In our experience, the combination of Dermestid beetles and lesser mealworms make better cleaner crews than either insect alone. Any weakness in one species is complimented by the strengths of the other. In the end, 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 symbiotic.
Each Combination Cleaner Crew kit has enough of each insect to establish a colony, given the right conditions. If you have a successful Dubia roach colony, these conditions will most likely be met, and the main factor will be food supply.
Related reading: Get help deciding if you need cleaner crews »
How It Works
Both cleaner species (dermestids and lesser mealworms) enjoy a symbiotic relationship with Dubia roaches. This relationship works to their mutual advantage, and their proximity is a win not just for the insects, but for you as well.
In return for becoming food for Dermestes after they die, Dubia roaches enjoy tidier surroundings, better health, and a higher survival rate. And 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 colony’s growth fuels their own population growth, creating a positive cycle. The Dubia’s success is the Dermestes’ success, and visa-versa.
On the other side of this equation, lesser mealworms work in the background, eating discarded food particles in frass. This reduces moisture and helps prevent bacterial overgrowth. There is also a positive cycle here relating to frass and food. More roaches means more frass, and more frass means food for the mealworms.
How Many Kits Do You Need?
While the number of cleaners in the Kits may seem small, they are proper for the job at hand for several reasons. First, these insects can do a lot of work. A few Dermestid beetles or larvae can process a roach carcass in just a couple of days. Second, people tend to overestimate how many cleaner insects they need. More is not always better.
The right amount is the number the natural die-off in the colony can sustain. It is best to start with only the number of cleaner crews a colony can support. Without food, they will simply die off, and these insects reproduce fast when food is abundant. If there isn’t enough food to fuel population growth, they will wait until there is enough.
Combination Kit Capacities
This is to give you an idea of the cleaning capacity of Combination Cleaner Crews right out of the box. It’s roughly the number of Kits a colony of a certain size might need for immediate full cleaning capacity. It’s not the number you need for a certain colony size. You can start with one if you like. They will reproduce at a rate dependent on the 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|
Each Kit contains a roughly equal mix of Dermestids and lesser mealworms in a quantity that will help you establish a cleaner colony as outlined above.
Because each insect picks up where the other leaves off, combining 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 still have to check in from time to time to see how they’re doing. And cleaner crews require some care, too. Though the effort is small and infrequent, it’s still good to know what they need, how they work, and what to watch out for.
In addition to the benefits outlined above, adding Combination Cleaner Crews can slow or stop the build-up of moisture and bacteria in a Dubia roach colony. They make the job of cleaning and caring for Dubia roaches much easier. Your mileage may vary based on your location and environment, but we are happy with this combination in our own Dubia colonies.
NOTE: While typically right at home in Dubia colonies, either cleaner 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 understand the potential risks.