Think you’d like to breed stick insects with your children? Tempted by the tarantula at the pet store, but not sure what to do? Questions like these about breeding insects, spiders and other arthropods at home are often directed at our entomological information service. Most often, people would like to learn about breeding techniques. But were you aware that certain rules have to be taken into account before you set off on this adventure? Here are some things to consider.
Acquiring a code of ethics
First, don’t assume from the start that possession of the coveted arthropod is legal simply because you can find it on the Web, at a pet shop or through the friend of a friend… Available over the counter in some countries, many of these little exotic animals require a permit in Canada owing to the risks they represent for our ecosystems or our crops. Furthermore, breeding insects and other arthropods for personal use is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and while a number of arthropod groups regulated by the CFIA require an import permit (see the attached list), others do not. For example, in Canada a permit is mandatory for breeding the majority of stick insect species for sale on the Web. Those species are exotic and herbivorous. Their feeding habits could entail significant forest and/or agricultural losses if they were to escape and become overpopulated in our natural environments.
Animal well-being is for arthropods too!
You may be hoping to breed an insect or other arthropod that requires no permit – a tarantula, for instance. Start by doing some research about existing breeding techniques and make sure you can put them into practice. Offer your animal living conditions that allow it to live a healthy life and to express its natural behaviors. For example, in their habitat, several tarantula species burrow under a piece of wood or a rock. So it’s important to add that type of material to their vivarium. Moreover, any restraint must be watertight, suitable to all stages of development, and big enough for individuals to move around, especially if several individuals are accommodated and are developing there. Finally, don’t forget to clean your vivariums regularly to ensure the well-being of their occupants.
My breeding population is too dense – how can I reduce it or get rid of it?
Where both native and exotic species are concerned, it’s illegal and dangerous for our ecosystems if you release your specimens in nature. Moreover, bred insects (even if they’re native) can’t be released in a new environment, as this can spread diseases or affect the genetics of species present in that environment. To get rid of the individuals in your possession, it’s better to euthanize them. To do that, we recommend that you put them in the freezer (along with the eggs, immature stages, potting soil and materials used for breeding and that may potentially contain eggs) for a period of at least 48 hours.
There are lots of reasons for raising insects. Motivations range from simple curiosity to mass production of insects for the purposes of human consumption. Certain insects lend themselves more than others to a breeding activity at home or at school. It’s up to you – but never forget that living beings are involved, and they need good care like any other companion animal.