On the Web - A few months back I set out to try to discover what the best and most nutritious way to feed our lizards, here at BHB Reptiles. Our standard...
Timberline Trial and Contest
The Reptile Report - What’s Brian Barcyzk up to? Breeding lizards, testing crickets, and giving away tons of cool stuff. Read all about it right here at Brian’s Corner on TRR!
Over the past year I have really had a resurgent interest in keeping and breeding lizards, in particular Bearded Dragons and Leopard Geckos. Now I’ve kept and bred lizards on and off for over twenty years, but never on a commercial level. So basically I had a lot to learn about the care and husbandry of the two large groups of animals that I was adding to the BHBReptiles line up. As with all animals there is a wealth of information on the web and I set out to find the best techniques to successfully keep them. There was no doubt the biggest issue for me was about the proper vitamin supplements. There’s really been two trains of thought on this up until very recently; dust your crickets or gut load them. Dusting crickets is just as it sounds, you put your crickets into a cup and add vitamin powder and shake them up to coat the outside of the cricket in vitamin dust, my biggest problem here is this sounds time consuming and I could also see where it would be very easy to skip the dusting process when time is pressing. Gut loading means you “feed” your crickets vitamins and when your lizard eats the cricket it eats what’s in their gut, the vitamins. Either way you’re relaying on the vitamin supplement to have all the essential ingredients to achieve your end goal, which is to have a healthy lizard.
The thing that always bothered me is the varying levels of vitamins in all of the popular brands of vitamin supplements. If my lizards need these to be healthy, then why wouldn’t each product offered have about the same amount of each vitamin and mineral? To make matters even more cloudy, the more research I did the more concerned I got about the two popular delivery systems we use to get these supplements into our lizards. First off we know that crickets are what they refer to as “cleaners” which basically means as soon as you dust the crickets they immediately start to clean the powder off. The research I found was quite amazing, within 30 seconds of dusting up to 60% of the dust was already cleaned and the majority within minutes after. Basically if your lizard didn’t devour the crickets as soon as you fed them there’s a good chance they weren’t getting any vitamin supplement at all. Let’s move on to “gut loading”. A crickets gut is about 4-% of their body (pretty small , huh) as well as their metabolism is relatively fast . So not only are we talking about a very small amount of vitamin supplement going into the gut, but unless you gut load the cricket shortly before you feed them to your lizard it’s virtually a complete waste of time.
I think you might be starting to see my dilemma here. I am all about proper care and nutrients when it comes to my animals and I was really starting to question the viability of the process that the reptile community had come accustomed to using when it came to supplementing vitamins to their lizards.
That’s when a possible solution presented itself. I was at the Tinley Park NARBC show and I saw that Todd Goodman from Timberline cricket farm was giving a talk about “vita-crickets”. At the time I had no clue what that meant, but it peaked my interest enough to break away from the show and attend the talk. I was memorized by the presentation because he brought up each and every concern I had about the traditional dusting and gut loading of crickets. His solution to this problem was to nutritionally engineer a form of cricket that actually carried the essential vitamins that our lizards needed. Not on the outside, but on the actual make up of the body of the cricket. For a moment I was half excepting him to start a sinister laugh and some insect in a superman cape to fly out from behind the podium. But he was serious, he had spent several years and God knows how much money engineering said bugs.
After the talk I had a chance to speak to Todd personally and I was so excited to learn more. Could this be what all the lizard people were waiting for? I’m not going to lie, all this science seemed a little bizarre to me and I had to wonder if this was some kind of gimmick to sell more crickets at a higher price? Furthermore a few of my “bug” friends weren’t buying into this new “super bug” hocus pocus.
It’s been a few months since my introduction to the vita-cricket and I have yet to use them, but the lingering questions still bother me about the way I supplement my lizards now. So I decided to reach out to Todd with a proposal. I would put his new Vita-Crickets to the test, but not just by using them, but by setting up a few test groups and publicly showing the results. I had no idea how Todd would react to this, if the results were positive it would be great for him, but if I saw no discernible difference this could be very bad for his Vita-Cricket campaign. While on the phone with Todd I was shocked at how confident and excited he was to help me get this test off the ground. He not only offered to provide all the vita-crickets to my experiment but he felt so confident that I would see a huge improvement that he wanted to offer the people following along with this test some FREE vita-crickets! His reaction really made me more impressed with the potential of these vita-crickets. Why would he want to get behind this so much where as to draw even more attention to this experiment by giving prizes away unless he really believed in it?
So this is the deal and how this is going to work. I am setting up 3 groups of animals this week. Each group will consist of 12 Bearded Dragons, set up in two colonies of 6 animals per cage. Group “A” will be 12 baby Bearded dragons that will get dusted normal crickets twice a day along with veggies. Group “B” will get gut loaded crickets twice a day along with their veggies, and finally group “C” will get the new Vita-Crickets along with their veggies as well as calci-worms twice a week. The reason for the calci-worms is that Vita-Crickets cannot carry extra calcium like the other supplements because calcium kills bugs. So we will supplement group “c” with the calci-worms, but still no powdered supplements for this final group. . All these groups will comprise of baby Bearded Dragons that were hatched within two days of one another from genetically equivalent parents as well as the each groups average size will be identical.
I will do a short Blog about the process once a week with the results I’ve seen that week. I’ll use three “factors” as my measuring stick for the success of each group. First will be the average weight of each animal in each group. Second will be overall health, any losses or animals lagging behind. And lastly the “sight” test, basically just meaning do they look healthy and pretty. I’ll also be doing occasional updates on SnakeBytesTV so you guys can see for yourselves how things are going. This test will go on for 90 days and during that period we will be very diligent to make sure no variables will change that will affect the outcome. They will all be kept in the same cages, the same lighting and temps. We WILL get the accurate results and find out what is the best way to supplement our lizards!
Quite simply my plans are to get to the bottom of what the best and easiest way to properly supplement our lizard colonies. I know very little about these crickets or even what our lizards actually need to be completely healthy, so I’ll make a trip to Timberline to learn as much as I can and I’ll bring you along with tweets, FaceBooking and Blogs as well as video for the wrap up show that will be featured in a SnakeBytesTV episode.
Now the exciting part…. Seeing as Todd was so willing to be a part of this, he has agreed to participate in a huge give away. Of course I’ll only be doing this give away if I am seeing results and believe in his new vita-Crickets, which Todd confidently assures me I will! Starting after the first 60 days (November 11th, 2013) we’ll give away prizes everyday for the last 30 days of the experiment. Each day we’ll make a post and on Facebook about the project and all you have to do is share that post that day (from the BHB Reptiles Facebook page) and we’ll pick a random “sharer” and give them 1000 Vita-Crickets and another small prize for FREE! Then we’ll have a grand prize for the person that shared the most and reached the most people with a huge prize! You’ll get 10,000 Vita-Crickets, a free shirt, a Vita-Cricket water container and a Tell Hicks giclee painting! The grand prize is valued at over $1500!!!!
So what do you guys think? Are you as curious as I am about what’s best for your lizards? Want to come along on this three month journey to get to the bottom on this? Keep up to date on everything by following me at www.facebook.com/BHBreptiles and www.youtube.com/SnakeBytesTV