Crickets are bad, mmm-kay?

Disaster struck this weekend. I gave my fully-grown, big ol’ adult spiders crickets to eat. Now Vera is a monster: she just ropes ’em up, immobilizes them fully, and then bites them. So I was overconfident and gave crickets of the same size to Amanda and Xena.

The next day, Vera is a huge bloated sack of bug juice and her cricket is in fragments. Amanda and Xena are gone, and their crickets are sitting there smug and happy. Turns out crickets defend themselves by kicking predators, and poor Amanda and Xena were beaten to death and then eaten by the evil Gryllidae. This does not make me happy. I’ve got to find a safer food source. For now, I’m just giving the juveniles and the sole survivor lots of fruit flies. Death to all crickets!

In other spider news, I’ve been frustrated by the fact that none of them are producing eggs right now, and all the wild specimens have vanished from their usual haunts as winter descends upon us. Then, last night, I woke up in the wee hours with a sudden obvious thought.

Remember that movie, Silent Running?

There’s this scene where the space-going ecologist is concerned about how all the trees are losing their leaves, which are turning brown and falling off, and he hits the books trying to figure out what disease is killing his forests. And then he suddenly realizes, oh, autumn, seasons changing, all that, and I’m sitting in the audience thinking, you dope, of course, so he runs around setting up lights to create a growing season in the space domes. Yeah, I’m also a dope who didn’t think of that, and I should have, because I’ve got timers and lights for my fish rigged to put them on a 14/10 light/dark cycle. This is routine lab animal maintenance. D’oh!

So now I’m going into the lab this morning to put up lights and trick the spider colony into thinking it’s Spring, and time for love, by wiring up the incubator.


  1. davidc1 says

    Well doc ,i would be lying if i told you the fact that your spiders were eaten by their main course is so sad ,it fact it is bloody hilarious .

  2. forodrim says

    Yes, Crickets are nasty little creatures. I make sure I don’t leave too many of them with my Mantid and I check if she has eaten all of them. Especially if she is about to moult, since she is pretty helpless during that.

  3. microraptor says

    I’ve seen reptile-keeping handbooks that warn against leaving crickets in cages with small lizards due to the fact that crickets have been known to kill and eat them when stuck in confined spaces.

    That was in addition to the standard warning against feeding lizards nothing but crickets due to it causing vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

  4. says

    OK. Timed light with a 14/10 hour cycle installed. Extra flies given (I put like 6 in each vial yesterday, they were all eaten today — I think they snarf ’em down like Hot Pockets or Pizza Bites or something).

  5. psilotum says

    Another possible consideration: I have no idea about spiders, but temperate plants mostly require a cold dormant period in order to be healthy. If you try to keep them going all winter with warm temps and supplemental lights to create long days, they grow abnormally and eventually die. Horticulturists “vernalize” plants by keeping them at refrigerator temperatures for about two months.

  6. octopod says

    I’ve seen reptile keepers take the back legs off crickets before feeding to avoid exactly this problem.

  7. unclefrogy says

    as I recall the spiders you have mostly a little higher off of the ground and web silk that is not nearly as strong as black widows who’s web are in close proximity and very very strong. I use a strength test decide if the unseen spider is OK to be left where it is or should be relocated to a spot I am unlikely to put my hand in without looking. Their webs are so strong and their venom so potent enables them to capture just about any large insect many of which are found on the ground, beetles, grasshoppers and crickets I once watched a large female battling with a large green june bug that was almost 2 times as big as she was. She had it mostly off the ground and was continuing to try and confine it so she could bite it. It looked like she was trying to hog tie a tank it kept moving and breaking free a little and she would through more loops over it she kept at it for well over twenty minutes.
    you might try grain moths they seen to easier to grow then eliminate about the right size and without any defensive weapons or strong jaws, I don’t know how easy to handle.

    uncle frrogy

  8. anchor says

    That movie’s premise was silly. How the hell would Bruce Dern’s trees respond to autumn in a specific hemisphere back on Earth while orbiting SATURN? What makes Dern’s character and whatever fictional conservation agency who sent him there even dumber is that Saturn receives only 1/90 the sunlight Earth gets. That makes Saturn an incredibly stupid place to send all one’s most valuable flora – especially to support active greenhouse biosphere habitats. (It might have been solved by huge arrays of mirrors delivering the solar energy deficit, but there aren’t any on that spacecraft model in the film).

    But why send a complex like that all the way out to Saturn in the first place? The answer is just as dumb. Director Doug Trumbull wanted to showcase Saturn as the locale, an opportunity denied to him by Stanley Kubrick when he worked on ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’ because Kubrick thought the rings could not be modeled convincingly. As the penultimate scene in ‘Silent Running’ demonstrated, Kubrick was right. Trumbull simply ignored the fact that the location rendered his ecological premise completely absurd and – like most filmmakers who attempt science fiction – figured nobody would notice or care.

  9. isochron says

    Lowell moved his ship further out from the sun when he killed his crew-mates and pretended the ship had malfunctioned in order to preserve the final garden. In doing so he reduced the incident sunlight level of the carefully designed garden system so that the plants reacted as if it were autumn.

    Trumbull wasn’t stupid. Freeman Lowell was.

  10. neptis says

    Oh, man, sorry to hear that. I commented on the dangers of crickets on one of the early spider posts, but well, that’s life. Made the same experience with my mantids.
    After that, I mostly switched to flies. There are certain lab lines of house flies which are incapable of really flying (their wings are kind of rolled up). Here in Europe they are called “Terfly”, no idea what the correct name would be. They are pretty easy to raise and handle and couldn’t harm a spider.

  11. rayceeya says

    Silent Running is a bit of a melancholy pleasure for me. It’s premise is unbelievably dark when you think about it.

  12. kaleberg says

    Silent Running? Wasn’t that the movie where the good guy and the bad guy are wrestling with an atomic bomb? By that point we in the audience were all loopy. I remember one of my friends, who was narrating the action to one of our blind friends, breaking off and yelling out, “You have a weapon there, use it.” We were all very pleased when the movie ended.

  13. Ichthyic says

    I saw Silent Running when it came out in the theaters in 72. I was eight at the time, and it was one of the things that guided me on the path to becoming a biologist.

    If that movie didn’t get you in feels, you ain’t got feels.

  14. kingbollock says

    As Octopod suggested, you could take the back legs off the crickets. The legs don’t need to go to waste either. When raising spiderlings, I used to feed them just cricket legs. I have even had spiders take small pieces of chicken. And even had a tarantula that would eat frozen (and then thawed) pinkie mice. So the food doesn’t need to be animated for the spiders to eat it.

    I’m not sure what size your spiders are, but other options might be mealworms or maggots.