The Short Answer: Crickets will eat almost anything, from rotting plant matter to fruits and vegetables to meats and other insects.
For a more in depth look at what crickets eat and more about crickets, read on.
What Are Crickets?
Crickets are insects that are part of the order Orthoptera, which includes related insects like grasshoppers and locusts. There are over 900 different species of true crickets in the world, and even more species of close relatives that are called crickets but are actually different, like bush crickets and camel crickets.
For the sake of clarity, any time crickets are mentioned in this article, it will be in reference to “true” cricket species. If other cricket species are mentioned, they will be designated as “other” crickets.
Crickets are found in tropical regions of every continent except Antarctica. They have three body segments like all other insects: a head, a thorax, and an abdomen. They have a hard, external skeleton (exoskeleton), a pair of antennas, and have compound eyes which give them excellent eyesight.
They have two pairs of legs used for walking and one pair of legs used exclusively for jumping. Crickets have specialized organs on their forelegs to process sound, and females are distinguishable from males by the large ovipositor extending from their abdomens. This long reproductive structure allows a female to lay her eggs in the ground.
Crickets have a total of four wings – a set of hind wings and a set of fore wings. Many species of crickets are unable to fly with their wings, but they do still serve a very important purpose.
Crickets are best known for their ability to ‘chirp’, which is a sound they make by rubbing their wings together. Male crickets chirp to attract mates, induce copulation, and ward off other males. The females, which are silent, follow the sounds of the chirping until they find the male making it. Every cricket species has its own unique set of songs.
The bottom of a cricket’s fore wing has teeth-like projections that make the chirping sound when they are rubbed against the top of its other fore wing, which has a scraper-like structure.
Chirping is used by crickets to attract mates, though some parasites take advantage of it as well to find cricket hosts. Females of the nocturnal fly Ormia ochracea listen for cricket singing and track it down, depositing their larvae on or around the cricket.
The larvae then burrow into the cricket, feasting on its organs for a week, usually before tearing their way out and killing their host.
In some cricket species, mutations have arisen that cause the males to be silent in order to evade these parasites. They are less likely to find a mate than crickets that still chirp, but tend to live longer.
Fun Fact: Crickets chirp more frequently in warmer temperatures, and you can actually predict the temperature outside in Fahrenheit by measuring the number of chirps you hear in 15 seconds and adding 40 to it.
Crickets vary in size from less than an eighth of an inch to over two inches and can be a whole host of different colors. Tree crickets are usually green or white in color, but crickets that live in fields, pastures, gardens, and underbrush can be a range of colors from straw to black. Some will have stripes and bands, or their head may be a different color from their thorax and abdomen.
Most crickets are nocturnal creatures and generally stay hidden during the day, though some species will sing both day and night. Crickets will hide under rocks and leaves, in bushes, in downed trunks and underbrush, in tall grass or gardens, and some species like the house crickets that were introduced to America from Europe will burrow small holes in the ground.
Though there may be small differences between species, every cricket will undergo the same three life stages: egg, nymph, and adult. Once adults have mated, the female will lay her eggs, usually between 50 and 100, using the ovipositor to push them into the ground.
It usually takes about 14 days for nymphs to hatch from the eggs, and they dig their way back to the surface. Nymphs resemble adults but generally do not have wings, and females do not have ovipositors. They are usually an eighth of an inch or smaller when they initially hatch.
As the nymphs grow, they must shed their exoskeletons in a process called molting, which is a form of simple metamorphosis, and a nymph will go through 8-10 rounds of growth and molting. These growth stages are called instars, and the whole process of maturation takes two to three months.
Once crickets become adults, they generally live for around two months. One notable exception is a species of other crickets – mole crickets – that can live in the soil for up to two years.
The lifespan of a cricket may be shortened by cold weather, certain pesticides, parasitic or fungal infection, or consumption by one of their many predators – including other crickets. Nymphs are often cannibalized by larger instars or adult crickets.
