We were already talking about locusts in ancient Egypt, which represented the 8th plague in the Bible.
Nowadays, they are way less worrying and commonly farmed.
If you are interested in finding out how to keep locusts, then you are at the right place.
2 species are mainly farmed, the migratory locust (Locusta migratoria) and the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria). Here, I’m only going to focus on the migratory locust, but the caring method for the two species are very similar.
The migratory locust is an orthoptera, it’s also the most widespread locust species.
It is a pretty big species; as the male measures between 35-50mm (1,37-1,97”) and the female is 45-52mm (1,77-2”).
But why would we keep them? Well, there are two possible situations.
- To feed an insectivore animal: Buying a few locusts for $3.50, can quickly become costly in the long run. Besides, the quality isn’t necessarily the best and the pet shops can even possibly run out of them, so keeping these at home is ideal.
- To practice entomophagy: The insects that are sold for human consumption are still quite expensive, so, once again, it saves you money. You are also in control of the quality of what you will eat, because if you keep them yourself, you obviously know exactly what they were fed.
Caring for Locusts
Required equipment :
A vivarium : This can be a terrarium, an aquarium or simply a plastic box, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the size: the bigger, the more locusts will fit in, so just adapt to fit your needs and your farming project.
A heat lamp (40 or 60W): I will explain later why I recommend a lamp instead of another heating system.
Hiding places and decor: The simplest is to take egg boxes, they make great housing for insects. You should also add a few dead branches as well to create perches, that way the locusts can get closer to the heat source but also molt more easily.
Laying nests: You will need more than one so you can rotate. I will explain this in more detail in the reproduction section, but just know that you will need pots (10cm/3.9” high minimum), sand and peat.
Yes, you will need to feed your locusts, but with what?
Let’s start with the easiest thing: freshly cut grass. You’ll find it easily, plus, it’s free!
They’ll also love all types of young shoots: wheat, spinach, lamb’s lettuce, rocket/arugula, etc. In general, they’re even more appreciated in smaller productions, as they’re easy to consume and nutrient-rich.
You can add fish feed as a supplement (not as the main food), for a richer diet.
Regarding refreshments, I have 3 different techniques that seem to be the easiest.
1. Water from fruits such as apples, oranges, pears, bananas, etc. Caution: make sure to change the fruits daily or they’ll rot.
2. A small cup filled with water. However, the locusts may want to do their business in this, so you will often need to change the water or it’ll get too dirty.
3. A sponge or cotton pad moistened with water. This has the benefit of being easy to clean or change.
As you may already know, originally, migratory locusts come from Africa, and I’m not saying anything new when I say that it’s generally warmer over there than where we live. (I don’t know where you live though, so if the climate where you are is similar, then great, otherwise adapt as explained below).
The ideal temperature for the locusts would be between 30-35°C (86-95°F) during the day, and 20-25°C (68-77°F) at night.
In the required equipment, I requested a heat lamp, but why not a heat mat or a heating cable instead?
It turns out that, unlike crickets or cockroaches, the locusts are diurnal and so they need light to develop properly.
So, why not kill two birds with one stone, and bring light and heat to your locusts at the same time? I recommend a 40/60-watt lamp to get the ideal temperature. Place it inside at the top, or above your terrarium, that way the locusts will have the possibility to distant themselves from the lamp as they please to get the perfect temperature that they need.
Before they even start to reproduce, there’s a major element, that I promised to explain when we were talking about the equipment: it’s the laying nest!
Keep in mind that the locust’s abdomen is going to double in size, so you can imagine the depth needed in each nest. As a consequence, choose any container of minimum 10-15cm (3.9-5.9”) in height.
Fill your nest with blond peat or sand, which must stay damp all the time, but too much water might create a swamp and drown the eggs, just keep it moist.
The laying process will last 3h on average: 1h30 to dig its hole and “nest”, 30min to lay and 1h to pull out and plug the hole.
Each time a female lays, there’s not just one egg, but a batch of 60 to 120 eggs, also called egg capsule in that case.
If you manage your little farm effectively, it’s surely going to proliferate a lot.
Once a week, remove the laying nest, and place it inside the empty terrarium that you have set aside. You’re going to have to replace it with another while the eggs are preparing to hatch. The eggs incubation lasts 3 weeks on average, so you’ll soon have the chance to see a lot of baby locusts coming out.
To keep this incubation terrarium warm, you can use a heat mat. As there are no living locusts yet, the day/night cycle doesn’t matter. However, try to maintain the heat over 30°C (86°F) continuously, or the eggs may not develop.
Phase serparation or not ?
Some will prefer to separate the phases, the adults in one box, the rest in another.
The choice of phase separation will mainly depend on your farm size and your need for locusts.
Separating the phases will allow a strict control and allow you to choose appropriate preys very easily. But it will also take more space and time of course, that’s why it’s only really useful in bigger productions.
If you intend to keep a small farm, I would say that there is no need to separate everyone. Unlike crickets, cannibalism isn’t an issue within a group of locusts, so you don’t have much to worry about.
To make sure that your little farm is functioning well and doesn’t stink, you need to do a few things every day. These don’t take too much time, although they’re essentials.
- Change food (to avoid rot)
- Remove molts and corpses
- Give them water (depending on the means chosen)
- Humidify laying nests
If you can do the following things once a week, then you’ll have everything you need to make a perfect little farm.
- Remove droppings
- Change laying nests
If this article helped you understand and keep these little bugs better, don’t hesitate to follow me on this blog and on social media so that you don’t miss any of my articles. If you have any questions, please ask me in the comments. See you very soon for a new article!