Cross Contamination

This page focuses on the risks of cross-contamination between bugs and the possible effects of it. Risks are often just a bad habit, and when known, you can try to stop doing it. I’ll guide you to decrease the possibility of cross-contamination. But first, you’ll need to be aware of what it is and what the consequences are.

What does cross-contamination exactly mean?

Cross-contamination is the process by which bacteria or other microorganisms are unintentionally transferred from one object or substance to another, with harmful effect.

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You never know if any bug has any parasite or other microorganism. They won’t tell it to you, and they don’t show it to you. However, when you keep many bugs, and one person does the care of every bug, you should be aware of the possibility of cross-contamination.

Cross-contamination is only a risk when you have more than one species, obviously…

Cross-contamination is particularly important to consider when you have (also) bugs as feeder insects for other bugs, reptiles, amphibians or any other animal that eat insects.

Bug and insect handling and hygiene

On the next page ‘bug allergy risks’ we talk about the effect of bug handling and hygiene on you as a keeper. In this section, we focus on bug handling and hygiene to prevent or minimize cross-contamination.

I’ll give you some best practice tips to minimize or exclude the possibility of cross-contamination between your bug species or between your bug feeder insect and other species. By learning yourself, these habits will contribute to these aim so that you hopefully never will be disappointed with illness, disease and death over many, not all, of your species you keep.

Prevention is better than cure!

  • ndhaRegular clean/sanitize your hands – If you use your hand with the care of your bugs, wash your hand and use sanitizer gel every time before and after every single species.
  • Or use disposable latex gloves – You can also use disposable gloves to prevent transferring contamination.
  • Regular clean/sanitize your equipment – If you use one set of care equipment (e.g. tweezers, cleaning equipment) make sure you clean and disinfect them every time before and after working at one enclosure. It would be better if you have a set for every enclosure. It would be good to use veterinary grade disinfectant.
  • Wear gloves with handling bugs – When handling bugs, it would be best to wear unpowdered latex gloves. You can wash your hands before and after. However, many bugs can’t handle any chemicals, and after washing your hands, there may be some residue left on your hands.

Disinfectants that I recommend to use

Putting uneaten feeder bugs back

Well, I can’t start immediately with: Don’t do this! Ever! That little bug, if it is not eaten, was running through the enclosure. If the animal that should be eaten that bug has some kind of disease or have parasites, it could pick it up through the faeces or saliva. When putting back, you can potentially infect your whole feeder bug colony. And even worse, transfer it to all the animals you may feed with them afterwards…

That scenario is the worst nightmare of any professional keeper or bug breeder. By doing this, the contamination potential is enormous. And it is not a beginners mistake; even keepers that have bugs (and often reptiles) for many years make this mistake. And that is no wonder. Feeder insects are expensive to buy and a bit less costly to breed. And many times, keepers are just not aware of the danger.

But it would be best to throw away uneaten bugs and try to feed fewer bugs the next time. You can freeze uneaten bugs before throwing away to prevent become infesting outside an enclosure. You don’t want all these bugs running around free, right?

I know, cross-contamination doesn’t happens a lot, and many professional keepers and zoos will have no problem for many and many years. But when it happens to you, you can only think: I wish I had… It does happen, so don’t take that risk!