Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Stuff I Sent to Brandon...

Just a short little update, I did just send some species in the collection to my buddy Brandon Maines of Magnificent Beasts, so I figured I'd let you all know why they're no longer on my cultured species list. 😅

First off, I sent him my last Pseudoglomeris cf. magnifica "Gold" female. I never posted about it, but actually completely cured mine of their "entomophagous" Trichoderma, but sadly as I suspected, the process took quite the toll on the roaches, and the only survivors were four adult females, three of which were pretty dang old and died a month or two after being cured. 😟 The one I sent Brandon appears to be a bit younger, but definitely unmated as well... Brandon has some females of this species himself, but no longer has any males sadly, and while some of his females should have been mated, they've not given birth for him for many months now... So that species may be functionally extinct in the US right now. In any case, I felt it made sense for my last female to go to him, in case he miraculously can source a male or something, just feels right for the remaining individuals of that species in the US to all be in the same place. 

Secondly, I FINALLY sent him the Reticulitermes cf. hesperus "Kuna, ID" I collected for him last Summer, which have been surviving in my care OK, just not really breeding, at least I don't think so, they are very secretive and didn't seem to be growing in numbers... In any case that was a long time coming, and Brandon's great at breeding termites, so they should take off in his care now. 😄

Thirdly, I sent him my lone Rhyparobia maderae nymph that was stowaway in my Gromphadorhina sp. "Unidentified" culture, which ended up being a female. That species is very rare in the US ATM, and Brandon has one pretty old female that should be mated and looks super gravid but refuses to give birth, and a younger adult male... So since my female nymph was a subadult, seemed like a good idea to send it his way so he can get it mated and hopefully get a colony of that species established quickly. 😅

I also sent him my entire Lepisma saccharina (common silverfish) colony, because I just can't seem to get them to breed... EVERY one of the 6 WC individuals I collected is still alive, along with a single, very slow growing nymph from their round of breeding last year... But that's it, there's basically been no more colony growth, can't seem to get tiny hatchlings to survive for me, and they haven't actually bred in months... So hopefully they'll do better for him, I just couldn't get them to take off for me. He breeds firebrats quite successfully, so he at least has good experience with a close relative of theirs, which will hopefully carry over to these Lepisma. 😂 

I sent him some other stuff too, but just starter cultures of species that I'm still keeping and breeding myself. 😄 Just wanted to explain what happened to all those species and why I no longer have them. Guess I'll finish by wishing Brandon good luck, hopefully he can get cultures of all those species established one way or another! 🤞😃

Well, that's gonna do it for today, thanks for reading, stay safe, and I'll see you all next time! 😉

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Last Month's Losses...

Well, it's that time again unfortunately, gotta post about the losses in my collection and some misc sad updates as well. 😟 But you know I gotta do it, so let's dive right in...
Let's start off with one of the two roach species I re-entered the hobby with, Gyna capucina. My colony has unfortunately basically been in a long, downward spiral since I got them, due to a series of unfortunate mistakes on my part... First I let their Oribatid mite population get out of hand, then I accidentally starved them, and on top of it all, it appears I never really kept them warm enough for adequate reproduction. Despite my best efforts, with my current heating situation (a single heat cable) I could only heat them to 78F°, maybe 80F°, but it seems like they require temperatures closer to 88F° or higher for consistent reproduction.

