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Turkistan Red Roach Factoids

Origin

Mideast as hitchhikers with returning military personnel

Maximum Size

One inch

Life Cycle

Nymphs mature at 3 to 5 months. Adults live 6 to12 months
Egg Stats Egg cases laid every 2 weeks.  The 20 to 30 eggs hatch in 1 to 4 months.

Housing

Smooth sided container with cover

Security

Chicken egg cartons work great
Substrate None needed

Temperature

Above 70F.  85 better for faster breeding.
Sexing Males blonde with wings.  Females red and wingless.

Attitude

Sprinters.  Hiders.  Thigmotactic.  Children of the night.

Foods

Omnivorous -- any non-moldy organic matter

Water

Water gel recommended
Humidity Prefers a higher than average humidity
Substrate None needed
Threats Housewives

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).

LA
Tasty, speedy morsel, but not what you want to see peeking out of your kitchen cupboard.

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.

LA
Good starter "hive."

LA
About the same size as a grey cricket.   Hard to hold in your hand (except when freshly molted). 

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.

LA
Plastic Critter Keepers make your colony easy to eyeball (no visible roaches on top).  600 hundred inside.

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.   

LA
Egg cartons provide multiple climbing surfaces.

Thigmotactic Critters:  Turkistan red roaches (as well as all other roaches) need a surface to cling to.  They do need something to climb on other than each other.  Egg cartons provide multiple climbable surfaces. Paper tubes make them much easier to harvest.  Just shake out the number of roaches you need and carefully replace the tube.  If you use the tubes out of rolls of paper towels, they are heavy enough to squish these soft little roaches if you drop them in.

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.

LA
You can grab males by their wings, if you're dexterous.

LA
Wings can pin your males to the floor on a moist surface.

LA
Fairly easy to sex.  Male on left.  Female on right.

LA
Male on the left.  Female on the right.

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.

LA
A ventilated lid  keeps roaches in and visitors out.

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.

LA
Pelleted fish food makes a nutritious main food for your roaches.

LA
Dinner for two at the Roach Ritz.

LA
Some serious roach ranchers recommend fresh fruits and vegetables.

LA
Semi-Julienne carrot strips via potato peeler for the epicurean roaches.

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.

LA
Female above recently shed probable male youngster below.

LA
More recent molts.  They shed their skin as they grow.

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.

LA
Couple females carrying egg cases.

LA
Egg cases start out light colored and turn almost black.

LA
Trio of egg case carrying females.  They ate the little guy overnight.

LA
!4 egg cases on the left.  Egg incubator on the right.  May 20, 2011.


Another 18 egg cases on the left.  Another incubator on right.  May 28, 2011.

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.

LA
Cricket water gels work also.  You need to add more every day, but they do contain calcium.

LA
Sipping at the water gel crystals.

LA
Sipping at the water bowl.  Plastic plant in here to serve as an exit from the drowning pool.

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.

  LA

LA
Here's a low budget Turkistan red roach humidifier.  Screen prevents drowning.

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.

  LA

LA
Low humidity can sometimes result in poor sheds.

LA
This ever so humble ranch home houses some 600 head of Turkistan red roaches.

LA
Home sweet home.

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.

LA
Egg cases don't need a ton of room so we demoted them to these smaller cups.

Temporary Last Words:  We still have these guys and gals under observation.  We'll add more as we learn it.

LA

LA
Ain't they cute?

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

LA
Another hatch June 30, 2011.

LA
Some larger ones that hatched in a culture of adults.  They seem to grow faster.

LA
July 4 hatch.

LA
July 11 hatch.

LA
Dining at the Roach Ritz.

LA
2.5-inch mudskipper trying to swallow a male red roach that has flared his wings,

LA
Young red roaches hatched three weeks ago -- kinda cute.


© 2011  LA Productions
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