How to Pupate Hornworms into Moths

Around here hornworms (Manduca sexta) have been hit or miss as far as a feeder favorite in the last couple years. I used to have a lot of success offering green (the original, natural color) hornworms that came with the dark mulberry diet, but since the blue-phase worms have become all the rage they are just not as popular with my chameleons. Why this switch in the market has occurred I'm not sure, perhaps people buy the blue worms (which gain their color via their diet) are prettier and thus are purchased more often. I wouldn't know, but at any rate, it seems like my chameleons are not thrilled with the taste of whatever the blue worms are being gut-loaded on. They will eat one or two but refuse more than that. 

So this poses a problem for a keeper like me who wants to provide a varied diet that includes hornworms (since I find them readily available locally.) What has happened, especially now that I only keep large chameleons, is that instead of feeding off the worms I will let them pupate and turn into moths, which are definitely a favorite! So in this entry I will explain how I pupate my hornworms, which may be useful for others who also want to grow out the worms into moths for the purpose of breeding your own feeders. 

I started off with a typical pod of hornworms, the turned-blue variety, and allow them to grow out with their food supply, feeding off a few of the smaller worms if I can. My pod contained 15 worms, and the cup will not come with enough food to grow out all 15 so I fed off as many as my chameleons and one gecko would take. You can see below that they started off at a size of an inch-inch and a half. 


After just a few days (about 5) you can see that the worms have grown substantially. The worms are now several inches long and are approaching their maximum size. 


One of the larger worms. In blue they really are beautiful! This aqua color is my favorite color, so it does sadden me that my chameleons aren't dying to eat them just on the basis of color alone!


When the worms have reached their maximum size you will notice that they will drop down to the floor of the container (remember that you keep the cups standing on their lid, with the food up at the top so the poop/frass can fall to the lid and be dumped out easily.) At that point you'll see them wander the bottom restlessly, start to dull in color, and lose all interest in food. That's when they're ready to pupate! 


You can see below that they are no longer that vibrant aqua-blue, they are starting to dull and yellow. Not all of the worms will survive and pupate into moths, some worms don't form their chrysalis properly and others never emerge from theirs, you just have to see.


Since they are ready I will take a plastic container with a fair amount of floor space (like this one below) and fill it up with 3-4" of moist soil. The worms will begin to bury themselves into the soil, a process which may take a few hours. But eventually they all find a corner or nook to call their own under the soil and begin the process of morphing. I will check the soil every couple days and spray it if it seems like it is drying out. I do usually try to keep them with a lid on because when they emerge they can make a huge mess (you'll see what I mean later) so the lid keeps in the humidity as well.


This is what they looked like in the following couple days as they buried themselves down into the soil and began to form their chrysalis. I dug them up for the sake of the photos. 3 of the wormes died during this process.




So fast-forward almost 3 weeks from they day they transformed, the first moth finally emerged! When they emerge they can sometimes excrete a yellowish liquid all over the place, so that's why I keep them in a container with a closed lid. They emerge with their wings folded and will take a while for them to unfold, so at this point they are the perfect size for chameleons like veileds or panthers that might be intimidated by their size once the full wingspan stretches out.




"Oh, what do we have here? Deliciousness?"
And that's it! With a few weeks of patience and really very few supplies it is really this easy to get hornworms to pupate into moths that you can then use as feeders or as breeders to make more hornworms. However, since I have never tried my hand at breeding them, you will have to search elsewhere for a tutorial on breeding them once you have a bunch of adults.

So do your chameleons love these moths as feeders too? Have you ever tried offering them? Let me know in the comments below!

Repticon Ft. Lauderdale November 15-16, 2014

Yesterday my family came with me to another Ft. Lauderdale Repticon show, and to my surprise even my mom seemed to have a good time. I got to stock up on insects and supplies, I was able to drop off two dead frozen chameleons to Dragon Backbone to articulate the skeletons for me (I'll post photos when I receive them in a few months!), and my mom even found a hat to buy. I had a great time like usual (although the show seemed dominated by bearded dragons this time!) and we had an incredible lunch afterwards just a couple streets over at Tarpon Bend (their black and blue burger- to die for!)