So, I sent my remaining 3-4 adult females (only one of which probably still has an ootheca left in her), plus the 4-5 mixed nymphs I had left in my possession to Kyle Kandillian, who has a small starter colony ATM that he got from Ty Randall. They wouldn't have been of any use to anyone who didn't already have a culture of that species, so hopefully they help boost Kyle's small colony, and he can get his G.capucina thriving for him. Figured it was better than letting them die out on me, at least the remaining individuals of my broken colony can possibly help further the spread of this species the US hobby. Once I can get a heat lamp or space heater or something that would let me better heat an enclosure to 88-90F° or higher, I will get another colony of this species and hopefully do a lot better with them. 😅 But yeah, I no longer have pink roaches, so that's a bummer.
Unfortunately, all four of the Hemithyrsocera vittata ooths my females produced before dying prematurely were duds... 😭 So that species is functionally extinct from US culture, AGAIN. It's so frustrating and frankly embarrassing that I lost my females to what was probably a simple ventilation issue, my two males and the stunted nymph are still doing perfectly well in their better ventilated deli cup. I really hope I can get this species again and actually help establish them in the US hobby, but it looks like for now, this species is not getting established here.
Now, this isn't exactly an unexpected update IMO, but still disappointing nonetheless, my last Myrmecoblatta wheeleri female has finally died, seemingly of old age... and I didn't get a SINGLE. DANG. OOTHECA. Brandon and Alan have both told me their ooths are pretty similar to those of Compsodes, and they they just affix them to objects much like Compsodes. After scouring the various enclosures I housed my Myrmecoblatta in, I can definitely confirm that, for whatever reason, they NEVER produced so much as one ootheca, and honestly I don't know why not. For the first couple months I had them (before microfauna found their way into their enclosure), they were doing great and should have laid at least a few oothecae, but I suspect they needed higher heat and ventilation levels...

This species is probably possible to breed in captivity repeatably, but they're super, super finicky, perhaps the most difficult US native to ever enter culture. Here are my notes on their husbandry:

•1 They definitely seem to be mold feeders based on my personal observations, as my adults always lost a lot of weight when no mold was available. They'll nibble on other foods but can't survive solely on them, or at least probably won't breed without fungi to feed on. Food molds like the stringy white molds and Trichoderma spp. seem to sustain them pretty well. Still, this is more difficult a food source to provide than a lot of people would think.

•2 They can't handle ANY, I repeat, ANY springtails or mites in their enclosures, springtails both stress them out with constant tactile contact, and most importantly, absolutely wipe out their main food source, molds. Mites bother them with tactile contact and probably food competition as well, but honestly, besides mites that have hyposus stages (which can be fatal to Myrmecoblatta), springtails are more troublesome because they prevent mold growth, which Myrmecoblatta need to feed. Fungus gnats are also intolerable.

•3 They didn't seem to like cardboard or even smooth bark for hides, only rotten wood and hides made of cork board were readily accepted. 

•4 Temps 75F° or above and/or lots of airflow are probably needed for oothecae production. 

Overall, they're really a lot of dang work for a pretty low payoff, they are TINY, don't seem to be a prolific species so can't be used as feeders, and they certainly can't be used as cleaner crews given how finicky they are. The only purpose M.wheeleri serve in culture is as a challenge for true Blatticulture enthusiasts... 😅 I hope to try them again one day, but I need to wait until I can heat a whole room for my bugs, so I can keep mine in a corner far, far away from the rest of my collection so as to prevent mites or springtails being introduced to their enclosure, but still keep them warm enough to breed.

Sorry I let you down Alan, guess I owe you my kidneys, PM me to let me know how to go about doing that...
I was completely unable to get a SINGLE one of my Eleodes obscura sulcipennis larvae to mature successfully, a large portion of larvae died off in their later instars in the communal setups, and all survivors (including those reared individually in their own deli cups) died in the pupal or pre-pupal stages... In retrospect, I HIGHLY suspect a diapause was needed for the larvae, it would explain all the deaths, and it makes sense considering I never really see adult obscura emerging in any numbers until late Spring, so it seems likely that larvae overwinter, pupate in early Spring, and emerge as adults in late Spring or Summer.

So, that project was a complete and utter bust, but hey, at least I think I know what went wrong, and it's a pretty simple fix TBH, so I can try again one day, or just get a southern strain that doesn't require a diapause.
Lastly, one of the earlier ooths my Deropeltis sp. "Masai Mara" female laid split open a little at the seam and was all rotten inside... I'm very very worried all my ooths might be duds or just died for some reason, I've moved them straight into my Bantua enclosure to give them some more heat, better airflow, while still keeping them a bit humid and misting them often. Apparently female Deropeltis spp. sometimes just lay dud ooths, and the majority of mine still look healthy, but then again Deropeltis seem to hate me, and I wouldn't be surprised if I failed breeding them yet again at this point, (though I sincerely don't know why these ones would have failed to hatch). So yeah, don't know if this is a total loss yet, but it's been over four months since the first ooths were laid, and I'm growing more and more concerned about the lack of hatchings...

