Allergic Reactions To Dubia Roaches: Symptoms and Solutions
You often hear about dubia roaches being a quality feeder choice. What they don’t tell you is most people can develop an allergy to them.
They can have allergic reactions such as irritated bumpy skin, postnasal drip, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing.
In some cases these symptoms are so extreme, it can cause many to sell off their entire colonies. This article aims to explain and provide solutions to rid the pitfalls of keeping dubia roaches.
How To Tell if You're Allergic
One of the major risks in keeping these feeder roaches is allergies. Another minor risk is escaping, which I will discuss more in another post. Below I have outlined the common symptoms which include:
- Water Eyes
- Runny Nose
- Feeling Nausea
- Difficulty Breathing
- Itchy Skin
- Blisters or Rashes
- Excess Mucus
- Shortness of Breath
- Tightening of Throat
- Dry Itchy Throat
If you experience any of these while cleaning or interacting with your cockroaches, then chances are you may be sensitive to them. You can also check with your primary care doctor as they will be able to tell if you are.
What Causes Allergic Reactions?
You may be thinking, what causes these types of reactions? If you look at statistics, around 50% of the population is at least mildly allergic to roaches including myself. I noticed that I am most susceptible during times of cleaning as well as transferring. As reptile keepers we all know that maintenance is essential to the health of our animals and bug colonies are no exception. Egg crates are great for housing your insects as they provide lots of climbing space but can also carry a lot of dust particles. Frass or roach poop (feces) are tiny brown excrement that can cause irritation if inhaled.
When transferring roaches to cleaner bins, I must shake them off their dirty crates. This activity releases dust particles which is usually inhaled. My eyes will begin to water followed by a itchy scratchy throat. I will start coughing and blowing my nose from the mucus build up. This usually lasts around 1 hour. Not a fun time at all. I’ll go over prevention more later on in this post. If your housing bins are too dry (below 40% Relative Humidity) you will be more prone to these effects. Arid conditions will cause frass to be brittle therefore creating more dust in the environment.
Microscopic mites can also generate dust which irritate the nasal passages. Mites are invasive and detrimental to your colonies as they can hitchhike on adults and leach off their nutrients. They will also cause a halt in production and can infest. Also, if you have asthma (like I do) you are much more susceptible to experiencing these issues.
Frass is beneficial in your colonies as it provides a food source rich in nutrients for newborn nymphs. Removing it completely can hinder growth rates in babies, you always want to leave a small amount in the cages. Like most insects, dubia have spikes on their legs which aid in climbing or gripping their surroundings. As they climb on us, these spikes can irritate or even pierce our skin causing red rashes or bumps.The redness and itching usually subsides within an hour but can last up to 2 hours in my experience.
How To Keep Dubia Without Experiencing Allergic Reactions
Like many people in the world, I have Asthma but have been successfully keeping not only dubia but crickets, other roaches, and mealworms for the past 10 years with no ill effects. I was told by my primary care doctor that not only did I have to give up on selling roaches, but also completely interacting with them which included feeding my lizards. I was warned to stop due to respiratory inflammation.
I was honestly devastated knowing that I couldn’t feed one of the most nutritious bugs to my reptiles all because I was asthmatic. Being stubborn and frustrated, I began researching and found that as long as I followed some simple steps along with preventative measures, I would be able to not only feed my herps but also continue selling. I would advise listening to your doctors under all circumstances.
I am only sharing my opinions and experiences about my personal situation. Below I have listed supplies that have helped protect me from any allergy related issues and continue keeping insects:
- Paint/Pesticide Respirator (AKA Face Mask) – These are a real life saver and catch/filter tiny particles in the air. I recommend Full face masks but you can also use face pieces only. Be sure to get the ones that have replaceable filters.
- Safety Goggles (not needed if you use full face) – These protect your eyes from irritants. I like the ones that conform to my face as they seal out any debris.
- Latex-Free Gloves (non-powdered) – These will protect your hands from any spikes or dust.
- Hooded Chemical Coveralls – These are usually disposable. They provide protection pretty much your whole body. I get the ones with elastic hands around the wrists and ankles.
