What’s with the bananas? Food?
Edit: I see you answered it down the thread, it’s for food.
Uhh, how did you get involved with it? I mean is it a wide practice already and you founded just another brand or are you the Elon Musk of cockroach paste?
So I actually grew up with reptiles. I got my first bearded dragon when I was 7 and when I was 11 a neighbor moved in across the street who I found out actually bred bearded dragons for people who wanted “designer” morphs at the time. I ended up saving some money and bought them from him when he got out of it. I bred bearded dragons until I was about 16/17 and during that time I bought a TON of crickets. I heard about people feeding cockroaches as an alternative so I started buying a bunch of them (at this time they were almost $1 each). I ended up selling my bearded dragons and the roaches. I dropped out of high school at 16 to get a full time internship at an ad agency and I started doing web design, dev, and internet marketing and while working there I started to see trends of people buying those roaches so I bought a bunch of them again. I bought a few websites and started selling them online. The first two years I spent about $50,000 on Facebook ads and started growing the market for them as an alternative to crickets. It just took off. Over the next few years I spent hundreds of thousands on fb ads and did reptile and exotic pet expos to get the brand out. I think what really drove me to do it was the fact that a lot of the places I bought crickets and other insects from over the years had other pests in with them like spiders. I was terrified of them. On top of that I wasn’t a fan of crickets and for some reason the roaches just became this thing I felt like could be big! It has paid off! But there were many times I was close to giving up or going bankrupt. It’s been a rough several years.
I have my own colony of Chocolate Roaches for feeding to my Spiders and Scorps, I have had the colony for over a year now and its going very strong. I keep them in a big tub with coco fibre substrate and some heat as its not the warmest here. I feed them on a mix of cat food and veg.
My questions are should I be introducing new stock every now an again or is it okay that they interbreed so much and the other is I sometimes go through periods where they seem to lose legs, some will go down to just two legs, do they do this to each other? The only other insects in there are some woodlice and spring tails to keep it clean.
I don’t think adding new “blood” would hurt anything. Genetics are important! Regarding the legs, they may be competing for food, water, or even breeding, so they are probably chewing each other up...
Hello and thank you for doing this AMA. I am an ecologist and have bred roaches for research but certainly not at that scale! What is the most challenging issue you face dealing with millions of roaches? What does your setup look like?
There have been several challenges. At one point a couple years ago we had an infestation of German cockroaches. We moved to a completely different city because of it, and we implemented a lot of “pest control” procedures to make sure it never happened again. Having tens of millions of cockroaches actually attracts a lot of other pests, so I’d say that is probably our biggest challenge. Plus just figuring out how to maximize growth and production. We currently have 5 warehouses within about 10 minutes of each other to separate everything out (100,000 sqft total), and within each building we actually setup multiple 1,000sqft airtight rooms. Within those rooms we have racks with 2’x1’x1.5’ tubs that the “colonies” are kept in. It’s a lot of work!
How do people react when you tell them what you do for a living?
They either laugh, ask me if I’m serious, or are very interested in learning more about it. I used to tell people I did something else for a living, but now I’m proud of it! Lol
I remember reading of a farm in China that was breeding them as a meat alternative. Do you see any future in something like that or you think you’ll stay focussed on pet food?
We will be staying focused on pet food, simply due to the fact that the species we breed is very time consuming and costly. I’m sure American cockroaches are much easier and quicker to produce on a mass scale, but that’s just nasty! 😆
I looked through the FAQ's on shipping and didn't see an answer. I've ordered live ladybugs for the farm, as well as live crickets to set up my own growing program(for fish bait. I was a camp counselor in charge of fishing). In both instances, they came in cardboard box that I foolishly just cut open to inspect.
Ladybugs EVERYWHERE in the house!!!!! Crickets running wild(thankfully outside!)
Do you double box yours? Ship in a mesh bag or a plastic container in a box? Or just *BOOM* cockroaches and hornworms everywhere? Any fun horror stories to that effect?
The biggest “horror” story was back when I first started this. I kept the roaches in a spare bedroom in our duplex, and my wife and I slept down the hall. I had a tub get knocked over and we woke up at 6am to 2” long cockroaches crawling on us. There were literally thousands in our bedroom and our hallway. I had 30 days to get them out, and that’s when I moved them to our first building.
I believe dubia roaches are illegal to own in Canada. Are there certain states where dubia roaches are also illegal?
Yes, dubia are illegal for us to ship to Florida or Hawai’i. We actually sent some on accident years ago and got a very serious letter from the department of agriculture. Needless to say, we haven’t made that mistake again!
