Rice flour beetles (Triboliumconfusum) are small beetles that are used as pet food. The tiny larvae make good snacks for small frogs, ground beetles (referring to carabids), baby mantids, and other animals that require unusually small prey. This beetle is called a “rice flour beetle,” which is a name it shares with other members of the genus Tribolium. The species name “confusum” refers to this species being “confused” on how to fly. In other words, these beetles are flightless. This is a good thing because other rice flour beetles, such as the red flour beetle (T. castaneum), can spread into bags of flour and become a pest. As long as the flightless ones are prevented from walking out of their cup with a lid, they cannot become a pest. The ability to become a pest also makes it an even better feeder because most pests have to breed fast. In order to feed a number of animals, it is good to have something that can breed fast enough to keep up with their appetites.
There seems to be an absence of recipes for nutritious rice flour beetle media. Here is a recipe that works well for me.
1 cup Rice Flour
1/2 cup Wheat Flour
1/2 cup Wheat Bran
1 teaspoon Nutritional Yeast
Mix the ingredients and add them to a culturing cup. Add rice flour beetles and let the culture sit in a dry place for a month or more. By that time, there should be hundreds of offspring in the media. Sift the substrate to harvest them to feed to other pets. The culture will last for a number of months, and rice flour beetles make a good backup feeder because their cultures last so long.
The logo at the top of this site above the title, “The Mantis Menagerie,” is a picture of one of the most beautiful animals I have ever kept. This is a picture of one of my subadult African spiny flower mantids (Pseudocreobotraocellata). This picture is about one year old, and it is sad because about that time, I had to get rid of these mantids. I had been researching USDA regulations for months because I had heard rumors saying that mantids not found wild in the US were illegal to keep without the proper permits. After many months of research, I found the contact information for Wayne Wehling, the senior entomologist at the USDA. He confirmed the rumors; although many species of exotic mantids are sold freely throughout the US, possession of exotic mantids without a PPQ 526 permit is technically a violation of USDA regulations under the Plant Protection Act. The reason mantids are still sold is because there is no enforcement of the regulations on mantids. The USDA only enforces the regulations on species they are actually concerned could harm US agriculture. Mantids likely pose a minimal threat to agriculture, but that chance puts them under the USDA’s jurisdiction and the USDA made them illegal by default. The USDA’s claim to regulating them is that, as potential predators of pollinators, they fall under the definition of a plant pest in the Plant Protection Act. According to the act, any non-human animal that directly or indirectly harms plants is a plant pest, and eating pollinators could indirectly harm plants.
I gave the mantids to a local museum that had the proper permits, yet I continue to research the USDA’s regulations on other species. I am hoping to obtain permits for these mantids and keep them again. Unfortunately, the permits require certain conditions that are difficult for the average person to meet. To keep these relatively common pets legally, you must have a containment facility, which is a special room designed to be impervious to plant pests. I personally think this is too prohibitive. These mantids have been kept as pets in the US since before the Plant Protection Act was even instituted in 2000, and I have yet to see any reports of exotic mantids found wild in the continental US. The common exotic species kept as pets simply cannot survive our climate. (I am referring to the cooler regions of the continent. I support the regulations in places with more suitable climates for exotic mantids to become invasive, such as south Florida and parts of California.)
The reason I believe that exotic mantids, particularly ones from tropical regions (the most popular pet mantids, such as Hymenopus coronatus, Deroplatys sp., come from these regions) cannot tolerate temperate climates is simple. I have given this topic much thought, and I have come to the conclusion that since tropical mantis oothecae, which is the stage in which mantids diapause, are naturally hung on plants and other structures above ground, the oothecae have minimal protection from cold weather. The other life stages are inconsequential. Even temperate species are vulnerable to freezing weather when in the nymph and adult life stages. Tropical mantids have not have had the selective pressure in their evolutionary history to develop the ability to diapause in their oothecae as a means of surviving winter. Therefore, outside of the aforementioned areas in the continental US with favorable climates, exotic mantids, particularly ones from tropical regions, should have no possible way of surviving winters.
Unfortunately, the USDA does not share my opinion. Mantids get lumped with the plant pests. Until someone is successful at revising the regulations, we need to adhere to them. I have found the USDA-APHIS site to be frustrating when researching the regulations on common pet insect species. I am attempting to construct a page, here, on this blog that can be an informative reference for navigating regulations.
I am giving my only amblypygid the honor of being the subject of the first post on The Mantis Menagerie. Amblypygi are an ancient and strange-looking order of arachnids. Among their members are the longest-legged arachnids in the world with leg spans exceeding two feet! My amblypygid is not one of the truly massive species but still has a leg span that exceeds a foot. My specimen is an adult female from west Africa, and I purchased her at a Repticon show in November 2018.
The most obvious characteristic of amblypygi are the large raptorial “arms.” Technically, though, those arms are not actually arms, but rather, they are called pedipalps and are the same type of structure as a scorpion’s pincher.
When I purchased her at the show, she was carrying an eggsack. I wanted to see the baby amblypygids hatch, but unfortunately, she decided to eat the eggsack. Since she had been well-fed and had no great need of the nutrients in her eggsack, I am guessing that she knew it wasn’t going to hatch. I was sad, but I plan to find her a male eventually, breed them, and try again.
Care of these animals is extremely easy, as long as basic tank construction requirements are met. These requirements do not necessitate a high-quality glass tank or special lighting. Indeed, I keep my amblypygid in a five-gallon bucket with a vertical piece of styrofoam. To mammal or reptile owners, this may seem like a cruel setup, and you would be right for most mammals, reptiles, and some amphibians. Invertebrates are different. First, their brains are not as complex as the aforementioned vertebrates. This means they cannot be bored from a simple enclosure, and as long as they can follow their instincts, they will be content with the setup (food is a different matter sometimes). Second, many of the aforementioned vertebrates require ultraviolet light to make vitamin D for regulating Calcium and therefore bone growth. Invertebrates do not have calciferous bones and do not have these requirements. Finally, amblypygi like the dark. Some species are even troglophilic, and therefore, in captivity, they are perfectly content sitting in the dark. My amblypygi is hard to get out of the bucket. She darts back and forth over the styrofoam, and it takes two hands to corral her a get her to crawl on one hand. Now you can see that the bucket setup, while possibly sounding like a cruel enclosure, is not at all cruel if used for the right animal. I mentioned a vertical piece of styrofoam in the bucket. The most important part of an amblypygi enclosure is having something for the residents to molt on. Molting is an essential process in the amblypygid’s life. In order to molt properly, amblypygi must have a surface they can grip well and is at least vertical if not leaned backward a little, so the amblypygi can hang from the surface and stretch its delicate legs. This is not a problem for most species as they never get large enough, but make sure your amblypygid can fully stretch its legs in the enclosure without hitting the walls. One final thing to watch with molting is humidity. There needs to be a moist substrate, such as coconut fiber, to maintain high humidity. Once you have a secure enclosure, a substrate to hold moisture, and a good place for the amblypygi to molt, your setup is ready.
The daily, or more like weekly, tasks associated with pet amblypygi include misting to keep the substrate wet and the humidity high, feeding crickets or roaches, and removing the occasional droppings.