Well, that's it for today's bummer post, y'all know I hate doing these, but I gotta, since failures can be just as informative as successes. I hope some of you found this post helpful, thanks for reading, stay safe, and I'll see everyone next time! 😉

Friday, April 16, 2021

Ammopelmatus pictus EGGS!!!

Well, good news and bad news here... Good news, you read that title right, the smaller of my two female Ammopelmatus pictus laid an egg! 🙂 Bad news, after laying one egg she got eggbound and died, so I had to cut her open and extract the rest of the eggs by hand. 🙃 Evidently, unlike other Orthopterans I've kept but much like mantids, overfeeding gravid adult females can cause Ammopelmatus to become eggbound, which means they gain too much weight and can't extrude eggs anymore, which then kills them, (basically it's extreme constipation, but with eggs). The fact that this female was small didn't help things, hopefully my other, larger adult female doesn't get eggbound, I'll certainly be feeding her a lot less.

Thankfully I had been keeping a watchful eye on the small female after found the first egg, and noticed her dying the day afterwards... She died from being eggbound very quickly, and as soon as I saw she was definitely dead, I sprung into action, cut her open and extracted the eggs, all of which seemed to be fully developed thankfully. I then gently rinsed the eggs of any residual guts/hemolymph, and buried them in moist coconut fiber in moderately ventilated deli cups, along with the other egg. All in all I got 40 healthy looking eggs from this female, which I'll be keeping humid and at around 74F°.

Interestingly, not only were these eggs kinda huge in comparison to the female, but they're all yellow. Last time I tried breeding Ammopelmatus, the eggs my females produced were smaller, white, and likely infertile since they never hatched. However, I was looking into the species Sia ferox on Instagram (a close relative of Ammopelmatus, also in the subfamily Stenopelmatinae), and turns out some people overseas have bred S.ferox successfully. Interestingly, their fertile eggs are quite yellow, a color I usually associate with infertile Orthopteran eggs for some reason, but it seems that yellow coloration might actually be normal for fertile Stenopelmatinae eggs. So it would seem that this female had definitely been fertilized, and that I'm getting healthy Ammopelmatus eggs this go around, albeit, ones that I had to surgically remove from their mother after death... (coincidentally, one person had their Sia female get eggbound too, and cut the eggs out of her, which is where I got the idea to do it for this female).

Here are some pictures of the first egg, the one that was actually laid, the rest of them look identical to this one:

Weirdly, the eggs have a texture to them similar to that of a compound insect eye, and they're also surprisingly hard and sturdy to the touch, not squishy.

Perhaps worth noting is that the females were having some grain mite issues in their enclosures, so I replaced their substrate with freshly made coconut fiber, and literally the day after that substrate change is when I found this egg. 🤔 Hopefully my other female doesn't become eggbound and actually starts laying eggs normally here soon, and fingers crossed all these eggs prove easy to hatch! 🤞

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Giant Camel Cricket Hatchlings!!!

Great news, my Ceuthophilus gracilipes gracilipes eggs have started hatching out! 😁 I was actually getting a little concerned, as it's been a few months since my adults started breeding, and I saw a few of the eggs laid right up against the sides of the enclosure had rotted and molded over, so I was worried that I was doing something wrong. Evidently, a few of the eggs the adults lay must just be duds, because I'm getting hatchlings now! 😄

Here are some pictures I took, I got a couple shots of a nymph as it was still wriggling out of it's egg! And then some pictures of a fully darkened nymph that hatched earlier.

L1 nymph hatching out of it's egg

Fully darkened L1 nymph

They're adorable, so glad these are breeding well for me! 😃 Hopefully I can keep them going for many generations to come, I'm loving these absolute giants among camel crickets!

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

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Ammopelmatus pictus New Males & Pairings!

