Long-term projects include insects with long life cycles or insects that can be maintained continuously through many life cycles in rearing cages. You are not limited to the options suggested below.
Infested grain from grain bins can be handled the same way as home stored products, but it is more apt to have more than one kind of insect infesting it. You may try separating the insects into pure cultures of each kind so you can more easily associate the larvae and pupae with the adult. Or you may keep the cultures mixed to see how the different species compete with each other.
When you are not observing the insects, keep the rearing jars in a warm, dark place.
You can start rearing these moths from any point in their life cycle. You may start with an adult female moth that emerged from a cocoon you collected. You can tie her to a piece of screen and hang the screen outdoors overnight to attract a male which will mate with her. After she is mated, her abdomen will get large and full of eggs. Then remove her from the screen and put her in a large paper bag to lay eggs. (If you don't get eggs in this way, you can buy eggs from biological supply houses.) Eggs will be attached to the sides of the paper bag. Cut the paper bag into pieces holding about 10 eggs and place them in hatching containers. A coffee can with a plastic cover or a plastic sandwich box is fine. When the eggs begin to darken in color due to the larvae developing inside the eggs, place food plant leaves in the container. Entfact 008 will tell you suitable leaves for each type of moth. Supply the caterpillars with fresh leaves every day if necessary. When the caterpillars grow to about an inch long, transfer them to larger containers to prevent overcrowding. You may want to transfer them to cages such as those shown in Figs. A-L.
When caterpillars are fully grown, they will be 4-5 inches or more long. They will then begin to shrink like an accordion in preparation to changing to pupae. If the caterpillars are a type that burrows in soil to pupate, you will have to transfer them to containers of soil. If they are cocoon spinners, do not disturb them while they are spinning their cocoon. (Cocoons are also obtainable from biological supply houses.) After they have spun their cocoons, wait a week or more to allow time for them to transform to pupae. The cocoons can then be transferred to the refrigerator or to a cage in the garage or breezeway. The cocoons need to be kept cool so they will emerge in the spring. The cage will keep predators from attacking the cocoons. In spring, transfer the cocoons from the refrigerator or small overwintering cages to emergence cages that are large enough to provide plenty of room for the moths to expand their wings. Do not disturb the moths until their wings have fully expanded and hardened. In large cages, the moths will mate and the females lay eggs and you can rear them through another cycle if you want.
Crickets need more rearing space than most other insects. Have your rearing set-up ready to go before you get your crickets. You will need a large container such as a garbage can, pickle crock, metal-lined box, large lard can or wash tub. The container should be about 2 feet deep and the bottom about 15 x 15 inches. Containers this size will support about 200 crickets. Place a 4-6 inch layer of clean, slightly damp sand in the bottom of the container for the crickets to lay eggs into. Sawdust may be mixed with the sand to hold moisture better. Excelsior or sawdust scattered lightly over the sand surface will provide hiding places and protection for young crickets. A piece of cardboard rolled into a 1-2 inch diameter cylinder can be used as a hiding place for large crickets. Provide a continuous water supply with a chick waterer. The saucer of the waterer should be filled with cotton to prevent young crickets from drowning. Place the rearing set-up in a place where a temperature of 80 to 90oF can be maintained. Cricket rearing will slow down or stop when the temperatures get too low. You can suspend a light bulb in or above the container to provide extra heat when you need it. You can experiment with regulating the temperature by using different wattage bulbs or by raising or lowering the bulb. Apply a thin layer of vaseline about 6 inches wide around. the inside lip of the container to keep crickets from crawling out. If the container is not deep enough to prevent crickets from jumping out, cover the container with screen.
Use about a dozen crickets of each sex to start your rearing operation. In a shallow dish, provide food such as powdered dry dog food or chicken laying mash. About three weeks after eggs have been laid in the sand, very tiny nymphs will appear. Newly hatched nymphs need soft food such as apple slices, banana or pieces of lettuce laid over the dry food in the dish. Feed only small amounts of food at a- time, and replace food often enough to prevent spoilage.
It takes four to five weeks at 90oF for newly hatched nymphs to develop to the adult stage. At 80oF the development time is about nine weeks.
See Entfact 007 - Rearing Crickets for more information.
Rearing cages can be made in a variety of ways to suit your purposes. Some are easier to look into; others are easier to get insects in and out of; some are easier or cheaper to make; some are better adapted for rearing certain kinds of insects. The cages illustrated in Figures A-L are only a few of the many examples you could use. They are described below: