How to keep a cricket as a pet
|Crickets have been kept as pets for thousands of years, especially in Japan and China, because, as God would have it, the males rub their grooved ridges on the underside of one of their front wings against the sharp edge of their other front wing, producing a chirping that's found by many to be a lovely sound. |
If you want to keep a cricket as a pet, first you have to get one. Most garden variety crickets that you could catch yourself will do the trick: in North America the Acheta assimilis species will be the most commonly found in the wild. The "house cricket" (Acheta domesticus) and the "field cricket" (Gryllus bimaculatus) are also good for singing -- the latter having the prettier song, the former being the type most commonly sold in pet stores or bait shops.
Whatever the species, you want a boy cricket for the tunes. A girl cricket will have an ovipositor to lay her eggs with. It will look sort of like a tail or a phallus, and will be almost as long as her body. In other words, when you see a female cricket, you'd probably guess her as a male because of the appendage, so reverse your expectations.
A place for him to lay his weary cricket head
An aquarium with a fine wire mesh lid will work. So would a jar, but be a hero and give him some Lebensraum. Put some sand, a few rocks and twigs in there so he'll be cozy and have a few hidey-holes to relax in. Though he can be kept at room temperature, he will be more active and sing more if kept on the warm side -- between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping him near a small lamp might make him happy, but do keep him out of direct sunlight. Ideally, there should be about 16 hours of light to 8 hours of darkness for most kinds of crickets.
Keep a damp sponge or moistened cotton wool in his cage to serve as a drinking water source. Be careful about leaving any standing water in their cages as they have very tiny brains, are not very bright, and can drown very easily in even the shallowest of water. If you want to leave a container of water with him, put some marbles or rocks in with the water so he can drink it without standing in it or possibly falling into it. Another option is to use the same type of water dispenser that baby chicks use, filling the bowl with marbles or rocks.
Despite their preference for Greek food, crickets will eat anything. They are omnivorous (though in the wild some species are carnivorous by choice) and they will even eat each other if they are hungry enough. That last is too ugly to think about and even uglier to witness, so feed them well with small bits of carrot, potato, lettuce, apple, other fruits and vegetables and their peelings (no citrus), rolled oats, pieces of bread, and/or ground up dried dog food. Remove uneaten food so it won't rot. If you want to highly please him, you can get actual "cricket chow" from bait shops and cricket breeders. Even if you use true "cricket chow," throw him a piece of fruit now and again to keep him happy.
Like, most any other red-blooded, American bug, Mr. Cricket may wish to marry. After he becomes one with his beloved, she will want to lay her eggs on something damp. Once a female lays her eggs, remove the eggs and place them in a separate container containing moist soil. Keep the soil and environment of the egg container moist (but not so moist that the hatchlings drown; their brains are even tinier than those of their parents), misting it with water daily. The eggs should hatch in about three weeks (when exactly depends on the temperature), and the babies ("nymphs") will be very small and white.
Crickets are also known as the "poor man's thermometer." You can determine the exact temperature by counting the number of chirps a cricket makes during a 15-second interval, then adding 37 to the number to get the correct temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. If he chirps 40 times in 15 seconds, the temperature is precisely 77 degrees where the cricket is sitting.