Sources of Insects for feeding Box Turtles

Collecting Insects

Collecting bugs is by far the best source of insects. With a little creativity you can provide your turtle with a wide variety of nutritious bugs. The most important consideration is being sure you collect from areas that are pesticide free.

Night Collecting:

In the warmer months, its easy to get a wide variety of moths and beetles by leaving a porch light on. Another very highly effective method is to hang a white sheet on a clothesline. Tie the bottom so it makes sort of a funnel. Shine a bright light from behind. In a few hours the sheet will be loaded with bugs. Its then a simple matter of harvesting the catch.

Also night time is great for collecting slugs and sow bugs. If you have an area with leaves on the ground, sprinkle some kibbled dog food in a small area before dark. A few hours after the sun goes down the dog food will be crawling with slugs and sow bugs (if there are any in your yard).

If you live up north, night time is great for collecting night crawlers.

Day Collecting:

Slugs, worms, sow bugs and beetle grubs can be found under boards, flagstones and flower pots. You can also put out large pieces of melon rinds at night. In the morning slugs will congregate under it.

Sweeping a butterfly net through tall grass often produces a wide variety of bugs.

In late summer, grasshoppers are often abundant. I have been know to bribe the neighbor kids into collecting grasshoppers for me.



Small minnows, night crawlers and crickets can be bought at bait stores. Feeder fish, wax worms, mealworms, superworms, pinkies and night crawlers are available at most pet stores that carry reptile supplies.

Following are some links to online sources that I have found to be reliable.

For crickets, mealworms, superworms, butterworms, wax worms, European (Belgian) night crawlers, Phoenix Worms, Pill bugs, Mealworms etc: Carolina Pet Supply

For feeder mice and pinkies : Mice on Ice



The first thing to do is to decide how many crickets you want to produce. This
will determine the size of the container you will need and how many breeder crickets you will need. 

There are male and female crickets.  Each female will lay about 100 eggs in her lifetime, and about 5-10 per day until 100 is reached. Lets assume you want to have 1000 crickets, you will have to start with at least 10 female crickets and 10 male crickets.  You will also have to provide space for 1000 crickets. A 20-gallon Rubbermaid container, a 20-gallon fish tank, or a garbage can will easily hold 1000 crickets.

The adult female cricket has three long projections on her back side and fully developed wings. The male cricket has two projections.  In the female, the extrusion is called the ovipositor.
This is the sexual organ of the female cricket and is what is used to lay eggs.
The female will stick the ovipositor into the soil and lay eggs.  The ovipositor
will deposit the eggs beneath the surface of the soil or bedding material you
will furnish to house the eggs before hatching.

Back to the box.  The container you will use must be escape-proof from the
inside and out.  You do not want critters getting in as much as you do not want
crickets escaping.  The enemies of the cricket are numerous:  centipedes,
millipedes, spiders, and a whole host of insects find crickets an attractive
addition to their daily menu.  Crickets are excellent climbers and jumpers, so
the container has to be closed on all sides.
The container has to also provide air and heat.  Crickets need fresh air to stay
healthy and to breed.  The best way to provide air is to use some sort of cover
that allows the passage of air but one that doesn’t have holes.  A piece of cloth
secured over the top can provide air and no escape for your crickets or
entrance for the enemies of the crickets.  Use of cheese cloth, an old shirt, or
any old cloth will work.  Try to boil it first so that any bacteria in the cloth is
killed before use.

Once you have decided upon a container, your next problem will be to figure
out how you will provide heat for the crickets.  Crickets breed and grow best in
a temperature of about 88 degrees.  They will breed at lower temperatures, but
you will have a higher mortality of the young and a lower egg lay rate.  There
are a number of ways to heat the crickets.  You can keep the crickets in a warm
room.  For instance, you can keep the cricket bin near a furnace or other
heating source.  Another way is to heat the bin.  You can do this by using a
heating element like the type used for heating reptiles, or you can heat the bin
using a light bulb.  In the case of a bulb, you have to make some provisions so
that the bin does not get too hot and kill the crickets or start a fire.  A
thermostat can be added to the bulb.  This will cost a couple of dollars, but you
will be able to set the thermostat on 88 Degrees and get optimum growth from
your crickets.  I prefer using a warm room or using a reptile type heater.  This
will minimize the chance of a fire.

