Throughout the world a number of cricket species are bred commercially, however the two most common species are outlined below:
The house cricket (Acheta domesticus or domestica in some publications) is the preferred species used in commercial production for most parts of the world including Australia (Refer to photo 2.1). It is also known as the “European cricket” or “Brown house cricket”. The species is thought to have originated from South Western Asia; however it has spread to most countries around the world through the pet trade or accidentally in transport cargo. This species is given its common name due to its habit of living in houses to avoid cold winter temperatures. This species is typically grey or brown in color.
Productive females can lay approximately 200 eggs in a batch and are capable of laying a batch every couple of weeks. The house cricket is generally a hardy species that travels well when packaged appropriately and is well suited to commercial production. The information provided in this manual relates to experience gained with the breeding of the house cricket, which for the most part could be used for other species such as the black cricket.
European house cricket, (Acheta domestica)
Another species commonly bred commercially throughout the world is the black cricket (Gryllus bimaculatus- refer to photo 2.2). This species is also known as the “black field cricket” or “African/Mediterranean field cricket”. There are many species of black crickets and in some countries other closely related native species are bred. For example in Australia Teleogryllus commadus is occasionally bred. In the wild the young hatch in spring and feed on a wide range of seeds, plants, insect or animal products. This species colour can range from jet black, brown or red depending on the species. Like the house cricket, they are omnivorous eating plant and animal remains.
This species colour can range from jet black, brown depending on the species. Like the house cricket, they are omnivorous eating plant and animal remains. The female can lay approximately 2, 000 eggs over their lifetime.
Black field Cricket (Gryllus bimaculatus). Photo: Mitteleer Feldgrille
Other Species (Banded Crickets)
Recently a virus known as the Cricket Paralysis Virus has spread from Europe to the US. The virus, only affects the Acheta domesticus (house cricket) and has caused cricket deaths across many commercial insect farms. Luckily this disease is safe to animals or humans. Unfortunately measures to contain this virus were largely ineffective and many cricket farmers switched to the virus-resistant Gryllus assimilis (Jamaican Field Cricket). The house cricket is still commonly bred across the world but in some parts of the US you may see more Jamaican field crickets being sold. In Australia we have not had this disease and haven’t had firsthand experience, however anecdotally many breeders we have spoken to have commended that many of the farms affected may have had inadequate hygiene practices.
Banded Cricket (Banded Cricket (Gryllodes sigillatus). Photo: https://www.silvercreekgardens.net/
To reduce the impacts of introducing foreign species, consider using species native to your local area. Many countries have a native species of field cricket which are generally well suited to production. This is also a good strategy when your commercial supplier has insects showing signs of diseases or genetic inbreeding (deformities, low disease immunity etc.). As these species are from the wild, they generally have good genetic diversity. Although the risk of diseases is low, you may wish to have them in quarantine for a while to check that they do not harbor diseases or pests.
Black crickets are slightly more sensitive during transit and are more demanding in their hygiene and husbandry requirements. They are slightly larger with a 3-4 cm body (1.18-1.57 in) and are generally more difficult to digest than the house cricket due to their chitinous (hard protective substance) thorax and wings. The house cricket is smaller with an approximate body size of 2-3cm (0.79-1.18 in).
Jamaican field crickets are similar to the house cricket and are also well suited for cricket production. Many native species of crickets are well suited for commercial production.
As you will initially need a local supplier and occasionally need additional stock to improve genetics, it is recommended to purchase the species which is easily obtained from other commercial breeders in your area.