Living With Insect Bedding

by jjneal

Insects are increasingly popular pets in the US. Insects can be comfortable in a small terrarium, they are inexpensive to feed and do not usually run up large veterinary bills. Terrariums can be maintained with a variety of plants planted in a soil or they can be lined with other bedding material.

For many arthropods, especially those requiring a moist environment, coconut fiber (the shredded hulls of coconuts) is a useful substrate for the terrarium. The coconut fiber is relatively inert, does not produce toxic volatiles and retains water. The humidity and moisture can be adjusted watering the coconut fiber. The fiber is resistant to fungus and mold. We recently switched a colony of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches to a coconut fiber bedding and saw increase in reproduction and colony vigor. The coconut fiber is slightly more expensive than other bedding but it can last a long time and won’t break the bank.

Other bedding products are available for pets including a variety of wood chips. Insect pet owners should be aware that some wood chips and other bedding products (especially cedar chips) have insecticidal or miticidal properties. The cedar chips are inappropriate for most arthropods because volatiles in cedar chips are insecticidal and miticidal. For mammals and reptiles, some insect and mite control can be useful. However, there are some concerns about the wood chips (especially cedar chips) and physiological and allergenic effects of the volatiles on pets and their owners. Reports of allergy to chips are rare and mostly confined to woodworkers with high exposure. More common are allergies to fungus or molds that can grow on chips that are too moist.

Insects may do poorly in a colony exposed to wood chips or wood chip odors. Some types of wood chips are better for insect colonies than others. There are not many controlled studies of bedding materials. Typically, people interested in insect rearing will find a solution that works and move on to other questions. For those with insect pets, what do you use for bedding and how well does it work for you? Consider this an open discussion.

Contented Cockroaches on Coconut Fiber Bedding

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, Education, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Living With Insect Bedding

  1. For those of us striving to create the most natural home possible for our families, an often forgot about space is the bedroom. A good night’s rest is crucial for mind, body and spirit. Sleep truly rejuvenates every cell of the body. But, where and what is your body exposed to while in dreamland?

  2. Mealworms and Superworms and other types of feeders whether you are growing your own colonies or storing them as reptile feeders need the proper bedding to survive. Choosing the correct bedding is the key to good nutrition and proper breeding methods.

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