Choose your heating method and then gather up the rest of your supplies.  You
will need a food dish.  A shallow dish will work well.  A cap or cover from a
peanut butter container works well.  You will also need a water dish.  Crickets
should not have access to an open water dish.  An open dish will cause
drowning, bacteria growth and will sour the entire culture.  Try to give the
crickets water in a different way.  There is a new product available that will
allow water in gel form.  This stops many of the problems that used to pervade
breeding and raising crickets.  You can also set up a “wick watering system.”
This type of system allows the crickets to get water from a dish through a
sponge or cotton. If you use this method, you must remember to change the
cotton or sponge every couple of days so that you will not have a build-up of
bacteria.  You can also give water another way, which is the way that we
recommend, by using a slice of fruit or potato every couple of days.  The
crickets will get water and food from the slice.

Use chicken mash as a food for your crickets.  Egg layer mash works well.  Heat
the mash in an oven to kill bacteria before giving it to the crickets.  The
container should also be cleaned really well so all bacteria is killed.

You will also need some sort of substrate so the crickets can lay eggs in it.
There are two ways of doing this.  One way is to place removable egg laying
containers in the main containers.  These containers can be something like a
margarine container or some sort of soup container.  The other way is to place
a substrate of soil or peat moss. on the bottom of the entire container so the crickets can lay eggs on the floor, in the sand.  Then, you can use the entire container as an
incubator.  I like this way of doing it because you do not have to remove small
containers all the time and place them into incubators. 

After your crickets have laid eggs in the substrate for a few days, you can move
the breeders to a second container to lay eggs in there, or leave them for the
full ten days and then remove the breeders to feed pets, to go fishing, or for
resale.  After two days, you will want to remove the breeders so that they do
not eat any crickets that have started to hatch.  Breeders sometimes eat the
babies if they can catch them.  Removing the breeders stops this and ensures
you will have all one size growing together.

Keep the babies in the brooder/incubator until half grown.  Then, move them
to a storage container.  A sweater box works well as a storage container.  You
can place the container in a cooler room to slow growth and development.  At
this stage, the crickets do not need the sand but do need food and water.
Using chicken mash and fruit and vegetable slices will help provide these
needs.  Do not allow the vegetables to get stale or moldy.  Replace the slices
every couple of days.

Order Crickets Here


Mealworms are easy to raise. All you need is a 10 gallon aquarium. Put an inch of wheat germ, oatmeal, corn meal or egg layer mash on the bottom. Add a dozen or so mealworms. Add fresh potato slices daily for moisture. In a few weeks the mealworms will pupate, then turn into beetles. Within a month there will be hundreds of tiny mealworms. These are great for hatchlings.


These are harder than mealworms. But still rather easy. In order to get the superworms to pupate, they need to be isolated and stressed. I have found that the easiest way is to use a type of case that can be bought at a craft store. The one I use has 25 compartments

In about a week the superworms start to curl up. A few days later they pupate. In a week or so the beetles emerge. From this point on, treat them like regular mealworms.

Sow Bugs:

Sow bugs are also easy to raise. Again, a 10 gallon aquarium works great. Put a layer of garden soil on the bottom, then a layer of dried leaves. Add as many sow bugs as you can find. They will eat the leaves, but do better if you add some grass clippings (just a little)  and replace when gone. The most important thing is to keep the soil moist. They will reproduce faster if kept around 80 or higher. But do well at room temps too.


Pill Bug breeding colony

Its a bit out of focus...the white "grains" are young pill bugs