Fall Collection Update

Since I am doing more quarterly scheduling, this update will start off at the beginning of September where the Summer Collection Updates (Part 1 and Part 2) left off but will end around the Winter Solstice, as that is the actual end of Fall.

On September 28th, I received 42 bumblebee millipedes (Anadenobolus monilicornis) from Arthroverts. All of them arrived successfully, and I set them up in an enclosure with a mixture of compost, fermented aspen shavings, oak flake soil, hardwood sawdust, hardwood leaves, and calcium powder. I have experienced some die-off, but there seem to be many that prefer to hide just under the surface of the substrate. I hope to have this colony begin reproducing prolifically despite the minor issues.

Back on June 19th, I had acquired about a dozen nymphs of giant peppered roaches (Archimandrita tesselata). It was not until September 29th that the first one matured into an adult. Of all the roaches I have, this species is the only one that eats dead hardwood leaves at a significant pace. According to Roach Crossing, this species is known to depend on the hardwood leaves, so I had fortunately read this prior to my acquisition and was well-prepared to incorporate more hardwood leaves into their enclosure than with most of my other roaches. After that first adult, I have since had 5 mature to adulthood, including three of those molting on Christmas Day 2020.

The first adult to mature
Two of the Christmas roaches
“Excuse me, are there still people who dislike cockroaches?”

Early fall in the American Southeast is definitely peak time for finding large insects. While there are some species, such as bird grasshoppers in the Schistocerca genus, that overwinter as adults and can therefore be found in spring, most species overwinter as eggs and therefore, the adults of the largest species are active in September and October. I typically find most of my mantids in the late Summer and early Fall and often keep several for breeding, however, the orthopterans are far more numerous in the right habitat. I do not work with as many orthopterans because I have had issues in past years with some more specialized habitat requirements for breeding. Nevertheless, this covers some of the interesting species I often encounter in early Fall.

An aptly dubbed red-headed meadow katydid (Orchelimum erythrocephalum)
Differential grasshoppers (Melanoplus differentialis) can chew through a fabric insect lid, noted.
I think this was a Carolina leaf-roller (Camptonotus carolinensis).
Scudderia furcata subadult
Lesser anglewing katydid (Microcentrum retinerve) subadult
Small female katydid nymph in the genus Conocephalus
Larger female nymph of the straight-lanced meadow katydid (Conocephalus strictus)
Invasive Japanese burrowing cricket (Velarifictorus micado)
Subadult obscure bird grasshopper (Schistocerca obscura)
Subadult sword-bearing conehead katydid (Neoconocephalus ensiger)

On November 29th, 2019, I had acquired two larvae of the western Hercules beetles (Dynastes grantii). For most of the time, they were pet holes, but on July 15th, I found the first one had pupated. The had come from a museum that wanted me to raise them. I thought they were a male/female pair initially, but once they pupated, I found they were both females. I kept them until they emerged as adults. The first one eclosed in the middle of August, and I pulled her out to the surface on August 27th. The second had just pupated a few days before on August 22nd, so there was about a month gap between them. The second one then eclosed on September 24th. The first imago began came up to begin feeding on September 8th. I tried to acquire a male of this species once I confirmed both of mine were females, but I was strangely unable to find any available this year, although as I recall, there were ads for adults of this species on Beetle Forum in previous years around these times. This species is not native to my state, so I had acquired them under a USDA permit and was not allowed to send them to other breeders to work with them unless the recipient breeders had their own permits. Therefore, they both lived a few months in my care, the first died on November 6th, and then the second died on December 4th.

Sep 24th second eclosed Aug 22, second pupa, July 15 first pupa

I understand that this is your first meal, but I need to change that moldy jelly cup.
See! That was worth letting me evict you from the moldy jelly, right?
The pupal shell has a really interesting, iridescent sheen.
Quit being so dramatic.
I had run out of bananas but had a dragon fruit laying around, so why not?

On November 28th, I attended a reptile expo, and I acquired a small Phrynus whitei from Classic Jurassic Exotics. I set it up in a small vial with a vertical piece of Styrofoam, basically making a smaller version of my Damon medius tank. The little guy was doing quite well, however, I noticed it had not molted and then died rather suddenly on January 8th. Afterwards, I learned from a fellow hobbyist that the staple diet of fruit flies that can work well for mantids actually lacks essential nutrients amblypygi need to molt.

The day I brought the little guy home.
Posing with a fruit fly.

In the Fall of each year, I tend to find several green lynx spiders (Peucetia viridans). This year, I collected an adult female and her egg sac. I am rearing the babies on fruit flies, and they seem to be doing fairly well. I have changed their habitat several times, and they are currently living communally in a 12” mesh cube.

The progenitor
The progeny.

This covers most of the new developments in the Fall. The Summer Updates 1 and 2 have already covered a number of the longer term projects, and due to concurrent composition, those projects were not covered here to limit redundancy. Those projects would include the lubber grasshopper colony, the Brunner’s stick mantises, and other such projects already addressed in the Summer Updates.

Damon medius

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.