The two adult Ammopelmatus pictus males Brendan Lan collected for me from San Joaquin County, CA, about a week ago, (the 19th to be exact). Both were alive on arrival thankfully, male #1 with full length antennae, quite active, and in perfect condition. The other male looked a little worse for wear though, not only were his antennae cut a bit short, (which isn't too uncommon on WC inverts), but he was also missing his left mating hook, and acting quite weak. I actually thought male #2 might have had a horsehair worm at first, but it seems he was just dehydrated and/or hungry, as after a couple days in my care he perked right up.

I've got them set up in small, moderately ventilated containers with a couple inches of moist coconut fiber for substrate, and am feeding them chick feed and live/pre-killed invertebrate prey. 

Here are some pictures of the new additions:

Adult male #1

Both mating hooks intact

Adult male #2

Note the left mating hook is missing

Pretty right? 😍 It's important to note though, that these males are both at least a little longer than the largest of my two adult females, which was a bit concerning considering that this genus actually has a small male mating advantage.

Now, for some bad news... I made a dumb mistake in housing my small male nymph that I received in my original group, and just housed him in a deli cup one of the females was shipped in, that had four big holes drilled in the top. Rather than fill in the big holes and drill in tiny ones like I SHOULD have, I just lazily left it as it was, as I knew the male was still too big to get out of the holes... But stupid me forgot Jerusalem crickets can chew through plastic, so one day I checked on him and found this:

Little bugger chewed through the plastic and made one of the holes bigger, then escaped... It's been several days now, and I've not found him anywhere in my hotel room, I'm sad to say he's gone for good, all thanks to my incredibly stupid mistake. 😣 Now my plan is to heat up my lone female nymph and try to get her to mature ASAP, and then just mate her with one of these adult males I got.

Anyways, back to more happy news... After ensuring the males were well fed and recovered from their shipping trip, I paired them up with my two adult females, and actually livestreamed the process on Instagram. Both pairings actually went smoothly, despite the size differences and male #2 missing one of his mating hooks. I made sure to leave the females in the mating enclosures overnight, and thus they should have absorbed all the sperm in their spermatophores, instead of rubbing the whole spermatophore off right after mating like what I think happened to my Ammopelmatus sp. "Long Beach" in the past, when I moved them straight back to their normal enclosures with deeper substrate right after mating.

However, the matings were not without their anomalies. Let's start with pairing #1, which was between my largest, darkest female and male #1. The mating went smoothly, however a couple hours after mating I saw that the female had begun consuming her spermatophore... Something that's not normal for virgin females to do. I think this female was probably already mated, hence being so quick to consume the spermatophore, she didn't need it. After conferring with David Weissman, he also thinks this is the case, and also reassured me that all sperm in the spermatophore is likely absorbed by the female a couple hours after mating, so even if she hadn't been mated prior, she should be fully fertilized now, as she'd barely made a dent in the spermatophore a couple hours after mating, and it took 24 hours for her to consume the entire thing. 

Female from paring #1, consuming spermatophore a couple hours after mating

Same female 24 hours later, almost done consuming spermatophore
Spermatophore all gone.

Pairing #2 was between my smaller female and male #2 (the weak one with a single mating hook). As expected, this pairing took a bit longer, but did actually end in a successful spermatophore transfer. This female made no attempt to feed on her spermatophore whatsoever, which leads me to believe she had not been mated prior. However, 24 hours later, I checked on her, and the right half of her spermatophore had fallen off! Spermatophores supposedly should stay on for 3-4 days after mating according to one of Weissman's papers on JC mating. However, after talking with him, he again reassured me that this female had likely absorbed all the sperm left in the spermatophore before that half fell off, and apparently the part that did fall off wasn't even the part where the sperm was stored... So the female should still be fertilized. 

Pairing #2, beginning of courtship

Successful spermatophore transfer

Female a couple hours after mating, note intact spermatophore

Same female 24 hours later, only half of spermatophore still present
Remaining half shrunken and mostly absorbed
Found the detached half next to the female

All in all, seems like a success to me after chatting with David Weissman, if there was any doubt about these WC adult females being fertilized before, there should be none now! 😄 So now I just gotta hope they lay some good, fertile eggs, fingers crossed! I'll be sure to keep you all updated on how they do! 

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