In nature, tiny crickets are voracious omnivores. They eat any kind of plant or animal food they can bite with their powerful jaws. They suck up the juices of any kind of food they can pierce with their mandibles to suck up into their mouths. Although you will certainly escape, some species of crickets will bite your finger.
Some species of crickets eat plants. Some species of crickets eat animals. The kinds of crickets that you will raise to feed to your other pets will usually eat both. Most crickets both eat live food and scavenge dead food.
What do scientists know about the diets of crickets?
There are some great videos on YouTube about how to raise crickets at home that will tell you the basics about what crickets eat, but the body of scientific research about cricket diets and cricket physiology is enormous.
That’s because, in the US alone, cricket farmers raise 7 billion crickets every year. That’s 1500 tons of crickets. Because these companies want to maximize production, they hire teams of scientists to create the perfect cricket chow for growing fat and juicy crickets for your pets (and for people) to eat.
Cricket researchers have found that there are certain key nutrients that have a big effect on how fast and big your crickets will grow.
Crickets need vitamin C to molt. Otherwise, they can’t get bigger. They stay put in their “shells,” their exoskeletons, without growing fatter.
You don’t have to give your crickets itty bitty glasses of orange juice to make sure they get their vitamin C. Cabbage leaves, dry milk powder (added to other foods), and algae give crickets the vitamin C they need in a form their bodies can use.
Crickets need sterols to make cholesterol to stay healthy. For crickets, cholesterol isn’t a bad thing. Cholesterol is the building block of the growth hormones that make them gain weight fast.
Crickets don’t need bacon and eggs for breakfast to get their sterols. They can digest them from brewer’s yeast or baker’s yeast, ground seeds or peanut butter, and rice bran. They can also get sterols from whole milk powder.
Sprinkle whole milk powder on your crickets’ other food. Don’t’ dump it in their cage.
Crickets, surprisingly, gain more weight when they don’t get too many B vitamins in their food. This means that you shouldn’t give them just brewer’s yeast or baker’s yeast for their sterol requirements.
Crickets also gain more weight when they don’t get too much manganese, copper, and zinc in their diets. That means you shouldn’t add too much rice bran or wheat bran to their chow.
Why should excesses of certain vitamins and minerals cause your crickets to grow more slowly so they won’t provide as much nourishment to your other pets? After all, vitamins are vital and trace minerals are essential for life for crickets the same way they are essential for humans and other animals.
The answer seems to be that when crickets get “too healthy” from excessive vitamin and mineral nourishment, they spend more of their time chirping, running around in their cage, and attempting to mate.
Your crickets will also have a greater tendency to eat each other, which defeats the purpose of raising them as food for your other pets.
The rule of thumb for creating the perfect cricket chow is not to make it too perfect. You can always feed crickets what they eat in nature. But first, let’s answer a common question about feeding crickets.
Do crickets eat dirt?
When you buy starter crickets and the pet supply store or at Aldi or Walmart or some other big chain store or online, you’ll notice that their container is nearly always filled with something that looks like dirt.
That stuff that comes with the crickets is a special kind of dirt. It is vermiculite.
Vermiculite is what plant growers use for filling pots they use to grow plants hydroponically. It absorbs water, or, in the case of your crickets, it absorbs urine.
Putting vermiculite in your box of crickets keeps them from being quite as smelly when you open it up to add the crickets to their cage.
In the natural world, crickets will sometimes eat small amounts of dirt that larger animals have urinated on. The urine absorbed by the dirt gives crickets the salt they need to function, along with tiny amounts of certain kinds of protein.
When crickets are looking for salt, they will seek out that particular kind of dirt. They can also extract salt from their own urine that accumulates in the vermiculite you put tin their cages. That’s one of the reasons you should put lots of vermiculite in the cage with your crickets at home.
The other reason for adding lots of vermiculite to a cricket cage is keeping odor down.
Crickets aren’t like raccoons. They don’t wash their food before they eat it. Crickets will naturally consume some dirt that is already on their food. However, there is another nutrient that many home cricket growers overlook.
Crickets need water, but you shouldn’t set out a dish of water for them.
Crickets are great at making their version of music, but they aren’t the smartest creatures when it comes to navigating bodies of water. If you put out a dish of water to keep your crickets hydrated in their cage, some of them will drown.
Crickets need moisture when you get them home from the store. By the time you purchase your crickets, they haven’t been given any water for at least a week.
The best way to make sure your crickets don’t become dehydrated is to give them a fresh banana peel or some fresh carrots or fruit. They will suck the moisture they need from the fruit without danger of drowning.
What are the natural diets of crickets? What do crickets like to eat most?
Different kinds of crickets have different ideas of their favorite meals.
- The familiar brown house cricket chomps down on all kinds of plants. They also like to eat other insects, such as ladybugs, and each other.
- Jamaican field crickets eat maggots and tender seedlings.
- Camelback crickets eat things that grow in dark, damp places, like fungus and other insects that live in dark, damp places. They will also eat fabric.
- Tawny mole crickets are strict vegetarians.
- Jerusalem crickets eat all parts of plants, from roots to leaves, and they like to eat ants. They also eat their own skin when they molt.
- Snowy tree crickets hang out in fruit trees. They eat young fruit, fruit tree shoots and leaves, and the caterpillars that grow on fruit tree leaves.
How to Keep Your Crickets from Eating Each Other
If you raise crickets as live food for your other pets, chances are that you have been looking for a video about the best ways to keep crickets alive longerso you won’t have to make as many trips to the pet supply store to get more.
One of the most important parts of keeping your crickets alive longer is making sure they don’t eat each other. There’s one simple step you need to take to prevent cricket cannibalism:
Don’t put too many crickets in one cage.
It also helps to spread out food in the cage so it’s easier for your crickets to eat the food you are giving them that it is to eat each other.
Frequently Asked Questions About Feeding Crickets
Q. Why haven’t I ever seen my crickets eating anything?
Most species of crickets are nocturnal. They like to hunt other insects, like aphids and ladybugs, in the dark, so they have the element of surprise. A few species of crickets are crepuscular, feeding at dawn and dusk.
Q. What makes crickets engage in cannibalistic behavior?
Cricket cannibalism usually isn’t one cricket eating another cricket alone. Hungry groups of crickets will join forces to trap and eat weaker crickets in their habitat.
Q. How often do crickets eat?
If there is food available, crickets will eat it. The only limitation on how much crickets can eat is making sure they get enough vitamin so they can molt when they outgrow their shells.
You don’t need to worry about not having cricket food if you are keeping your crickets in cold room. Crickets can hibernate in cold weather so they don’t need to eat for long periods until the weather warms up again.
Q. What eats crickets?
As you probably already know, crickets are a favorite food of many reptiles, especially turtles and lizards, and also some species of fish.
Feeding crickets is easy if you make sure your crickets get the water they need from a constant supply of moist foods, not a water dish, and you don’t go overboard on “health foods,” which make them burn calories instead of storing fat.
Give your crickets space to spread out and you’ll have a constant supply of fresh crickets for your other pets.