Thursday, December 31, 2020

Invertebrate Dude: 2020 in Review

Happy New Year's Eve everyone! Man, this year's been absolutely CRAZY, has it not? The COVID 19 outbreak, a pandemic unlike anything I've seen in my lifetime, brought the world to a bit of a standstill for most, there was the outrage following the murder of George Floyd, with huge protests taking place all over the world as a result, and of course the presidential race here in the US as well... Just an absolutely insane, frustrating, sometimes downright heart breaking year... But it's had it's highs as well, especially as it's been coming to an end, we've got vaccines being developed and distributed now for COVID 19, and a new president on the way, one can certainly hope next year will be better than 2020 in terms of world events. 

As far as the blog goes though, despite all the chaos and disorder going on in the outside world, my invertebrate collection actually saw a huge growth spurt this year. It started with me just going out and collecting stuff out in the field behind my housing development in Spring and Summer, lots of neat little native invert species I wanted to try breeding, some of which I bred successfully, others not so much... 😅 It was very nice getting out of the house and being in nature, something I've not done a lot the past few years due to health issues, but I was able to overcome some of those issues and go out collecting nonetheless, which I really enjoyed. Sadly, that field has been completely destroyed for housing development these past few weeks... So I don't know that I'll be able to explore the outdoors in 2021 as much as I did this year, at least, I'll have to go out quite a bit further from my house to find anything of interest... 

But moving on, in Spring I also re-acquired 7 Pyrophorus noctilucus click beetle larvae from Eric Maxwell, which were some of the last ones left in the US actually, and descendants of my old colony. I'm happy to say I was able to breed them very well, got tons of offspring and actually distributed 178 larvae to 18 breeders here in the span of half a year! 😁 So NOW they're definitely here to stay, I've made dang sure they won't be lost from US culture, something I should have done years ago, (last time I bred Pyrophorus I only sent them to a few breeders, and all but one lost their cultures). I dare say these may have been my biggest success story for 2020.

I was also sent a free pair of one of my dream species, Macropanesthia rhinoceros, from Peter Clausen at Bugsincyberspace, which was AMAZING! (check out his new revamped website BTW). 😃 Not only that, but I was sent some more awesome roaches and misc inverts from several of my pals in the hobby throughout the year; Eli Castro sent me those (hopefully) pure Princisia, thanks to Alan Jeon I re-acquired Hormetica strumosa, some Arenivaga spp., and was sent the ADORABLE Myrmecoblatta wheeleri and beautiful little Deilelater spp., fellow blogger coniontises sent me that Nyctoporis carinata female (still haven't seen larvae from her yet), and for the first time ever I received a package from Brandon Maines at Magnificent Beasts, which was packed excellently as I had expected! 😄 (I actually filmed an unboxing video but have yet to put it together, whoops!).
Also in the last couple months I received quite a few new roach species thanks to collaborating with Ty Randall of Ty Dye Exotics that aren't yet established in the US hobby, which I hope to help work on making more widespread in US Blatticulture next year! 🤞😉 

I also started posting much more regularly on Instagram, and it's been great, really hope to build up a larger following and community there, as I'm really starting to prefer it to Facebook, my social media platform of choice for the past several years. So if any of you have an IG account and are interested in seeing more content from me, do feel free to click my IG link on the top right side of this blog and give me a follow! 😄

Overall it's been a great year for my collection, I have had some losses here and there for sure, but I've completely shattered my self imposed limit of 10-12 species and have ended the year with around 50 species in my collection, with plans for lots of new acquisitions in 2021! 😅
I would like to thank all my viewers for sticking around and following my blog this year, I hope 2020 hasn't been too rough on you, and that 2021 will be much better and bring about lots of new species for the US invertebrate hobby! 😁 I'd like to end with some New Year's resolutions for 2021:


#1 I would really like to be more active on YouTube, now that I have a bigger collection and more to make videos about. Maybe I could do Q&As if I got enough subscribers? Just a thought, in any case I hope to post more frequently there next year. 🙂

#2 Branch out more into mantid keeping. Already working on that, but I'll need more feeders if I want to work with multiple species of mantids...

#3 Get more Perisphaerinae. Ideally I'd like to own every species available in the US and then some in 2021, seeing as this is my favorite roach group I would really like to focus more on building up a large Perisphaerinae collection. Unfortunately, this is difficult because they're not exactly the most commonly cultured roaches, especially in the US.

#4 Reach 1,000 followers on Instagram. I think this one's pretty doable, I got 500 followers in the past several months alone, hopefully by the end of 2021 I can double that, despite my primarily roach based posting... 😅

#5 Work out a better heating situation for my inverts. One 14 foot heat cable is not enough for my whole collection, I need to step up my game in that department for sure.

