My husband and I recently purchased a reptile business that breeds many of its own feeders on site. Among them, we have a large colony of what Eublaberus distanti on the property that has been experiencing a population crash as of late according to the former owners. I had a look and indeed, the colony is full of dead roaches and the survivors do not seem terribly "peppy." There also aren't many young nymphs. I would like to salvage the colony if possible, but I have a few questions, and since I am inexperienced with this species (I breed ornamental species only), I am hoping seasoned keepers have some insights.
- The roaches are covered with tiny, slow moving, gray-to-off-white mites. These mites are found on the abdomen, wings, joints, mouth parts - pretty much all over. I came across an archived topic on this forum and there was a photo that looks very much like these mites, but because the topic has been edited a bit, it isn't making much sense to me. To clarify, are the roaches in this image from the archives in fact a life stage of grain mites? If yes, are they or are they not harmful to the roaches?
- The roaches are currently being fed a diet primarily of varied produce from the local grocer (the stuff that gets thrown out at the day's end). They have always been fed this, but according to the business's prior owners, they also used to feed the roaches waste from a large colony of rats that was once raised on the property. This is the primary change in their husbandry, which tells me that perhaps there was something nutritionally in the rat feces that isn't in the produce. Also, with so much fruit and vegetables but little else, is it possible that part of the issue is a lack of a protein source?
- Another concern of mine is that the colony has become home to more than just the desired roach species; several other exotic roach species plus some native roaches have taken up residence. Off the top of my head, and forgive me for the common names as I don't have time to look up appropriate spellings tonight, I have seen Lobster roaches, American cockroaches, Turkistan roaches, and Oriental cockroaches in the mix. I have read that the mixing of species can result in excessive competition and population collapses. I'd also worry about the exchange of pathogens, though I realize most are fairly host specific. Does this seem like a potential cause of this issue?
Here are some other parameters that may be helpful:
- The roaches are housed in large open-air enclosures with metal sides inside of a barn. The barn is quite warm - I estimate the low 90's but intend to make a more accurate temperature readings - and also very humid; it is slightly above the typical outdoor humidity in this region so around 70% I would estimate.
- The roaches were previously being kept on a peat moss substrate, which to my knowledge is not artificially dampened, though it is damp simply from the humidity and decay of produce. Some of the roaches have been moved into a shed in smaller enclosures in a mix of peat and sawdust; this concerns me as I worry the saw dust may be softwood and thus potentially bearing some of the aromatic oils that bother more sensitive insects - any thoughts on this?
- The enclosures are bare, by which I mean there is not corrugated cardboard or anything of the like for the roaches to cling to. I do not know if this is significant, but I figured it is worth mentioning.
We'd really like to salvage this colony, so any hints on the problem at hand and how to fix it would be much appreciated. As I said, I normally breed small colonies of ornamental roaches, and while I'll be doing plenty of reading, your thoughts on the current situation will be helpful.