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POTATO BUGS AS PETS?
There are nearly 35 species of Potato Bugs (Embryona Satanicus) in the world, of which only 25 to 33 have any man- or animal-threatening status. The rest are innocent members of the earth's fauna, and as disgusting as it may sound some make great pets.
Housing potato bugs in captivity poses three main problems. Firstly, most species come from moist, earthy, warm environments and therefore need to be kept at least 50ºF minimum to be happy.
Secondly, there is the problem of the potato bugs escaping and infesting the house. This problem is easily overcome by careful selection of species and cage structure. The cage needs to be escape-proof.
Thirdly, potato bugs are the most universally feared, hated and disgusting creatures on the planet. Guests in your house should be made well aware that you are keeping Satans spawn under the same roof with them.
As most species of potato bug are good climbers and can gnaw through 12-gauge steel mesh, a tight fitting lid is required made of a good quality 16-grade galvanized sheet steel with nail holes (no bigger) to allow for air flow. The walls of the cage should be galvanized steel backed with 5/8" plywood, carefully mitered at corners and reinforced with L brackets to prevent escape. Wood screws are preferred over nails for assembly, as potato bugs have been known to ram against the walls until the nails eventually loosen from the wood and work free, compromising the integrity of the structure, and allowing the creatures to infest your house and lay eggs in your ear canal or anus. The floor of the cage should be covered with wood shavings or peat for easy burrowing, lined below with: 1) 5/8" plywood treated with Thompsons Water Seal. 2) A layer of galvanized steel. 3) Another layer of 5/8" plywood. The outside of the cage should be painted liberally with exterior latex to further help seal the materials, edges and seams.
All known species of potato bug are omnivorous (this means that, like you and me, they eat nearly everything) though in captivity most species do best on a mixture of dried feed/grains, fresh vegetables or fruit, human skin (old scabs), dead bugs or small animals. I feed mine mostly on oats and fruit, along with road-stunned cats or possums (they seem to like warm meat). NOTE: Although they don't need fresh meat every day, it is important that they always have enough to eat otherwise they will start eating the cage as well as each other.
As a general rule breeding will take care of itself; eggs are normally laid in an ootheca (natures answer to the polystyrene egg box). Some species will secrete these in the corners of the cage or other warm, accessible nooks and crannies throughout your house under appliances, near to the water heater, or sometimes on humans (ear canals, nostrils, anus) while you sleep.