#6 Lastly, I'd really like to diversify my collection as much as possible next year, not only branching out into mantids, but maybe some more isopods, orthopterans, centipedes, arachnids, velvet worms, obscure insect groups, etc., I know I mainly specialize in roaches (because they're my favorite), but I'd really like to put the "Invertebrate" in Invertebrate Dude this year, if I only focus on roaches I may as well rebrand myself as "Cockroach Dude", ya know? 😂 Of course, I'm more picky about what non-roach species I'm willing to acquire, but this should ensure that I end up with some really neat species I think! 😅


Well, that's gonna do it for this post, and this year! Thanks for reading, I hope everyone has a Happy New Year, and I'll see you all next time! 😉



Saturday, December 26, 2020

My First CB Iphthiminus Adult!!!

That's right, my Iphthiminus serratus pupa eclosed into a perfectly formed adult on December 19th! 😁 This may be the first captive bred Iphthiminus serratus adult in existence, I'm not quite sure. In any case this species is very seldom kept or bred, so this is quite a neat achievement considering I had very little information to go off of on how to breed these (same with almost any Cnodalonini spp.), and it was quite the informative journey! 😃

Here are some pictures of the CB adult! 

Teneral





Still a bit teneral





Fully darkened





Hopefully the other larva pupates successfully, and fingers crossed my experience with breeding and rearing this species will help me better breed them next year, along with any other Cnodaloninids I keep in the future, (I'd really like to try Coelocnemis dilaticolis again, if only I could go back to the spot where I found my old ones...).

That's gonna do it for this post, and by the way, my backlog of new acquisition posts has finally been exhausted, so new posts will be more sporadic from now on. 😅 Anyways, thanks for reading, and I hope you all had a merry December 25th, whether you celebrate Christmas or not! Stay safe, and I'll see you all next time! 😉

Thursday, December 24, 2020

How I Set Up My Ectobiids

This is gonna be a bit of a DIY kind of post, showing how I typically house my small, fragile, climbing Ectobiidae genera. This cheap, easy to replicate setup style has worked well for me for Anallacta, Balta, Cariblatta, Chorisoneura, and Latiblattella in the past, and I'm using the same technique currently for my two Hemithyrsocera spp.! This setup would also likely work well for genera/species like Agalopteryx, Blattella, Ectobius, Ectobiidae sp. "Little Penguin", Euthlastoblatta, Neoblattella, Plectoptera, and maybe Loboptera and Lobopterella, as well as a plethora of similar, small climbing Ectobiids like these. 

First, I start with the container. A small plastic container that's at least a little bit taller than it is wide is my enclosure of choice for Ectobiid starter cultures, I've used Costco nut containers, Dollar Tree containers, and plastic gallon jars. An airtight lid is a must, as these Ectobiids can usually climb very well and have tiny, tiny nymphs. For larger, thriving colonies of prolific species, a big gasket bin would likely be your best choice of enclosure.

Next, I cut/melt out a feeding/misting hole, usually near one of the bottom corners of the enclosure, about an inch to an inch and a half in circumference. This can be done with a razor blade, certain drill bits, or with a soldering iron, (I've historically gone for the latter, but in larger enclosures a drill would likely be better and easier). I then plug up the hole with a bit of sponge, (the kind you use for washing cars), cut out to be just a bit wider than the hole, so when it's squeezed and plugged into the hole it expands and creates an airtight seal that even the smallest of roaches can't wiggle their way out of.
I do this because a lot of Ectobiids tend to hang out on or right below the lid of their enclosure, so when you open it they'll just come pouring out... You could try to use something like silicone oil around the rim of the enclosure to stop them from climbing out, but the hatchlings of some small species may get stuck and drown in such a barrier. Additionally, that doesn't stop adults from flying out, which can be a big problem when keeping genera like Hemithyrsocera which can be quick to fly when disturbed. So, if you don't want to open the lids of their enclosures, it helps to have a backup entrance that they're less likely to escape from to feed and water them from.

Next up, ventilation. Most of these Ectobiids don't need a ton of airflow, but they don't love completely stagnant air either, if possible you should poke at least a couple dozen pin holes in the lid or sides of the enclosure, but this can be difficult or impossible with thicker plastic, in which case you'll want to cut out holes in the enclosure and hot glue microscreen over them to make air vents. For species that need more arid setups, (of which there are very few consistently in culture), you'll of course want to give them much more ventilation.
It's important to either use pin holes or microscreen/mesh for ventilation, because the hatchlings of many of these Ectobiids are extraordinarily tiny, and can get out of most other types of ventilation holes. 

