A clean environment is a healthy environment. This is no different for bugs. A regular cleaning routine will help you prevent that your bugs will get ill, or even worse, die. But remember that bugs are sensitive and fragile species. Cleaning a bug enclosure is not the same as cleaning a cat’s litter box.

Let us have a look at how a cleaning routine looks like and the more important question of how to clean a bug enclosure.

Set up a cleaning routine

A cleaning routine make sure you keep the enclosure in good condition. A cleaning routine determines the intensity and frequency of the cleaning and it depends on the species you have in the enclosure. And not only the species but also the amount of individuals.

You can imagine that four stick insect hardly makes any mess, but 40 do. A cleaning routine is based on 3 levels of cleaning tasks. Below is an example of a cleaning routine.

  • Daily cleaning tasks: You’ll need to clean the water source, food source and uneaten food daily. Extensive frass and faeces need to be removed as well as the removal of dead bugs.
  • Weekly cleaning tasks: Weekly, you can clean the windows, deep-sanitize food and water holders and make sure ventilation holes are free of dust and fluff. Also, it is good practice to deep-sanitize your feeding and cleaning materials once a week. And don’t forget any mist spraying or humidifier machine.
  • Periodically cleaning tasks: Once in a while, you’ll need to refresh the substrate and the furniture of the enclosure. You can do it bit by bit every couple of weeks, or once every six months replace the whole substrate layer. Of course, frequency ultimately depends on the species and the mess they make.

With a cleaning routine, you’ll make it easier for yourself to plan the cleaning in your daily life. A cleaning routine is also really helpful when someone needs to take over the care when you are on a holiday or a few days off.

When you don’t do regular cleaning, especially with humid enclosures, the faeces will quickly turn into mould, and it is a source for unwanted bacteria growth. This mould and bacteria growth is awfully unhealthy for your pet bug. When keeping an enclosure clean, it also prevents that your enclosure is going to smell bad.

How do you clean a bug enclosure

The way how you do every cleaning session is also depended on the bug species, obviously. Removing frass from a dubia colony is different than that of a leaf insect colony. But there are some similarities and practice tips you can apply to almost every enclosure and species.

First of all, I want to point out that heavy chemicals are never a good idea to use in the proximity of bugs. Heavy chemicals are lethal to every insect (ultimately some are even produced to do just that). When using chemicals, but even the less heavy ones, always remove the bug species out of the enclosure.

uWith some bugs, you can easily move them to a temporary enclosure while you (deep) clean their own enclosure. This separation of bugs gives you time to let the chemicals do their work, remove all the residues and rinse it afterwards with pure water. Maybe even a couple of times.

Instead of a substrate, some bugs can also be housed on paper towels or newspapers that can easily be replaced frequently and is also quite cheap/free to do so. You don’t have to worry filtering the faeces out of the substrate. You’ll just fold the paper and throw it away. This paper substrate works well for mantises and phasmids (stick insects and leaf insects). With beetles, ants, tarantulas and scorpions, it does not work. These animals also need substrate to feel comfortable.

Whenever you can use bioactive cleaning soap and sanitizer. This type of cleaning is less effecting the bugs and when dried up not such a problem for them. Of course, remove all residues is best but what got damped in the air is also less heavy for bugs.

It is also really cool to use bugs to help you with cleaning. These bioactive cleanup crew will feast on animal waste and food residues. It simulates how it works in nature, and it is really cool to see how you can do the same in captivity. Clean up crews can exist, for example, of isopods, white worms, earthworms, bean weevils or springtails.

I can also strongly recommend you to read the articles about ‘cross-contamination‘ and ‘bug allergy risks‘ to underpin the importance of good cleaning and proper cleaning routines.