Do you guys pursue any business to business relationships? Have to/do you sponsor animal companies in any way?
Had a longer post but I confused a bot and it got taken down so I’ll hit you up with some info!
Love the AMA, love your attention to customer service , and will refer you guys when we can!
I’m sure you work with some huge popular you tubers, zoos, or breeders. I’m curious as to what it’s like to send excellent products to people who broadcast about them! Care to mention any? Keep it up :)
We actually haven’t done any of this yet, but I’ve planned to start doing things like this soon. I’m actually considering working with pet stores and reptile businesses, basically adding a page on our website where we can promote them in exchange for them promoting us. I think the community could benefit a lot by us all promoting each other! 😀
Do you have vegan friends? If so, what do you tell them you do for a living?
Whenever someone asks what I do, I just tell them flat out. Pets have to eat. 😊
What kills them best or is there anything that roaches hate and avoid maybe?
The roaches we grow are not actually a pest species, so they are very easy to kill. If you have them in your home my best advice is to keep all food items in sealed containers and crumbs off the floor. If there is no food source they will not thrive. Also combat bait traps work wonders!
How’s the production been now since COVID started? It’s so weird to me that ordering kicked up, when I could only ever get dubias online anyway. My leopard gecko misses you!
Our production was down a little bit, but it’s back to normal now. And we should actually have an increase soon to handle the increased volume due to COVID.
How do dogs and cats like the meat?
Edit. Never mind. I visited your website and realised it's for lizards and the like. I thought you were making alternative meats
We’ve actually had some cats that love eating them!
Do you do anything to regulate the air quality in your facility for the human workers? Roach molts can be aerosolized rather easily if I remember right.
Or is that more in the realm of urban myth
Edit some spelling stuff
We actually have all of our HVAC units (currently over 50 of them) set to run the fan 24/7 and we use high MERV filters on them that are replaced weekly. On top of that we have each room pressurized and the air escapes through another high MERV filter out into the main warehouse space. And we run “scrubber” fans with filters as well. Plus if all else fails we provide masks/respirators.
How intelligent can cockroaches be? Have there been any instances with an insect you deal with that you were surprised by something they did?
Cockroaches are extremely intelligent. There is actually a lot of research on it. Just google “cockroach personality” and you’ll find a lot of very interesting information. One interesting fact is that they will pick specific ingredients out of their food depending on what they want/need. Our food has some corn meal in it and for whatever reason they always leave it at the bottom of the plate so when we replace their plates we always have a few tablespoons of corn meal per colony.
Do you have any pictures of what a colony looks like in one of your warehouses? Would love to see!
Where do you get all the egg crates? I keep my dubias in a bin where I compost my produce and I find my egg crates deteriorate quicker than I can eat eggs.
Side note: I am a loyal customer! You are a life saver!
We buy them by the pallet through Uline. It gets very expensive when you factor in shipping cost, and we could get them cheaper if they were used but quality is very important! And I like the ones from uline! 😀
just asking for my friend from mad max universe.
how edible are they for a human? though of starting small bug farming for stuff.
They are edible. Not great tasting, but we did send some to a “bug chef” at one point. I’d have to look him up, he’s on YouTube though.
As a customer of yours already, this is great information. As someone who would like to build their own colony to be a little more cost effective, how long would it take to build a colony that could sustain one adult beardie? Is it true that Dubia will not procreate in lower temperatures?
Thanks for being a customer of ours! First off, dubia will produce as long as they are 75 degrees. They will probably produce at lower temps but the lower the temp the slower they will produce. BUT they will live longer so you’ll still get production, just over a longer period of time. Regarding the colony, I highly recommend against starting a colony. We still don’t know the long term effects on health, and I personally have had asthma and respiratory issues doing this. I’m starting to take things much more seriously than I used to and I’m even testing and monitoring our air quality in our facilities to find out what it takes to achieve safe air quality levels. The last thing I want is for myself or employees to have long-term health issues. If you do want to start a colony it should only take a few months to have a colony that can sustain a bearded dragon.
How hard was it to make connections with buyers? I've thought about doing something similar small scale as a side project but I just have no idea where to even start looking for someone to buy bulk insects outside of individual pet owners.
Actually 95% of our customers are individual pet owners.
This is neat! I’m 28 and a hobbyist beekeeper. I’ve scaled up as much as my backyard will allow. It seems like the next step is specifically acquiring property for it, but that’s a huge scale up to get profitable again.
How did you decide to take that step?