The last photo is my food pick-up for the next month or two - a box of 500 crickets, a box of 500 superworms, and a tub of 500 mealworms. With only two chameleons and a single gecko, my food bill has gone down considerably! The crickets will only last about a month but the worms I can get 2-3 months out of easily. Shout out to Georgia Crickets for being so nice, and always remembering who I am every time I stop at their table.

Who else went to this show? Did you also stock up on supplies or did you leave with a new pet (or two?) Let me know in the comments!

Greenhouses & Chicken Coops | My Fave Outdoor Caging Solutions

Right now my life is experiencing a great deal of flux - I am waiting to hear back from grad schools in different cities (and indeed, states!) across the country, and with that comes packing up my things and preparing to begin a house hunt in whichever city I will be calling home for the next 2-3+ years. I have my fingers crossed that I will be staying somewhere in Florida, but time will tell. With all this change, I cannot make any concrete changes in my plans to set up a proper chameleon "facility" and move on with my plans to become a rescue & rehab, but I can at least begin to plan!

You may have seen a section in my Chameleon Record Binder that deals with brainstorming future plans. I will sometimes sit over coffee and doodle plans for a large outdoor set-up where I could keep several Meller's chameleons for breeding, and a second separate set-up for rescues that need rehabilitation. My plans change every time I think about it, since there are so many ways to do something like this! Sometimes I think a colony set-up (where all my healthy adults live together in a group and interact/breed together as they see fit) would be great, and other times I feel that individual housing is the best for everyone. Lately I have been leaning towards individual cages with separating panels that can slide out, expanding two cages into one large one, for example, so that I can combine groups of one male to 1-3+ females for breeding season and then isolate them again afterwards. 

I would also like to build what I call a "lobby" in my sketchbooks, that is, an enclosed area that acts as a second barrier of security on the front side of the set-up. Therefore, I would have to go through a door which takes me into a "common area" in front of all the cages, so that if I leave an individual's cage door unlocked they still cannot escape into the wild. With 2 locked doors between the animal and the world, I hope to keep everyone safer. 

Thanks to Pinterest I have been collecting lots of inspiration for future plans, and wanted to share them in a post for anyone else that is considering outdoor housing. 

Remember that when considering outdoor housing you have to keep in mind
1. Your temperatures (is it feasible to house animals outdoors most of the year?)
2. Your local wildlife (make sure your animals are safe from predators, including rats!)
3. The possibility of theft (how can you make it harder for someone to steal your animals? Think about locks for all doors.)
4. How to provide water and even heat for cold days. 

Below are my favorite inspiration photos found across the internet, most of them greenhouses and chicken coops:

Photo Source & Building Plans Here
I really like the above greenhouse because of the wall all around the bottom foot or so, which is a great way to keep out certain animals or at least make it harder, such as rats. Obviously everything that is glass/plexy would have to be metal mesh, but I like the design. One half of the roof could be solid for shade and the other half screen, to let in rain. 

Photo source Here
This is just a beautiful greenhouse. Solid walls like this with an open roof may make the whole thing too warm here in Florida, but for someone in a cooler climate this might be perfect. Then lots of plants and this would be heaven to sit in, coffee in hand, and watch the chameleons wander around.

Photo source Here
The above coop is very similar to the first one with similar ideas but simpler. This multiplied several times (each "unit" being a smaller size, say perhaps 5-6 square feet) would be a great set-up for multiple adult Meller's individually housed. 

Photo source Here
The above idea is a dog kennel but the idea still works for chameleons. Individually housed this works well for chameleons in a climate that can get cool in winter but not so cold to merit coming inside (like here in Miami.) You could have a smaller section at the end that is enclosed with just a small opening towards the top and inside have ceramic heat emitters to keep the temps more moderate for those cooler nights. With plexy windows the chameleons would not be intimidated to go into an otherwise dark, closed space. 

Photo Source Here
Photo Source Here
The above coop is my favorite project by far, I think they managed to make something useful and tremendously lovely for their chickens which I wish I could copy for my chameleons. Similar to the dog run above, it has an enclosed area at one end which I definitely think could have it's uses for chameleons. I also love the paneling on the sides and the brass lanterns. 

Photo Source Here
And one more coop with the raised bottom wall and which could be divided into individual cages, each with it's own door. 

So these are my latest inspiration photos, which I hope can give you ideas on how to build your own outdoor caging, even if it is only for a single chameleon. Sunshine is such a benefit to them that if you have the climate to provide natural sunshine at least a few hours every week during the warmer months they will be better for it. 

