Once a week, I will offer my crested geckos a few Blaptica dubia roach nymphs each. They make an easy-to-care-for feeder for many different types of lizard. I simply put an appropriate amount of roaches (generally 4-5 per gecko) in a small heavy dish like a condiment cup (or tealight candle holder for the smaller geckos), sprinkle lightly with calcium dust, shake around a bit, set the cup inside the geckos' enclosures, and the geckos will come and find the roaches. As B. dubia cannot climb smooth surfaces, the roaches cannot escape from the cups on their own.
Why roaches? Why not stick with crickets? The answers are simple. Crickets are pretty noisy, they can have a strong unpleasant odor, and they can be very difficult to keep alive until your reptiles are ready. They are also somewhat difficult to breed, so many people who feed crickets find themselves returning to the pet store or making online orders often. Once I got past the "yuck" factor, the benefits of feeder roaches outweighed the negatives. However, it is important to remember that in some states, especially where the climate is hot and humid, this species is not legal to own, as they are considered a nuisance animal that could get loose and begin breeding outdoors. Before investing in a dubia colony, search out your state's laws on these bugs.
This species is wonderful for crested geckos because there is a size for every crested gecko, from hatchling to adult. They are fairly soft-bodied and very meaty, and easy to gutload with the kinds of foods you want your geckos to eat. These roaches will even consume leftover Crested Gecko Diet, helping to make cleanup a breeze.
I do not necessarily recommend keeping an entire colony if you only have one or two geckos, as you will find yourself with too many roaches fairly quickly; however, you can try selling off your excess, or investing in more geckos or other bug-eaters. It can become a bit of a vicious cycle ;)
Keeping B. dubia is fairly simple. To begin, you will need a Rubbermaid-style tub. I prefer the kind which have built-in latches at the top to keep the lid locked. It is also recommended that you purchase the type of tub which is absolutely "glass smooth" on the inside, as some tubs have a rougher interior which the roaches can climb. You could also keep them in a glass tank! I just like the plastic bin because it is lighter to pick up and move when I need to sort roaches for feeding.
In the lid of the tub, you can use a woodburning tool to cut some large airflow windows. You can also use a hole saw to cut several holes. After that, you will want to use a hot glue gun to apply sheets of nylon screening over the holes. You will want a decent amount of aeration for your bugs; even though they may do well with being misted gently a couple of times a week, you don't want it so humid that mold builds up in their bin.
Beneath the tub, you will want some kind of heat mat. I use a heating mat made for human backs that stays on 24 hours a day; you can also use under-tank-heaters made for reptiles and the like. Plugging it into a surge protector and keeping it on a rheostat will help keep things safer. The roaches thrive at temps in the 90s or so. If you keep them at temperatures which are too low, they will feed and breed poorly.
Inside the tub, you can stack several sheets of cardboard egg carton vertically. This gives the roaches more space to crawl, and it gives them a way to get closer to or further from the heat as they desire. They will also often congregate inside paper towel tubes. When you start out with a small colony, I recommend not adding in too many sheets of egg carton, as you do want your bugs to find each other for breeding purposes. You can find inexpensive egg cartons online here.
You will want to provide your roaches with good things to keep them growing. Some people use "cricket water" or "cricket gel" type products for liquid. Personally, I find that gets a bit expensive. My bugs do very well if I toss in orange slices and other fruits and veggies for moisture. They will also get moisture from my geckos' leftover Crested Gecko Diet if I have mixed a little too much that night, and I will often blend up apples or bananas and feed it to the bugs in a peanut-butter-jar-lid "dish." I recommend not leaving moist food in your roach bin for longer than a few hours at a time, because even with the screen, small phorid flies, fruit flies, and gnats may make an appearance. You also do not want mold introduced to your colony. I will also offer many kinds of cereals and grains dry for the roaches. They will take dry pasta broken up occasionally. You can try adding different foods to see what your bugs like. I just recommend steering away from meat products.
If you start out with a small colony of 100-200 roaches, you will want to allow the roaches to grow and flourish for a couple of months before beginning to feed them off. Feeding too soon from a starter colony can set you back!
Adult male roaches are about 2 inches long, have slender bodies, and long wings. They generally do not fly, but they can flutter a bit if dropped. I do not often see males make use of their wings. Adult males however do seem to be the fastest-moving dubia. Adult females are about 2 inches long, have thicker bodies, and only have tiny "wing nubs." They move more slowly or deliberately than the adult males. One male may be sufficient to every 10 females, so if you have a large amount of adult males, feeding them off to animals like bearded dragons can help keep your colony's ratios in check. When mating, a male and female will appear "locked" butt-to-butt. The female will, at a later date, possibly be seen with an orange "tube" hanging from her abdomen. This is the egg case which holds the developing baby roaches. She will pull this egg casing back into her body, where the babies will later hatch and be expelled live. They will appear small and white and may hover around the female's legs while she recovers from birthing and while their exoskeletons harden. This method of reproduction is called ovoviviparity.
Do not be shocked if you find the occasional white roach in your bin. This is not the elusive albino Blaptica dubia - it is just a roach which has molted recently. The exoskeleton will darken again as it hardens.
I do sometimes have groups of Blaptica dubia available for sale. I can ship 100 mixed-size roaches for $20 plus shipping costs. I can also sometimes create larger shipments. Just ask! I try to include at least 2 sexed adult pairs in each 100, and sometimes a few more if I can spare them. I ship USPS Priority mail to the lower 48 states, except for TN and FL. If you are interested in a group or have questions, please send me an e-mail: JB(at)JBsCresties(dot!)com. I prefer to ship on Mondays, or Tuesdays at the latest, to make sure your bugs get to you in a timely manner - please be sure to e-mail and prepare payment with this in mind. Thanks!