So now that the enclosure itself has been constructed, it's time to furnish it. Most of these species seldom touch the ground or burrow at all, (though some will bury their ooths), so for substrate you can use plain coconut fiber, sphagnum peat, organic unfertilized potting soil, etc., they really aren't picky. Most of these types of Ectobiids in culture like a humid, tropical setup, so you'll want to keep the substrate quite humid, but not soaking wet. For the few that like it drier, just keep half or a third of the substrate humid, the rest dry. 
For hides I typically use pieces of bark standing vertically, slanted against each other, and then cram in piles of leaf litter here and there. Keep in mind that a lot of Ectobiids suuuuuuuck at finding food, so if the enclosure is TOO densely decorated, they might not be able to find the food you put in there... So I tend to keep their setups on the simple side, usually 3-4 pieces of bark, with leaf litter crammed only in one or two corners, with one corner relatively cleared as the designated feeding area. Once the colony reaches a large size, they seem to find food more easily, and it's less of an issue, so you can add more hides at that point if needed. 

Speaking of food, for most species in culture I recommend using dog/cat/fish/chick feed as the staple diet, with fruits offered every now and then if you wish. Exceptions include the palynivorous Hemithyrsocera spp., which prefer having pollen or artificial pollen in their diet, and really should have fruits available at most times as well.
Again, most of these species aren't the best at finding food, and while I've successfully used food bowls (in the form of milk caps) for most of them, I do always make sure the food bowls are right up against a corner of the enclosure, which makes it easier for them to find, and usually try to align the bark hides so that the base of the front one(s) reach the food bowl. For some species you may need to offer food in two or more places, maybe outside of bowls, especially in larger enclosures. Hemithyrsocera apparently like feeding on food in high places of their enclosure, which makes sense because they usually climb up to flowers and such to feed on pollen/nectar in nature. (I actually made my H.vittata an arboreal feeding station out of cork tile for that reason, though I realize now that offering food at the top of their bark hides works just as well).

Here are some pictures of a few of my Ectobiid enclosures, some from the past, a couple from my current collection:

Chorisoneura texensis enclosure, one of my first Ectobiid setups, no ventilation.



Cariblatta minima enclosure, a bigger setup this time, with pinhole ventilation.



Hemithyrsocera vittata enclosure, in a gallon jar.


Feeding port plugged up.

Feeding port, unplugged.

The sponge plug, with the indentation caused by being squeezed into the port.

Interior, note the arboreal feeding station, which is a bit redundant since I can just throw food on top of the bark...


And a Hemithyrsocera vittata pic, because why not?

Hemithyrsocera palliata enclosure, interior, also in a gallon jar.

Exterior.

Hopefully that gives you all an idea of my general climbing Ectobiid setup, and proves useful for others when making their Ectobiid setups. Even if people don't set theirs up the same way I do, perhaps they'll find one or two of the husbandry techniques listed above useful and incorporate them into their own setup style. 🙂

As for maintaining cultures long term after setup, the main things I try to look out for are frass/body buildups (harmful to some species, others not so much), pest outbreaks (for small Ectobiids, even prolific springtails like Sinella curviseta are definitely considered dangerous pests), and overcrowding (again, harmful to some species, others handle crowding much better). Sometimes you'll need to completely revamp their enclosures every now and then, it all depends on the species. These kinds of Ectobiids can be quite fragile and usually are completely intolerant of neglect, so maintaining cultures long term can be a bit of a pain, not impossible mind you, just a bit of a pain. 😅 Still, these tiny "micro-roaches" can be really neat and fun to watch, not to mention super pretty, culturing and collecting them is kind of like a hobby within a hobby, and thankfully there are quite a few native and introduced species present in the US, a few of which have yet to enter culture!

Well, that does it for today, I hope everyone enjoyed, thanks for reading, stay safe, and I'll see you all in the next post! 😉

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Reclusive Reticulitermes

So, I've kinda been keeping a species of Blattodean secretly for the past several months... I wasn't supposed to keep them for long, the plan was to send them to my friend once the weather got cooler... But then I forgot to do that, and it got TOO cold, so I'm kinda stuck with them for a few more months... figure I may as well post about them then! 😂 
Now, when I say Blattodeans, I mean one of the more recent additions to the order Blattodea, termites! 😃 Formerly in the order Isoptera, termites were recently found to actually be in the same order as roaches, the Blattodea, they're merely eusocial, advanced cockroaches. The species I have belongs to the genus Reticulitermes, and I suspect is R.hesperus based on the range, (caught them here in Idaho), however, it's possible they may be another species, perhaps even an undescribed one, the genus likely needs work done... (a common theme for the Blattodea). 

Now, my friend Brandon Maines has been on a termite collecting spree the past year, and has several Reticulitermes species/strains from around the US, all of which he's bred successfully, and so when I found a dozen Reticulitermes under a wooden board out in the field by my neighborhood this summer, I collected them to send to him. But, termites are kinda heat sensitive, so shipping them in the summer would have killed them. The plan was to send them in the fall, and I did send Brandon a package this fall... But forgot to add the Reticulitermes, as I rarely do maintenance on them and kinda forgot I had them... 😂 So I'll have to wait until spring to send them to him. 

