Billions And Billions Sold: Pet-Feeder Crickets (Orthoptera: Gryllidae), Commercial Cricket Farms, An Epizootic Densovirus, And Government Regulations Make For A Potential Disaster

The cricket pet food industry in the United States, where as many as 5 million crickets are shipped a week, is a multi- million dollar business that has been devastated by epizootic Acheta domesticus densovirus (AdDNV) outbreaks. Efforts to find an alternative, virus-resistant field cricket species have led to the widespread USA (and European) distribution of a previously unnamed Gryllus species despite existing USA federal regulations to prevent such movement. We analyze and describe this previously unnamed Gryllus and propose additional measures to minimize its potential risk to native fauna and agriculture. Additionally, and more worrisome, is our incidental finding that the naturally widespread African, European, and Asian "black cricket," G. bimaculatus, is also being sold illegally in southern California pet food stores. We assayed crickets of all five USA and European commercial species for presence of the AdDNV to document extent of the infection--all five species can be infected with the virus but only A. domesticus is killed. Based on its already cosmopolitan distribution, apparent inability to live away from human habitation, and resistance to AdDNV, we suggest that Gryllodes sigillatus is the best-suited replacement cricket for commercial production.