It was a tough decision. I actually took out multiple loans over about 3 years. At one point I had over $200,000 in credit card debt and $250,000 in PayPal and Shopify loans. $450k at around 30% interest is not a great situation to be in, especially at 24. But it paid off. It was however calculated risk, and I would not have done it if I wasn’t 98% positive it would work out for me!
What is your yearly revenue?
Our revenue for 2019 was over $4 million. This includes our pet store, insect sales, and reptile products.
We don’t use anything like that, but we have considered it. We do however have a decent understanding of the temps and food they go through to get to each size, and we know how long it takes between each size.
Do you ever bring them home on accident in your clothing and does it stink?
Not very often. I used to be a lot more hands on, but now I just walk around telling people how to do their job. A couple years ago I’d have them get on me all the time, but now I’m allergic to them and I have to stay away as much as possible. They do stink but no worse than a farm. In fact, with all the air filtration we run it’s getting better by the month.
Can I send the roaches in my house to your farm? I'm sure you will give them a good home.
Sure! Jk we actually have a very strict policy on bringing anything into our facilities, since we provide the perfect environment for other insects to thrive. One wrong insect getting into our facility and it could mean the end of our business.
How is your love life?
I’m married and have two kids, so it’s not absolutely terrible. 😜
I work at a pet store in Florida, and for a while there were rumors that we would soon be selling dubia roaches (obviously they were just rumors, as they’re not actually legal here).
While it’s not an issue I’ll have to face, roaches are one of the few things I’m afraid of and I was dreading their arrival.
I’m sure many others are squeamish about roaches. What advice do you have regarding getting over the fear of roaches?
You just have to buy a few and keep them! I used to be terrified of spiders, and now that I own an exotic pet store I’m around them all the time and they no longer bother me! 😊
Do you take extremely large orders? By that, I mean a single order of several hundred thousand or more.
I watched a video on youtube where a company in China breed them as well to literally eat food waste and they munch through a ton!
I was wondering if people order in bulk like they must do.
Actually right now most orders are limited to 1,000 or less. I think the most we ever sent out to one person was about 50,000. They are expensive cockroaches so even 50,000 of them could cost between $2,000 and $10,000.
So, I want to say this is gross, but I’m open-minded. You called American cockroaches nasty and mentioned how the ones you breed (and most roaches) aren’t pests, so maybe there’s something I’m not seeing.
In the politest way possible... why isn’t it gross to be breeding roaches?
There are over 4,500 species of cockroaches in the world and less than 30 re considered pests. Many are not gross at all, we just see the pest species and immediately write them off as nasty! 😊
How did you find your initial customers?
I would say the majority of our customers initially came from Facebook and google ads. Then organic google search results. But over time most of our growth ended up coming from word of mouth. My main focus over the years was to have the best customer service in the industry. I feel we did a pretty great job of that!
What possessed you to become a cockroach farmer?
I don't mean that in a mean way, it's just something I have never heard of, therefore would never cross my mind to aspire to be one.
It’s been a dream ever since I was a kid. Kidding! I actually grew up with reptiles and before roaches became a big thing I saw an opportunity to grow them on a large scale.
has there been any cases/accidents where u know, cockroaches were accidently set free, then everybody just freaked out? xDD
Not that I know of. But it sure would be crazy! We don’t have to worry about the roaches we sell though, they wouldn’t do any damage, and honestly I doubt they would make it far.
Is there money in that field of business?
Yes there is some, but it’s honestly not a highly profitable business. We operate on approximately a 10% profit margin. It’s a volume based business. We made little to no money until we started doing $2 million in annual revenue.
Do you think cockroaches (and other bugs) would be a feasible source of food for humans in the near future?
Oh definitely! I don’t think places like the US will adopt this practice for a very long time, but a lot of poverty stricken areas will have to.
Is cockroach milk really real?
You can milk anything with... never mind.
Are cockroaches suitable for human consumption?
I’d say yes, but they can cause allergic reactions similar to shellfish so I think crickets and worms might be a better solution.
why do you do this?
I have had a passion for reptiles since I was a kid, and although it took several years I do make a good living.
I feel like roaches would taste really bitter, like earwax and bile. Any comment?
They don’t taste that bad. But they don’t taste good either. Lol
is your fav movie Snow Piercer?
is your fav anime character Kyouhukou?
I did enjoy Snowpiercer!
You mentioned you saw a trend that roaches were going to become the next big reptile food product. How, how dod you see this trend? What told you it was here to stay? I want to form my own business but it's hard knowing what will stick and is something the public actually wants. Also, how much money would you say your initial investment was?
