In our experience, the combination of Dermestid beetles and lesser mealworms works better than either insect alone. Any weakness in one species is complimented by the strength of the other, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When it comes to cleaning roach colonies, Combination Cleaner Crews work cooperatively, not competitively, and the result is strongly symbiotic.
Each Cleaner Crew kit contains around 30 insects – 20 lesser mealworm larva/beetles and 10 Dermestid larva/beetles. Of course, there will also be microscopic eggs, and we overstock Cleaner Crews in case some are lost during shipment. This is rare, so most orders arrive with a few more insects than advertised.
How It Works
Both cleaner species enjoys a trouble-free, symbiotic relationship with B. dubia. This relationship works to their mutual advantage, and their proximity is a win not just for each species, but also for you.
In return for becoming food for Dermestes after they die, Dubia enjoy cleaner surroundings, better health, and a higher survival rate. In return for clearing debris, Dermestid beetles and larvae get a reliable food source that increases over time as the colony’s population grows. The increase fuels their own population growth, and this positive cycle continues. The Dubia’s success is the Dermestes’ success, and visa-versa.
Lesser mealworms, on the other hand, work in the background. They eat discarded food particles in frass, which reduces moisture and helps prevent bacteria overgrowth.
While the number of cleaners in the Kits may seem small to some, they’re appropriate for the job at hand for several reasons. First, these insects can do a lot of work. A few Dermestid beetles or larva, for example, can process a roach carcass in just a couple days. Second, people tend to overestimate how many cleaner insects they need. More is not always better. The right amount is the number that can be sustained by the natural die-off in the colony. Third, it’s best not to start with more cleaners than a colony can support. They will simply die off without food, and on the opposite side of that equation, these bugs reproduce fast when food is abundant. Their numbers rise quickly to meet the available food supply. If there isn’t enough food to fuel population growth, they will wait until there is. Or, they may begin dying off if the supply of food is very low.
Combination Kit Capacities
This is to give you an idea of the cleaning capacity of the Combination Kit right out of the box. It is roughly the number of Kits a colony/enclosure of a certain size might need for immediate full cleaning capacity. It’s not the number of Kits you need to buy for a certain colony size. You can start with one – they will reproduce at a rate dependent on food supply.
|Roaches/Bin Size||# of Kits|
|0 – 500 & bin up to 4 sq.ft.||1|
|500 – 1,000 & bin up to 4 sq. ft.||2|
|1,000+ & bin up to 4 sq. ft.||3|
|0 – 500 & bin > 4 sq. ft.||1|
|500+ & bin > 4 sq. ft.||2|
As noted above, about a third of our Combination Cleaner Crew Kits are made up of Dermestid beetles and larvae. These insects eat only animal-based foods, so you can count on them to scavenge dead roaches and any undigested animal matter that may exist in frass.
The remaining insects are lesser mealworm beetles and larvae. Lesser mealworms prefer to eat plant-based organic matter. While they may eat dead roaches, they have a strong preference for vegetation and are quite efficient at clearing frass of excess plant-based food particles and undigested plant matter.
Because each insect picks up where the other leaves off, the combination of these two species provides a significant boost in cleaning capacity compared to either alone. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can neglect your roaches. You should still check in from time to time to see how they’re doing. And cleaner crews require some care too. Though the effort may be small and infrequent, it’s still good to know what they need, how they work, and what to keep an eye out for.
The addition of Combination Cleaner Crews in our experience significantly slows and may even stop the build-up of moisture and the bacteria that accompany it. They can make cleaning and caring for roach colonies much easier. Your mileage may vary depending on how you keep your roaches, but we’ve been very happy with this cleaner combination in our Dubia colonies.
NOTE: While typically great in Dubia colonies, either insect species could be considered a “pest” in certain circumstances. We’ve never heard of any problems from roach-keepers, but it can’t hurt to be aware of and understand the risks.