You might look like you’re preparing for the apocalypse but I guarantee you it’s worth it. I haven’t had any problems or experienced any symptoms for quite a few years now. I always clean off both my roaches and supplies outdoors. This helps with adequate ventilation and also doesn’t allow dust to get trapped in my reptile rooms. The containers need to dry completely to prevent mold.
As much as we love our animals, we must make sure to always take care of ourselves first. Some of you may not experience any of the problems stated above. Believe it or not, I also didn’t experience any issues within my first year of keeping Dubis. I would clean every week or so and take a shower once I was done with no problems. It was only after that year I began to feel the effects. I’m not sure why it took a while but I’m guessing over time symptoms started to develop from prolonged exposure.
Keep A Cleaning Schedule
As stated, cleaning is important to the longevity of your cockroaches. You must clean if you want to have a healthy thriving colony. How often should you clean though? I’ve heard of some keepers cleaning weekly, bi-weekly, and even monthly. So which frequency is correct? My answer is, it depends.
Quite frankly, your maintenance schedule will depend on a variety of factors including how large your colonies are, smell factor, and the age of your setup. A large group would be any amount over 5000 insects. I keep around that many per each 40 gallon tub and will usually clean once a month. This is due to having some adults dying off as they near the end of their life cycle. Males live for roughly a year while females generally can live up to 2 years. I always keep a quarter to half an inch layer of frass for fresh hatchlings and babies.
Dubia roaches are highly regarded for their lack of smell. If your tubs begin to smell, this is a good indicator that your cage needs cleaning. Dead insects usually give off a smell. Also, most egg crates will start to discolor and even become brittle indicating maintenance. Some bugs will chew and eat pieces of the cardboard which usually means they aren’t getting enough food. I will change out egg cartons every 2-3 months when I notice this.
When my bins become overpopulated, I like to separate them out and create new tubs of 5000. These new setups will usually contain only nymph sizes and brand new cartons. They generally consume less food resulting in less feces buildup. This allows me to clean with less frequency, about once every 2-3 months. As they age however, I will follow the same schedule as older tub
Utilize Cleaner Crews
I like to use “cleaner crews” in my enclosures for the simple fact that they help prolong my intervals for cleaning. I utilize dermestid beetle larvae and springtails. These help control bacterial growth and mold by feeding on dead carcasses.
Dermestid beetle larvae are small brown or black hairy worms. They move rapidly and grow fairly quickly. Larvae only eat decaying matter and do not disturb my critters. They also control moisture and gasses let off from dead roaches which helps with odors. For every 5000 count bin, I use around 10 beetles and 20-50 larvae. They will repopulate along side their counterparts and will never need any added maintenance.
They truly compliment each other and truly alleviate a lot of duties for me. Springtails are tiny white isopods. They generally need higher humidity to reproduce and generally do not infest. They feed only on dead matter and decomposing plants. I’ve heard that springtails will also eat mold however I haven’t confirmed this. These crews are fairly inexpensive and usually free as I try to include them in my shipments.
List of Feeder Insects That Also Cause Allergies
Many feeder insects have been linked to allergic reactions. These include:
- Lobster Roaches
- Turkestan Roaches
- Live Crickets
- Madagascar Hissers
I personally have the worse reactions to mealworm poop. I will experience wheezing, chesty cough, and tons of mucus buildup. Their frass tends to be more sandy in texture which sticks to skin. I believe their particles are smaller than that of dubia frass and thus more easily inhaled. Crickets tend to stink and also produce a lot of feces. The smell alone tends to make me nauseous but I haven’t had any issues since adding more ventilation.
Lobster roaches and Red runners are usually smellier than my dubia cultures but not by much. Their frass has equal effects. Madagascar Hissers give me welts when I handle them for too long. They have a harder exoskeleton and that could contribute to the welts. If you notice any symptoms lasting longer than an hour, I would advise taking a Benadryl. In the past, this helped tremendously. Please do so on your own accord, as I am not a doctor. I’m simply just sharing my past experiences and what worked for me.