the other half will be female. If you hold back the entire months’ worth of babies and grow them out to breeding age your female count will be 150 full grown females capable of producing
4500 total new baby monthly. From birth to adulthood is approximately 6 months depending on your feeding and heating habits for the colony. After the first generation of new babies is held back you are free to feed off all the new babies or grow them out to the approximate size you need to feed your
reptiles. It is best to leave those babies inside the colony and not separate them or store them in another storage bin. The most common mistake that people make when breeding Dubia is not holding back the first generation. That ensures your colony will not grow and 6-8 months you have an infertile
colony. This places you in a bad cycle and ultimately lands you right back where you started.
Keep your Dubia colony healthy
General knowledge will tell you that you need to clean the colonies on a weekly basis to ensure everything is on the up and up. This is wrong. As long as your bins stay dry and free of mold or mildew they can go months without cleaning. Most people think that the frass needs to be removed and the bin needs to be spic and span. This is also a misconception. As stated above, if your bins stays dry and you don’t have any die offs due to stress then your colony can go months without any cleaning. It is important to use nature to your benefit and make use of cleaner crews. What is a cleaner crew you ask?
Cleaner crews are species of insects you can place in your colony that break down organic material left inside your colony such as small pieces of food or chow. They occur naturally in Dubia colonies and virtually every other colony of insects. Aside from cleaning up spilled food the cleaner crews break down
the roaches waste and remove any food not completely digested by the roaches. This is still not the best part of a cleaner crews job. They eat any dead roaches. When a roach dies and falls to the bottom of your colony it begins to immediately decompose. During decomposition the moisture in the roaches
body evaporate as gas. This is a smelly situation. Not only does it release a foul smell but it makes it hard for the other roaches to breathe and the dead will start building up. Cleaner crews will consume almost all of the dead roach leaving only the exo skeleton remaining. This means you don’t have to spend your
time picking through your colony retrieving gooey dead roaches. This is no fun.
Now let’s tackle the removal of the frass as essential. It is not essential and you get a benefit from NOT removing the frass. The frass works as a heat insulator. When heating your bins with a clean plastic or glass base the heat does not spread across the entire base of the bin. The frass will absorb the heat and
spread across the whole colony. Not only will it help spread the heat but it will store that heat. Leaving the frass in the bin is a good thing as long as it does not get wet. Pay close attention when doing this. If you notice any clumps you have a moisture problem.
Sifting Sorting and Sizing your Dubia Colony
Harvesting your Dubia is likely to most common question I get when it comes to colonies. When you colony begins producing large numbers of Dubia you will run into this problem especially if you have a lot of reptile require different sized Dubia. So how do you solve this problem? You solve it by making your own sifters. You will need some plastic containers, a drill and some effort. First you will want to determine the perfect size Dubia you need. Let’s say you need half inch Dubia. You will need 2 plastic
- Tub #1 and Tub #2 has no holes and catches everything when sifting.
- Tub #3 will need to be drilled with a ½ drill bit. Drill as many holes as you can fit into your tub. Go slow when drill so you don’t crack the tub. Once you have your tubs setup and ready to use empty part of your colony into tub #1.
- Place tub #2 in the area where you will be sifting on a firm platform. This is the catch tub.
- Place tub # 3 above tub #2 and pour in the contents of tub #1 into tub #3. All the roaches smaller than ½ inch will fall through the sifting holes on tub #3 into tub #2. Anything larger than ½ inch will remain in the sifting tub
- ( tub #3).
- Once you have sifted and sized your entire colony you can pour anything not in your sifting pan (tub #3) back into your colony. This method will make light work of sifting and sorting your colony. If you need Dubia smaller or larger than ½ inch just drill the holes in the tubs larger or smaller based on your needs. Your tubs can be 5 gallon buckets, small plastic containers or any other size you deem
- appropriate. As you do this more and more you will make sifting and sorting easy. You may find you will want several sizes of sifting tubs to meet your needs.
The signs of a problem in your Dubia Roach colony.
Your Dubia roach colony should have no smells what so ever. If you can smell your Dubia colony, Houston you have a problem. I will break this down into three categories based on smells.
If you have a sweet smell similar to fruits or grains fermenting you have to much moisture in your colony. This is the onset of mold or mildew. Examine your colony. Check the frass for wet spots or clumps. Check the egg flats, paper rolls for moisture. If your smelling this it is there somewhere. You have to find it fast and dry it out.
We discussed early about roaches dying and gases escaping. If your smell strong ammonia smell then you have roaches in your bins decaying. You will need to locate the source and do a clean out of your tub to remove all dead matter. This can also lead to mold and mildew as well as maggots in your colony.
This will kill your colony.
Thick musky smells:
This is due to stress. I call it a toxic sweat. It usually happens when the stress of sorting and sizing becomes too much for the roaches. They release a fluid in an effort to persuade you to leave them alone. They will look as if they are wet and will be cold to the touch. This is a defense mechanism in the
roaches and it starts with a small group and can spread throughout the whole bin. If you detect this is happening in your sifting and sorting you should stop and place them in the dark and leave them alone for a few hours. This will trigger a die off and you will lose a lot of your colony very quickly. It is best that you not stress the roaches or try to sort to many at the same time. When sorting and sizing it is best to move slow and give them plenty of room in the tubs. You can also detect this if you begin to see wet frass in your sorting tubs. If it does happen to occur you know the signs to look for and can stop the
process of sorting and sizing.
Now you have all the information you need to begin to produce your own feeders and save a lot of money you would spend in buying feeders. All of these techniques are the very same methods we use to grow hundreds of thousands of roaches monthly. Our bins may differ from yours, but the concept is still the same. Heat them up, feed them well, keep them dry and you will have success. Aside from what has been laid out here, patience will be your friend. Be patient and give them time to grow and you will have more feeders than you need in no time. Good luck with your breeding…