Natural predators of crickets include small snakes, frogs, toads, salamanders, lizards, rats, mice, shrews, bats, some birds, and a whole host of insects including spiders, beetles, mantids, ants, and wasps.
Fun Fact: Feeling hungry? People regularly eat crickets in Cambodia, Thailand, and China, among other countries. There is also a growing push to add crickets and other insects as protein sources in The Netherlands.
What Do Crickets Eat?
Crickets will eat a vast array of different things, but there are some foods that they like more than others.
Crickets are omnivorous like us, which means they eat both plants and animals. Certain species of other crickets like bush crickets are strictly carnivores, but they are the exception. Crickets are also considered to be scavengers since they will eat decaying plant matter and carrion if other food sources are not available.
How Do Crickets Get Their Food
Crickets in the wild will eat whatever is available to them. They will forage for fruits, vegetables, and seeds using their great eyesight and sensitive antennas, and they will hunt for other insects as well.
This foraging can lead crickets to yards and gardens, and even indoors. This is especially true when the weather turns cooler, and crickets can still find plenty to eat in your house or business building.
Fun Fact: One species of other crickets, Ant-Loving Crickets, actually lives in ant nests and steals the food the ants bring in.
What Do Baby Crickets (Nymphs) Eat?
As mentioned, baby crickets are called nymphs and will go through multiple growth stages called instars. Most instars are indistinguishable from one another, with the exception of size and the ovipositor and wings that develop in the latest stages.
Nymphs tend to eat plant matter more exclusively than adults in the wild, but all instars have a ravenous appetite. These nymphs will devour everything they can in order to get enough energy to fuel their growth, and can actually be very detrimental to agricultural crops.
Nymphs like to eat the seeds and stems of some weeds like crabgrass and chicory, and will also eat rotting vegetation and plant matter if that is all that’s available. They can decimate corn stalks and love to feast on wheat and barley seedlings as well.
In the home, nymphs will eat anything from cotton and nylon to rubber and leather. This diet will not sustain them for long, but a serious infestation can still cause significant damage. Some species of crickets and their nymphs will even munch on wood.
In captivity, nymphs can and will thrive on a number of different foods, and you don’t have to feed them anything different than you would feed adult crickets. You can find cricket foods that are commercially produced and packaged for sale, or you can go with a mixture of fresh fruits and vegetables, alfalfa and other legumes, and a protein source like tropical fish flakes.
Some breeders who raise cricket colonies have even reported feeding their nymphs cat food or reptile food, with good results.
For water intake, it is recommended that you put cotton balls in the water dishes to prevent nymphs from drowning and keep the water as far away as you can from their food source to keep it from getting dirty as quickly.
What Do Adult Crickets Eat?
Adult crickets eat almost the same things as their nymphs in the wild but may be more prone to hunt other insects. Crickets will sometimes hunt nymphs for protein, but will also eat other adults if they are injured and unable to fight.
Other insects that crickets will eat include ants, mites, aphids, and the eggs, pupae, or larvae of larger insects. If there are no other options crickets will also eat dead insects, but it is not their preferred food source.
As far as plants go, adult crickets also prefer the seeds and stems of a wide variety of plants. Agricultural crops are unfortunately included in their diets as well, and these eating habits have elevated crickets to the status of pests. Because of this, they are often the targets of commercial pesticides.
Crickets also like to eat several of the same weed species their nymphs do and love to eat grass seed. If crickets get in your garden, they will go for your fresh fruit and vegetables, but they will also eat any rotting ones that may have fallen on the ground.
Adults inside your house will eat the same things that nymphs do, but they may be more likely to eat some of the other insects hiding out as well.
In captivity, adults need a high-protein diet to prevent them from cannibalizing each other. This can be achieved by using store-bought feeds or cat food, or you can give an alternative protein source like tropical fish flakes. They also like eating fresh fruits and vegetables, especially dark, leafy greens.