Do you have any ourdoor caging to share or that has inspired your own building plans? Feel free to share, I would love to see it! 

Melleri Mouth Maladies | Giving Reptaid A Try (Part II)

I’m sorry this part II has been in the works so long, but I wanted to give it some time before jumping to any conclusions one way or another. I have gotten a lot of emails regarding the Reptaid so I definitely wanted to address what I saw while giving it a fair chance.



Over the span of several weeks I gave Guinevere her doses of Reptaid separately from her Carnivore care and found that she detested the taste of it. She has never reacted so violently when syringe fed any sort of liquids, so I can only assume that Reptaid tastes really terribly, or perhaps because of the alcohol content it stung her mouth. In any case, I began mixing the two doses together to camouflage the taste of it and that had better results. In the weeks that followed I began to see her energy pick up just a little, as she returned to walking around her cage more actively than before. This could have been thanks to the boost in diet from the Carnivore Care, however, and not necessarily only the Reptaid. But although her energy was up her mouth looked no better and no worse, so I do not think that the treatment was helping her fight the infection any more than just giving her metabolism the energy it required.

Finally, even though she remained steady and strong the entire time, even once we returned to the vet for some more testing and to try new medication, she passed away in her sleep one night. She curled up for bed one evening and in the morning she was gone, so I hope that it was not a difficult end for her. I have seen a lot of very sick chameleons that were clearly suffering and deteriorating towards the end and I am glad that this did not appear to be the case with Guinevere, she remained an active, eating, sweet lizard right up until the end so I hope she was comfortable.

In the end, I don’t know that Reptaid did anything beneficial. I am certain that the Carnivore Care gave her the pep in energy that she needed to regain strength and be active again, but I don’t feel comfortable attributing any benefits or blame on Reptaid. I would advise that no one rely on Reptaid to cure, treat, or diagnose anything (always seek professional help for anything serious!) but in very minor cases it might have its slight benefits. I’m just not certain at this point.

So the only thing I definitely want to do in this post is to take a moment to remember Guinevere, who has been such a cornerstone of this blog for the almost 2 years I had her. Despite all the treatments, the vet visits, the manhandling, and the force-feeding she remained such a wonderful, sweet, docile, and trusting chameleon. She never attempted to bite and always forgave you for doing things to her so long as you had food to offer. I did my best to treat her like a queen the time I had her, giving her special accommodations to make life with her handicaps as easy as possible. In the process she taught me all sorts of things about Meller’s and chameleon care in general. And I hope she thought she had a wonderful life, enjoying the beautiful Florida sunshine, spending warm afternoons in summer showers, and eating the assortment of delicious things I always had for her.

So, goodbye Lady! You will be sorely and deeply missed.





Melleri Mouth Maladies | Giving Reptaid A Try (Part I)

Guinevere's (my rescued Meller's chameleon, who I've mentioned quite a bit on the blog over the last year and a half) mouth issues seem to be returning. As you may remember from all the previous blogs on the subject that she came to me with a respiratory infection, mouth rot/stomatitis, and an infection in her right eye. It took us about 6 months of Baytril, Silver Sulfadiazine, Tobramyacin ointment, and several other products to clear everything up. 

Now it seems like the stomatitis has returned and her gums are once again swollen and sensitive. The first thing I would recommend in a case like this is to go to the vet for some proper antibiotics. (I don't want anyone to think I'm advocating not seeking professional help in the case of an injury or infection, or to seek out home-remedies unless you are experienced and/or have some professional guidance. I have several vet friends that I consult with, so I run most of my plans through them first.) And it is still something I plan on doing down the line if I need to, however, because antibiotics like Baytril are particularly hard on sensitive chameleons like T. melleri, I want to hold off for the moment. 



I have never been a big holistic/alternative medicine believer, to be quite honest, but I have heard so many good things from keepers I respect about Reptaid that I figured it might be worth a try. Reptaid (not to be confused with Repta-Aid) is an herbal/natural alternative to traditional reptile medicine that allegedly combats several common reptilian issues. They describe their own product as such: 

"Reptaid™ is designed to help your reptile overcome viral, bacterial and microscopic infections
 without the complications one would get from more traditional treatments.  It is well known in the 
reptile world that traditional medications can have limited success and debilitating side effects. 
 While undergoing traditional treatments for parasitic infections, reptiles can experience loss of 
appetite, lethargy, hydration issues, even organ damage.  Reptaid™ is a blend of herbs that is gentle 
to the system,  and is found to be beneficial to the health and well being of reptiles.*

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is 
not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."