So I’ve always been really into trends, I have done a lot with the stock market in the past and marketing/advertising so I guess I just got lucky having that trait if that’s a thing. Toward the beginning I noticed more and more people talking about them, I noticed trends on google keyword tool, and I knew first hand that they were a hands down better feeder insects than crickets and superworms/mealworms that had been the staple for the live pet food industry for years. I spent a lot of time researching them, growing them, buying websites/domain names, etc. I mean for several years it was on my mind 24/7. I started my business with just $20,000. But within two years I had invested a few hundred thousand and gotten into $450,000 in debt at one point on credit cards and high interest PayPal/Shopify loans. I knew it would cost me a lot of money in interest, but I was confident it would work our long-term and it did. I believe risk is important to take as long as it’s calculated. Just go for it if you have a passion for something and you 100% believe in it, as long as you’re willing to work 24/7 to make it happen!
How far away are we from seeing dubias in pet stores as feeders as common as we see crickets?
I love everything about dubias compared to crickets, as far as feeders go. However my chameleon is just not attracted to them even when they're highly active. Any advice?
Actually they are already in Petco and Petsmart, and a fairly large number of local pet stores. We only work with small pet stores right now, and I don’t see that changing for us. We like to focus on retail only whether that’s retail cups for small stores or individual cups for people with a pet or two.
Do people in your area widely know what’s going on in your facilities?
Like, it sucks living near, say, a dog food plant or a rice mill, but I’d think most people would be eeked out by roach nation.
Or is it rural enough to hire all the neighbors?
We try to stay far enough from houses where we don’t have anything to worry about. Actually even if we did have some get out there’s no risk of anything. Our roaches are pretty high maintenance!
i own tarantulas, as do i own a very small colony of dubia roaches, how do i produce these roaches the most effective way so i have a unlimited amont of tarantula food?
it seems like they are producing but there are ALOT of very small roaches.
That’s usually how it goes, since it takes so long for them to grow. It’s all about patience. The only things you can really do to help are simply making sure there is always access to food and water, and have temps around 80.
What bugs you about your job?
Nice one! I’d say the smell and dust bug me the most, I am always trying to figure out better ways to keep air quality under control.
If one were to buy, let's say, 1 million roach, in the intend to "forget" them in some place he doesn't like, would that be considered terrorism?
If it’s not considered an act of terrorism, it probably should be!
Do you ever consider branching out into other species? Like Turkistan roaches on the food side or hissing roaches for pets?
We actually do sell hissing roaches as pets! We used to sell Turkistan roaches, but they were too close to being considered as a pest we decided to get rid of them.
Have you ever fulfilled an order, placed by an eBay executive, to send cockroaches to the authors of a critical blog?
I don’t think so!
Why do u farm COCKROACHES??Are you afraid of them??And why does the pet food industry need roaches??
I have a passion for reptiles and bugs. I make money doing it. And hell no I’m not afraid of them. :) so we mainly sell them live for people with reptiles, amphibians, inverts, fish, chickens, etc.
Do you have competitors or is this a business with a big wide moat from other competition ?
There are actually lots of competitors, which is surprising considering how difficult of a business it is to be in and how gross it is! 😜
Did you ever become emotionally attached to a particular cockroach?
Not sure how to answer this one, I don’t want to sound stranger than I probably already do.. jk! But in all seriousness I had a building overheat a couple years ago and it killed a lot of them! It was honestly pretty sad to see, I mean yeah we grow them to eventually become food but they are still living creatures.
What's it like when they did? Is it hard to manage the disposal?
A lot of the dead and the waste can actually be used for agriculture, many places use it as fertilizer including for cannabis.
Wait so ur telling me there are cockroaches in my dogs kibble?
No we sell them live for reptiles, fish, chickens, etc.
Have any of these animals ever escaped through the "factory"?
We hardly have anything get out of our rooms, but it does happen.
I'm gonna guess cockroaches don't gross you out anymore?
Oh not at all! Well I take that back... German cockroaches absolutely gross me out. They are nasty!
What is your favorite movie, and why is it Creepshow?
Favorite movie? That’s a tough one. I have so many favorites!
Do you ever host cockroach races in your spare time?
We actually have never done that, but I like it! We might have to do this for our next “game” night!
Which country/region gets the "most" cockroaches?
I’m not sure on that, but I do know that most large cities have pest species really bad. Especially in places like Florida and California where it’s warm.
How do you butcher the cockroaches?
Butcher? We sell them live! Shipped right to your door!