If you’re raising crickets to be fed to other animals, it is important to remember that whatever you feed your crickets will end up in your other pets. Store-bought crickets may be fed anything from rotting produce to cardboard, but when you raise them yourself you can do your own gut loading.
Gut loading is the process of feeding your crickets nutrient-rich foods before using them as food for other animals. If you’re getting ready to feed your crickets to a snake, for instance, you can gut load them with fresh vegetables and whole wheats as well as a reptile calcium supplement.
There are many commercial cricket foods that are designed for gut loading, but they tend to be pricey and may add too much to the total cost of raising your crickets. What exactly you want to gut load your crickets with will depend on what animal they are being fed to, but it is a great way to get your pets a little extra nutrition.
You’ll want to wait at least 24 hours after gut loading your crickets to use them as feed, but you’ll know that they have as many good nutrients in them as they can before going into your pet.
Cricket Food Options
The following are great choices to feed your crickets to keep them happy and healthy:
Plants and Vegetables
- Mustard greens
- Sweet potatoes
- Any vegetable ends or peelings
- Wheat germ
- Baby cereals
- Tropical fish flakes
- Ground beef
- Cat food
- Reptile food
The Cricket Digestive System
The digestive system of a cricket can be divided into three functional segments: a foregut, a midgut, and a hindgut. Crickets have palpi, which are small appendages near the mouth that are used to grasp food and aid the mandibles in chewing.
Food passes down the esophagus and into the crop, which is located in the foregut and serves to store the food and begin digestion. It releases the food in small quantities into the proventriculus and cecum, which are located in the midgut, for true digestion.
The proventriculus is the site of enzymatic processing of the food, and where mixing and grinding of the contents occurs as well. The cecum aids in this digestive process and the midgut is the main site of food digestion and absorption.
Once the food has been broken down into small enough particles and everything that can be absorbed has been, it then moves on to the ileum, which is part of the hindgut. Here, bacterial fermentation breaks down any remaining food particles, and the rest moves to the rectum as feces.
How Often Should I Feed My Crickets
An adult cricket generally needs to eat its body weight in food every day, but fortunately most crickets do not weigh more than 0.8 grams. That’s less than a large paper clip!
Crickets are used to foraging and scavenging, so in the wild, they eat many times throughout the day. The best way to mimic this in captivity is to let your crickets have continual access to food.
Depending on what you’re feeding, you will want to change out the food completely every 5-7 days to make sure it stays fresh. Crickets can and will eat rotting or decaying foods, but it’s not as healthy for them.
As was mentioned, making sure that your crickets maintain a high-protein diet will reduce cannibalism, and having a protein source consistently available with their other food will go a long way towards keeping your crickets from turning on each other.
Crickets should also have fresh water constantly available to them, and keeping the water separate from the food can prevent you from having to change it out as often. Having said that, you should still change the water out at least weekly to prevent any bacterial buildup.
Summary of What Crickets Eat
Crickets will eat anything that is available to them from plants and produce to meats and compost.
Crickets are members of the order Orthoptera and can be found in all parts of the world. They are known for their ability to chirp with their wings.
They are omnivorous insects that will eat both plants and other insects or meats, but they are not picky eaters. They are also scavengers, and tend to be nocturnal.
Baby crickets are called nymphs and take two to three months to mature, and adult crickets on average live about two months.
Nymphs and adults have the same diet requirements, but nymphs need to eat more to sustain their growth and adults tend to eat other insects more often.
In the wild, crickets will eat whatever they can find and will even eat things like wood and fabric if they get inside your house.
Crickets and nymphs in captivity can eat the same foods, and should have food constantly available to them.
Fresh fruits and veggies are great foods to feed your crickets, and it is important to have a solid protein source as well.
If you are feeding your crickets to your pets, gut load them based on the animal that is eating them at least 24 hours beforehand.