So the claims are pretty bold, right? It treats all types of infections and even claims to fight tough parasites like coccidia. But others claim that it is the first product they reach for when they have a mild infection (like a respiratory infection) in a chameleon and that since they've started using it they haven't needed to use antibiotics in several years. So ok, color this skeptic intrigued at the very least. Lets give it a try then and see what happens. I ordered the XL version because it is for reptiles over 250 grams in weight, which all the Meller's are. If you have a typical panther or veiled you probably will not need this size. 

So today, on July 23, 2014 I started Guinevere on her first dose of Reptaid, along with a few CCs of Carnivore Care. I am going to supplement her diet in the next few days with a little Carnivore Care (which is a powdered food diet specifically for carnivores that need the nutritional boost) because her mouth is sore, which makes shooting at and eating insects difficult for her. And because the last thing I want her to do is to lose weight (especially if we have to start on something stronger, like antibiotics) I don't want her to be weakened at all. Additionally, I have been chatting back and forth with a fellow melleri keepers and we believe that we may be missing something from their diet that they would get in the wild, and my guess is that it may be higher levels of protein or some other nutrient that is specific to vertebrate food, whether it's fatty acids or whatnot.

I am also mixing in organic baby food (checking for no added sugars, salts, etc.) to sweeten the mix, as Reptaid tastes pretty awful.


So between the Reptaid, the insect diet supplemented with Carnivore Care, and perhaps some use of the Silver Sulfadiazine cream on her gums again I hope we can get the infection to subside without using anything too harsh on poor Guinevere. And in the meantime I will document my findings with this product in a few weeks and give my honest review about the product. And then in a few months I hope to do a second review of the product, in how it has helped Guinevere long-term. If the infection disappears and does no reappear (or if it does), for example, I want to include it in that second review. 

So, wish us luck! And I would love to hear any first-hand accounts of how Reptaid has worked (or not) for your animals, so please leave a comment about it below. 

(I am not sponsored to review any products. All views and opinions are my own.)

The Anatomy of Gut-Loading | Ingredients & Nutritional Info

I've spoken a lot about feeder variety and the importance of gut-loading (filling feeder insects with good, nutritious food before feeding them off) but I haven't provided a list of good ingredients yet. Below is a list of foods to keep in mind when grocery shopping and others to avoid completely when putting together your own gut-load. You can always mix in high-calcium fresh fruits and veggies with a high-quality commercial dry insect food to provide your feeders with moisture and additional food. But the more fresh food, the better.

Unfortunately, most commercially available foods are very poor in nutritional value, especially products like gel cubes or bran flakes. These are not a suitable gut-load and it can lead to health issues down the line for your chameleon. So look online and research dry gut-load mixes and determine which one is right for you. 

As some suggestions, I personally use Repashy Superload for my insects mixed sometimes with a little Superpig, but other great brands include Cricket Crack, DinoFuel, Repashy Bug Burger, and many more. When you compare the ingredients in these diets to the orange get cubes available as most pet stores, the difference is obvious. These better gut loads even include ingredients considered "super foods" such as spirulina and bee pollen. And remember, the better your gut-load and your feeder variety, the more likely it is that your chameleon will reach his or her best physical potential, and it will be evident in their overall health, their colors, and breeding results. 

New Roach Feeder - The Blaberus atropos

I was SO excited to receive these guys in the mail. You've probably read me complain about how difficult it is for us Floridian keepers to find and purchase Florida-legal roach species in bulk, as we are limited essentially to just B. discoidalis (aka Discoids) and those who sell them seem to be incapable of supplying the demand, as it seems everyone is perpetually out of stock. And those who sell them sometimes ask astronomical prices! So I was thrilled when I contacted Kevin from Roach Crossing about buying 500 discoids and he offered me an alternative species since he was out of discoids. 

Curiously enough, this species was apparently collected in the Wynwood Art District area here in Miami, not 20 minutes from my house. And here I had to order them from Michigan! This species is extremely similar to it's cousin species, B. dubia, B. discoidalis, and  B. craniifer, but it is, in fact, it's own separate species although it shares a lot of the same traits. It is non-climbing, about the same size as a discoid or dubia, and breeds easily. 

