14

I have some excess feeder crickets that I no longer have a use for.

What is the most humane way to get rid of them?

  • 1
    I watched a show recently where they had to kill a massive amount of feeder maggots as humanely as possible. Their preferred method was to dip the bag in boiling water. It took a few seconds but I think they left it for a minute just in case. So, there's an idea. Another, maybe put an ad on Craigslist (or whatever classified) to see if someone else may have a use for them. – Gary Dec 8 '14 at 14:38
  • 3
    It was a mesh bag of some sort. I'd imagine a (cloth) laundry bag would suffice. It will have to be something that "breathes", so they'll be fully immersed in the scalding water. Another fun fact, in the case of the maggots at least, the boiling water makes them all instantly void their bowels... So maybe don't use your best cookware. If you're interested in the show, it was Dirty Jobs on "Animal Planet" -- They were the maggots to feed the spiders they milk. – Gary Dec 8 '14 at 14:49
  • 2
    *Discovery Channel (not Animal Planet) – Gary Dec 8 '14 at 14:59
  • 2
    What's the plan there? You're going to dump out a bucket of crickets and try to step on them all? Or move that party to the bathtub first? – Gary Dec 9 '14 at 1:49
  • 2
    @phresnel Well, it's from the word humane, not the word human. But you raise an interesting point about the paradox of those two similar-looking words! I wonder if the etymology is the same... A question for English SE, maybe? – starsplusplus Dec 9 '14 at 11:59
14

First of all, don't release them into the environment without checking with your local authorities whether it's okay to do so.

Chances are that the captive crickets you have bought are not local to your area. The introduction of non-native animals to an environment unused to them can disrupt the local wildlife by introducing new predators, spreading disease and introducing competition for food sources.

Freezing

The most humane and efficient way of disposing of them, especially if you have large numbers, is to tip them into a bag, seal it closed and place the bag in the freezer for 24 hours. (You can double-bag it if you're worried about contaminating your food.) After 24 hours all the insects will be dead* and you can dispose of them with your normal household waste.

Insects are ectothermic, which means that in cold temperatures their metabolism just slows down until they die. The insects go into a cold-induced coma from which they do not recover. In fact freezing - albeit a more slow reduction in temperature - is the preferred humane method of culling for some insect farms:

  • Little Herds

    when they're culled we lower the temperature so that there's no violent death or change in state (because insects are exothermic their metabolism slows until they go into a coma-like sleep without any pain). I can't think of a more humane way to raise our meat.

  • Big Cricket Farms

    Our crickets are harvested by freezing. As with many insects, crickets will slow down in low temperatures, and reach a state called diapause. Once they've gone dormant, we freeze them in a deeper freeze. Not only does this humanely kill the crickets, it also ensures that the bugs remain as fresh as possible until they're ready to be prepared as food or dehydrated and processed.

You could attempt to emulate the more gentle freezing method, perhaps by use of a water bath or by repeatedly taking them in and out of the freezer. Or you could accept that freezing, even the quick kind, is probably as humane a death as the death they would have got from being eaten ;)

Crushing

I have also heard the suggestion that you can crush their heads with feeding tongs or tweezers as a humane way of killing them. However, it's not very practical if you have hundreds of them. There is also some debate as to how humane this method is, because the insects remain alive for a while after having their heads crushed. I found a method for killing cockroaches on a forum which suggests a more humane adaptation of the "crushing method":

If you need to swiftly kill them [...] crush the head and make two quick incisions on their ventral side (between the last two pairs of legs and in the middle off the abdomen) you will humanely euthanize the roach. The roach's nervous system runs ventrally and making those two incisions after crushing the head will [e]nsure that the body does not go through excessive pain, since it will still be (by many definitions) alive after the head has been dealt with.

This suggestion was for a single insect at a time and is even less practical than simple head-crushing if you have large quantities. However, if you need to kill only a few insects it sounds like a humane option.


* Note that you may see reports of frozen crickets reviving, but these crickets have typically been frozen under carefully-controlled conditions. For example, the ones in this study (the one referenced by the report I linked to) slowly cooled the crickets from 25°C to 0°C over 1 hr 40 minutes, then held then at 0°C. In contrast, a typical home freezer is -18°C and the crickets will reach that temperature within minutes due to their low body mass:surface area ratio, subjecting them to cold shocks, unrecoverable tissue damage and death.

For more information see @WYSIWYG's answer here.

| improve this answer | |
5

Inert gas asphyxiation may be effectively painless, and certainly more humane than death by extreme temperature.

Here is an article describing a study done on the effects of nitrogen gas on kittens and puppies.

Nitrogen can be purchased in canisters, and any airtight container with a relief valve will work; simply cycle the air out of the container until the crickets go completely dormant, and leave it sealed for a day or so. This is best done outdoors, or with proper ventilation otherwise.

| improve this answer | |
  • Welcome to pets. I like your answer but not sure why you have the last sentence "This is best done outdoors, or with proper ventilation otherwise." Normal air is 78% Nitrogen so why would ventilation be a concern? – James Jenkins Dec 9 '14 at 11:22
  • 1
    @JamesJenkins I would assume the need for good ventilation arises from the danger of displacing too much oxygen, not just inside (as this is how you're trying to euthanize the crickets), but outside of the cricket container as well, possibly asphyxiating other living beings. – Regret Dec 9 '14 at 12:00
  • 1
    Depending on the volume you need, a store-bought helium balloon might be enough? – Rup Dec 9 '14 at 12:04
  • 5
    @starsplusplus Not all of the oxygen must be displaced in order for asphyxiation to occur. Oxygen concentrations lower than 19.5% (as compared to the usual ~21%) can cause adverse effects in humans. One should be very careful with compressed gases inside a poorly ventilated area. – Regret Dec 9 '14 at 12:26
  • 3
    CO2 cartridges for BB guns and soda making are even easier and cheaper to obtain, and being very small they pose little risk to humans in moderately sized rooms. CO2 computer dusters are common, easy to use, and safe. Place the crickets in a ziplock bag, remove as much air as reasonable, and then puff it up with the CO2 dispenser. At this point you can simply put it in the trash without waiting for them to die. – Adam Davis Dec 9 '14 at 13:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.