Starting Your Own Dubia Roach Colony!
What are Dubia Roaches?
To put it simply they are the less yucky version of cockroaches.
They don't fly, they don't bite, they don't smell, they can't even climb a smooth surface. What does this mean for us? They are the PERFECT bug for a sustainable food source for a multitude of animals--from chickens & ducks to bearded dragons and tegus!
I have been raising my own Dubia Roaches for three years now and have not purchased a feeder bug since I started.
Why would someone need to raise bugs?
When I first adopted my bearded dragon I didn't fully understand how expensive feeding him would be. Young bearded dragons eat primarily bugs, and not all bugs are created equal. Some bugs have extremely hard exoskeletons that are difficult to digest, are too fatty for daily feedings, or simply do not have enough nutrients to sustain an animal. Plus, playing $0.75 per roach is not my style.
Dubia Roaches are a rich source of protein, fat, have a soft exoskeleton making the risk of impaction from them close to non-existent.
For our feathered friends they offer a great treat and protein boost when free ranging isn't available.
If you are considering raising bugs for a food source for any of the animals on your homestead, I highly recommend dubia roaches, especially with rising feed costs.
I first began this endeavor with mealworms and dubia roaches, and oh my goodness the SMELL of the mealworms was positively disgusting and not worth the reward. Raising mealworms also requires more steps and in my opinion more effort comparatively. Hey, if you want to raise mealworms go for it, but it wasn't for this gal.
Now let's get into the step by step how of setting up a sustainable, renewable dubia roach colony.
What you'll need:
Storage Container- Opaque with a lid that snaps on
Egg Cartons- Cardboard egg cartons (recycled or new) I prefer to use new egg flats.
One Recycled Carboard Box
Hot Glue/Hot Glue Gun
200 Medium Sized Dubia Roaches
Dubia roaches prefer to live in a hot (between 80-90 degrees), humid and dark environment and will only breed under the perfect circumstances. If they are stressed your population will quickly dwindle instead of multiplying like we want! When choosing a container be sure it is opaque with lids that snap shut. There's something about the safety of snapping your lid closed that just assures you that you won't accidentally knock over 500 roaches in your garage.
*Note Dubia roaches will not survive long on their own and are not cold tolerant. With that being said some states ban them due to being able to thrive in those states and become invasive--Florida.*
Step One: Prepping your storage container AKA your new roach mansion.
I choose an 18 gallon container which is the perfect starter size (it's also what I had readily available in my garage)! Begin by taking the lid and making it air-flow-friendly! Drill holes in both sides of the lid to ensure fresh air can circulate into the container and release any stale air.
Step Two: Bug Proofing
Now, Dubia roaches are not the best climbers. To climb they need something to grip on, and are unable to climb smooth surfaces. This means if you took the lid off your colony not one single roach could climb out. BUT there are plenty of household spiders and beetles that would be happy to sneak into your colony and eat as many roaches as they can, and even lay their own babies--ew, no thank you!
To prevent hostile takeover, take your netting, cut a few pieces and hot glue it over the holes you drilled. I chose to glue my netting on the inside to make it a little more aesthetic! This still allows airflow but stops unwanted pests.
Step Three: Add Cardboard--AKA Dubia roach Apartments
Place egg cartons/egg flats in your container vertically to create an abundance of nooks and crannies for your Dubia's to call home. We want to make sure they can move freely about and not get squished between the egg cartons.
Use your cardboard box to make little wedges to act as spacers between your egg cartons. These pieces of cardboard are super easy to pull out and harvest when you are ready.
Step Four: Add Your Tenants
Now their new home is set up and all it needs is some roaches. You can purchase adult roaches online or at specialty pet stores to start your colony. The larger the dubia roach the more expensive so instead of getting large adult roaches to start my colony, I choose to get medium adolescent roaches. It will take an extra month or so for them to reach breeding age, but to save on the cost of start up this is the route I took!
Step 5: Food & Water
You may have read you can feed tons of different food to your roaches, and you can...but by the far the easiest choice is carrots!
Carrots provide a solid food and water source, will not mold and are virtually scentless in the colony. Potatoes are a close second, but are more likely to develop mold.
From time to time you can give your colony a misting with water, but if you are providing carrots consistently it's not absolutely necessary.
Step 6: Heat Source
Roaches like it nice and toasty so a small heating mat for seedlings or reptiles placed underneath the container will do the trick.
Once the roaches begin to mature males will sport long flightless wings, while females are wingless. As your roaches mature you will need to feed off excess males to ensure successful reproduction. An overabundance of males can lead to competition and eating babies. The ideal ratio is one male for every 10 females. I've noticed success with these ratios!
A Few Things to Remember:
Change out the egg cartons as needed. Eventually you will begin to notice a slight/subtle scent. This means it's time to swap out the carboard and egg cartons. It's important to leave any residue that has accrued on the bottom of the container exactly where it is. This is prime time feeding for baby Dubia roaches.
Whenever your carrots look dry, replace with new fresh carrots. I usually swap out carrots weekly.
Place carrots in every single row of egg cartons. Roaches aren't expert hunters so they need easily accessible food and water sources. This will keep the health of your colony up.
Never use any food source that has been treated with pesticides, this is a surefire way to kill your entire colony. Organic is preferred.
Invest in long tweezers to handle cartons and roaches. You can totally handle the roaches with bare hands they won't hurt you, I promise!! I'm admittedly not crazy about the feeling of tiny little roach legs--so tweezers it is!
When you are ready to feed a batch to your animals you can prep a batch in a smaller separate container and gut load them with nutritious whole foods and vitamins--AKA feed the roaches healthy nutrient dense foods right before feeding them to your chickens/ducks/quail/lizards, etc.
If feeding to bearded dragons be careful not to feed your roaches a calcium supplement. This will make the exoskelton too hard and a risk for impaction can occur. It can also prevent the roach from being able to succesfully shed and grow to adulthood.
White roaches! What are those? Every now and then you will see a white Dubia roach, this is simply a Dubia roach that is shedding and in the process of growing.
Owning animals that rely on feeder bugs, this has been a wallet saver!!! Tell me, who wants to spend money on bugs? NO ONE!! The cost of running your colony is definitely worth the long term savings!