So I have high hopes that these guys will breed well and free me up from ordering crickets in bulk every month! I have two other Blaberus species currently but I suffered significant losses last year and they just haven't been able to recover yet. So I hope these guys do well and that between them and my other roaches I can have multiple self-sustaining food sources for my chameleons. Which frees me up to put more money towards more exciting feeders than crickets, like silkworms, hornworms, stick insects, katydids, etc. 

Here is my new colony in all its current (messy) glory: 


I put their tub together in a hurry the other night, so it's not as neat as I usually keep my bins. Kevin sent them with this bark substrate and I decided to keep it. First, because I can't imagine removing the roaches from it, and second, because it will help me distinguish between my roach tubs so I don't confuse this new species with my discoids. 



They really are SO similar to my discoids, I'm not sure I could tell them apart if they ended up in the same container. The nymphs are essentially identical but the adults are extremely close as well. 


If you haven't looked into feeder roaches as an affordable and easy to breed feeder I highly encourage you to do so! They are so easy to care for, eat nearly anything, and breed very well at warm temperatures. And since they don't climb any smooth plastic container will keep them safely contained. And that annoying chirping and stench that eminates from cricket bins? Not present with roaches! Just the pitter-patter of little roach feet on their egg crates, which is much more livable. 

Repticon Ft. Lauderdale - June 28/29

This was a fun show for me as my sister had flown back from Spain that Monday, after having spent nearly a year abroad, and was excited to see what all these reptile shows were all about. In all the years I'd kept reptiles she had never been in the same city (or even state, really) and had the opportunity to join me, so this was going to be a fun introduction into the world of Repticon. 

We loaded up our cameras and headed out for Ft. Lauderdale, just 45 minutes north of us. I was surprised to see a lot of chameleons at this show, more than there usually are, and my sister had a bonding experience with a hedgehog. I don't think she's going to join me in this hobby any time soon, but she had fun seeing the animals and meeting a few local friends of mine so all in all it was a good Saturday. 


Contributor Post | WeForest - Madagascar Chameleon Habitat Conservation


Nick Henn of Canvas Chameleons
Growing up I've always had a fascination for animals, especially reptiles and amphibians. I raised all kinds of reptiles but the one that has always had my heart is the Chameleon. They have become my passion and I truly enjoy every moment working with them. They are both beautiful and fascinating creatures and I have made it my goal to help others learn about chameleons so they too can sharing in their unique and breath-taking beauty.

All images on this post copyright to Canvas Chameleons
____________

Madagascar is facing major environmental problems such as deforestation, habitat destruction, agriculture fires, erosion and soil degradation. An effort must be made in order to help reforest Madagascar and prevent the loss of its amazing biodiversity and unique ecosystems. Being home to about half of the world’s 160 or so species of chameleons, Madagascar is one of the most important countries to all chameleon enthusiasts. 

Unfortunately, Madagascar is among the world's poorest countries. As such, the Malagasy people’s survival is dependent upon natural resource use. Most must live off the land that surrounds them, making use of whatever resources they can find. Their poverty costs the country and the world through the loss of the island's endemic biodiversity.

Visit to Zoo Miami

I visited Zoo Miami recently and took photos of their herp collection while I was there, along with a few of the other zoo residents. I was very impressed with eveyone's enclosures and all the animals looked super healthy. A far cry from the animals at the Paris zoo, some of which were not doing very well! I was also excited to see a few species that I really love, like the Abronias (which were difficult to photograph.) No chameleons, however! Zoo Miami seems to specialize in mostly New World herps. 

It was about 11 am, so most of the mammals were already curled up somewhere sleeping off the heat of the day.





Others were out and about, however. 



But I finally found the herps, most of which are from Central and South America. They had some beautiful dart frogs but I was not able to get a good photo of any of them, unfortunately.

(Amazon Basin Emerald Tree Boas)
(Orinoco Crocodile)
(Eyelash vipers)
(Fer de lance)
(Helmeted iguana female)
(Helmeted iguana male)

(Giant waxy tree frog)
(Discoid roaches)

(Cuban crocodile)

(crocodile monitor)
(Mexican Alligator Lizard / Abronia) 
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