Now the way termites normally work is there are queen and king alates, winged reproductive individuals that fly away from the colonies they were born within in mass "nuptial flights" to found new colonies together. After pairing up, they shed their wings, burrow down into the ground or in wood (depending on the species), then they mate, the female gets to laying eggs, and baby termites hatch out, which continue to molt and become workers or soldiers, depending on what the colony needs at the time. Workers build the tunnels and chambers and harvest food for the colony, whilst soldiers have enlarged heads and jaws or other armaments, and defend the colony from intruders. 
Now, the nice thing about Reticulitermes and some other termite genera (like Zootermopsis), is that, although they do have queens and kings in their colonies, which are the sole reproductive individuals in normal colonies, when separated from the main colony, normal workers and soldiers can become secondary reproductives, and will produce offspring of their own. Secondary reproductives have enlarged thoracic pads, but don't actually sprout wings, and their offspring usually just become workers, soldiers, or secondary reproductives themselves, I don't think alates are usually produced unless the colony is very stressed. There can be many secondary reproductives per colony too I believe. So in captivity, they can basically breed indefinitely, without the need for queens or kings, unlike ants and most other eusocial insects where if you don't find the queens, you'll never be able to actually get a colony established, and with most ants you'd never be able to breed them indefinitely either, your colony's lifespan would be tied to the queen's lifespan.

My little culture is doing pretty well so far, I've got them in a small, minimally ventilated container with some dirt at the bottom, rotten pine on top of that (that's what I found some in earlier this year), and an inch or so of coconut fiber on top of that. I recently added some rotten cottonwood and some toilet paper on top of the coconut fiber, which they've started feeding on. I'm keeping them humid, cool and dark. 
I caught around 20 of them in the summer, all were workers, but at least one of them has molted into a soldier, and I'm pretty sure I saw a secondary reproductive in there a few weeks ago. They have made lots of tunnels in the substrate and wood, some against the sides of the enclosure, so I can still observe them a bit despite their secretive nature. Plus, they come to the surface every now and then to eat at the new wood I put in there, so I was able to separate a couple and get some pictures of them! 

Here are those pictures:

Soldier







Worker








Interesting how these two castes look so different from each other, yet they both start out looking like workers. I was unable to find a secondary reproductive to photograph, but they basically look like workers with enlarged thoracic pads.
Just thought I'd post about these weirdos before I inevitably send them off to Brandon, they're an interesting Blattodean for sure, but not one I'm particularly interested in keeping myself, especially considering R.hesperus is infamous for causing serious structural damage to wooden structures... I have a thing about not keeping pests, not for the long term at least. 😂 Wouldn't mind keeping dampwood termites like Zootermopsis one day though, which strictly feed on rotten wood and aren't pests.

Anyways, that's gonna do it for this post, hope you all enjoyed, thanks for reading, stay safe, and I'll see you all next time! 😉

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Camel Cricket Updates!

I have updates for both my Ceuthophilus species, let's start out with my C.agassizii. My colony is doing quite well, most of the offspring produced from my WC adults are adults now themselves, and have already started mating and laying eggs, so the next generation isn't too far off! 😄

Here are some pictures I took of them recently, most of the eggcrate pieces in their enclosure are packed with individuals!












I've noticed that there seem to be a lot less cannibalism in this colony compared to last time I kept them, I think because I'm feeding them far more consistently and more often than I used to, either that or this new strain is just easier for some reason.
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Now onto my Ceuthophilus gracilipes gracilipes. My nymphs are all growing very well, and a few appear to be subadults now! 😁 They're so big already, really looking forward to seeing some healthy adults in person! 

Here are some pictures of a somewhat recently matured subadult female, (hence her skinny abdomen):






Really hoping this species breeds well for me, will be nice to help get these established in culture here in the US, (though TBH I don't know of that many people interested in culturing these, even though they're the biggest US native camel cricket).
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Lastly, here's a comparison between that same subadult female Ceuthophilus gracilipes gracilipes, and an adult female Ceuthophilus agassizii






As you can see, the size difference between the two is already crazy, and that gracilipes female STILL has another molt to go before maturity, so she'll put on even more size! 😄 
Crazy how these two are in the same genus, and it's interesting how they differ in morphology, especially when it comes to their legs. C.agassizii are ground dwellers and have shorter, more robust looking legs, whereas C.g.gracilipes are arboreal and usually found on tree trunks in the wild, and have much longer, lankier legs which better suit that life style. And coloration wise, the patterning of gracilipes is good for blending in with the bark they typically rest on, whereas the coloration of agassizii helps them blend in with the pale dirt and and dried grass in the scrubland habitat I normally find them in.

Anyways, that's gonna do it for this post, thanks for reading everyone, hope you enjoyed, stay safe, and I'll see you all next time! 😉