Breeding Blatta lateralis
Breeding Turkistan Roaches for live food
Blatta lateralis, adult and juvenile, image by clocker
Turkistan roaches (Blatta lateralis) or red runners as they are often called are a great source of live food, despite this for some reason Blaptica dubia seem to have overtaken them to become the most popular live food. Turkistan roaches are very fast growers and breeders (this is somewhat in contrast with Blaptica dubia which require a few months to establish themselves as a colony), they are easy to feed, possess a soft exoskeleton and require very little attention once established. Turkistan roaches are deep red in colour, they are fast movers which attracts of a reptile, mantis etc, another key advantage is that they cannot climb plastic or glass which makes them much more manageable.
To breed Turkistan roaches you will need;
- Storage box or RUB(Really Useful Box) with lid.
- Egg crates/flats to provide hiding places
- Food(see below) + a source of moisture (water gel or veggies)
- Heat mat + thermostat (thermostat is optional but recommended)
- 20-50+ mixed sex adults(younger is fine but the colony will take longer to establish)
Like most cockroaches the two most important things in their diet is protein and water. A lack of these two key items can result in cannibalism within the colony. Never give your roaches water in a dish, there is a high possibility of the young nymphs falling in and drowning, this quickly leads to bacterial growth in the water which can be detrimental to the colony. The best way for them to obtain moisture is to use water gel (often called bug gel, available from live food sites, eBay etc.), this should be available in the enclosure at all times. Water gel pretty much eliminates the chance of drowning and keeps their enclosure more hygienic too. Other options for providing moisture include cucumber, carrots and lettuces which are relished by the cockroaches.
The high protein diet that they require can be achieved by feeding them dry, crushed cat or dog food (cat food is best due to a slightly higher protein content) which is mixed with oats/bran, and a healthy dose of calcium powder before being powdered/smashed up in to small chunks. This will form the staple of the diet and provide most of the nutrients they require. Remember, healthy live food means healthy reptiles.
A key thing to remember is keep the wet food (and water gel) away from the dry food. When they mix there is a high chance of mold which smells awful and its likely that mites will develop too which will destroy your roach colony resulting in you starting all over again. It is incredible how quickly mould can grip even the most thriving of colonies and cause major problems.
The main things that you need in the set-up are egg crates/flats, these can be bought online or you could just save the ones from the supermarket. Arrange them standing vertically so that all of the waste food and frass (insect poo) drops to the bottom which makes it easier when it comes to cleaning, line them up across the box this way so that approx. 2/3 of the whole enclosure is covered by the crates/flats. They do not need a substrate either or a laying site. This species is very easy to breed the females just drop their egg cases anywhere they want to, as long as there are both adult males and female in there together, then the ootheca’s should be fertile.
To enable successful breeding the temperature at the base of the box should be 29-31 degrees celcius, this can be achieved by using a heat mat underneath their enclosure attached to a thermostat, make a hole in the side of the box and place the probe from the thermostat a few inches through the hole and under the flats to gain an accurate reading. Humidity should be kept around 50-65%, if this is too low then the nymphs will not develop properly and therefore wont hatch but if it is within these parameters then you should expect to see the first hatchlings(up to 30) after 3-4 weeks of the female dropping the first ootheca. The freshly hatched nymphs are about 1/8 of an inch and fairly blonde in colour but they will darken as they mature. Generally they take 3-5 months to fully mature making them one of the fastest breeding roaches used as live food today.
Another important factor of the enclosure is ventilation, the air in the box must keep relatively fresh as stale air will kill roaches and cause it to smell. What I normally do is cut or melt a large square in the lid, probably 35% of the lid area and cover it with mesh using hot glue to secure it around the sides(I use nylon/polyester but stainless steel mesh is good too).
Place the water gel in a very shallow container so the hatchlings can get a drink and put the dry food either on the base of the box or in a small container too. As stated before, keep the two apart!
Culuring Turkistan Roaches
It can take a while to get the culture established but once you do it will be worth it, I hope these become more popular as they really are a fantastic live food and much cheaper in the long run than buying crickets every week, good luck with your own roaches and thank you for reading,
Article by Ben Munday
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