to Run YourTurkistan Red Roach Ranch
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Pet World Visit
Prologue: I just encountered these guys and gals this year (2011). When I came in the front door, Mike said "Here's a gift I got for you." Turns out it was 1,000 "red Turkish roaches" It also turns out that was not their real name but it was close. And he bought my "gift" with my money. Not too many people would like a cockroach for a gift, but Mike knows I like bugs and any other critters I've never seen before (even bugs).
Origin: As the name implies, these Turkistan red roaches come from Turkistan. They're also running around lots of other middle eastern countries. They apparently decided to visit the U.S. by hitchhiking a lift on the military materiel that came back with our returning troops in the 70's. They've become established in California, Texas, and Arizona -- parts of which approach the semi-desert regions of their native lands. Our government has not as of this date released the official documentation on this particular invasion of our borders. Red roaches resemble "our" German roaches with a bit less of the creep factor. If you encounter one zipping across your floor, however, your first instinct is to stomp first and ask questions later.
Turkistan Red Roach Size: Adult Turkistan roaches top out at about an inch -- approximately the same size as a grey cricket. This makes them a perfect feeder insect for small to medium fast moving lizards. Slow movers that have to think/meditate a bit before chowing down (like bearded dragons) may not like these speedy little roaches. Another minus: many reptile enclosures have multiple ventilation holes, otherwise known as official cockroach exits.
Speedy Little Buggers: Movement attracts herptile brains -- especially the movement of bite-size objects. Unmoving objects are invisible to most frogs. Remember Jurassic Park? Turkistan red roaches are also known as red runners. They instantly catch the attention of most herptiles.
Turkistan Red Roach Housing: You can use any smooth surfaced container to house your roaches. They can't climb (clean) glass or (clean) plastic walls. But you do need a cover. The "non-flying" males do have wings and can occasionally achieve a lift off. Covers also prevent invasions by uninvited predators. Glass tanks can get heavy. Plastic containers are easier to use.
No Substrate Needed: Unlike mealworms, Turkistan red roaches need no substrate. They're not burrowers and are perfectly content to cling to their egg cartons or paper rolls. This makes their cages easier to clean.
Lovers of the Dark: If you've ever lived with roaches, you know they scurry like crazy when you flip on the lights. This means your Turkistan red roaches prefer opaque walled containers. So you have to decide whether you want easily observable living quarters for your roaches or more comfortable living quarters. (They do their best work in the dark). You can compromise by covering them with black plastic sheeting -- the best of both worlds.
Keep Warm: Your Turkistan red roaches survive fine at room temperature. If you're just buying a couple dozen and plan to feed them out, don't sweat their temp. However, if you intend to increase your herd, you'll want to warm them. Bump them up to 85F for much better production. Make sure you provide sufficient moisture to keep their humidity at a healthy level. At low humidity levels, you'll have unsuccessful sheds.
How to Sex Your Roaches: Only the female Turkistan red roaches live up to the "red" in their common name. Males are lighter color -- sort of blonde. Not exactly like the old movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes -- more like a dark shade of yellow. Males also sport wings. They don't actually fly, but they can sort of flutter for a pretty good jump. Anyway, when you're feeding them out and plan to keep your ranch in production, you can feed out your males and still maintain maximum production.
Keep them Covered: Your Turkistan red roaches will not likely reach the top of their container. However, you also need to protect them from unwanted invaders -- spiders, ants, and mice. Unless you cover them with a very fine mesh, you will also meet those pesky little flies about twice the size of a fruit fly. Feeding fresh fruits and greens is a personal invite to winged fruit flies.
Roach Foods: As mentioned earlier, roaches eat nearly anything. When raising feeder insects, they are what they eat. They are a conduit of their food to your herptile, tarantula, bird, or fish. You want to feed them a robust diet. And, in the case of herps, remember that insects have zip for calcium. That's why you "dust them" with calcium/D3 powder. Roaches may be harder to dust. Their shells are a bit less "sticky" when it comes to supplements. Just sprinkle the supplement on their food. Or feed them one of the roach foods.
Fresh Foods: Fresh fruits and vegetables are harder to work with. You have to change them every day or so, or you invite mold and pesky little flies. This makes pelleted foods more practical and certainly easier. So, you can feed them cat, bird, or dog food. All three pack more complete nutrition than fresh foods or vegetables. You will want to avoid tomato and potato vines.
Egg Production: Unlike their larger cousins (Madagascars and Dubias), Turkistan red roach females don't squeeze out an egg case and suck it back inside their ovipositor apparently to protect it for 60 days. Every couple weeks female reds just indiscriminately strew their eggs hither and thither (like the Easter bunny). This makes them a very prolific feeder insect.
Egg Stats: In the Factoid box way above, we used the egg statistics generally accepted on the web (and you know the web is always right). Anyway, since we now have their egg cases, we can verify the web stats. Check back in a couple months for additional information. LA May 29, 2011.
Roach Drinking Fountains: Your roaches need water if you feed them pelleted foods. They're a bit smarter than crickets when it comes to water. They'll get plenty of water if you give them fruits and vegetables. If you have lots of room, a chick waterer works well. Crickets will dive into those and drown. Roaches are much smarter. Still, the waterers are a little sloppy to work with. A low container with some type of ladder to climb out on is easier and more practical. Sponges tend to get stinky and need more frequent cleaning. Or, you can use cricket water gels if you want. You don't even need a dish.
Sloppy Water Source: You'll likely slop a bit of water around when working with your colony or just picking it up to look at it. (At least I do.) Your Turkistan red roaches will drink the water you spill, BUT too much water slopping around can inundate the eggs on your colony floor and drown them. Your adults will drink your slop overs, but your eggs will suffer.
Pump up their Humidity: As heat goes up, humidity usually drops. A hot light bulb will quickly dry out your colony -- unless you keep yours in a humid fish room. Water bowls help. Otherwise you may want to mist your culture on a regular basis. Misting encourages mold. An extra water container covered with a screen or mesh will increase your humidity without endangering your young roaches.
No Substrate Needed: Since Turkistan red roaches do not burrow, they need no substrate. This makes their cages very easy to clean. You only need to remove the frass and discarded exoskeletons on an occasional basis.
Temporary Last Words: We still have these guys and gals under observation. We'll add more as we learn it.
June 25, 2011: Two of the May 20 egg cases hatched and yielded 32 very cute baby roaches. They're amazingly large for newborns. I put them in a small grow-out cage with some adults to give them access to food and water. LA
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