Bug species have evolved to thrive in a particular climate. They need this humidity to survive, to moult, to reproduce and humidity has an effect on egg hatchability — many bugs like moist climates.
When humidity is not maintained in the correct range, it causes problems what often result in death. So you’ll need to adjust the humidity properly to keep your bugs thriving.
You’ll need to measure humidity
Insects possess a dedicated sensory system that detects changes in the amount of water vapour in the air – humidity. We humans can’t sense accurately what the humidity is. OK, we can sense the difference between 40% and 90% humidity. But the difference between 70% and 80% are both labelled as humid for many people. That is why measuring humidity is important when keeping bugs.
Next to that, most bugs need a humid environment that is around 70 to 80%. Our homes, where we keep our loving bugs, is often much too dry. Because houses are well isolated, are heated or cool down (using an air conditioning system which removes moisture from the air), humidity is usually on the lower end of 40%-60%.
Humidity is measured using a hygrometer and displays the relative humidity in the air from a scale of 0% to 100%. But what is relative humidity (RH)? Relative humidity measures the water vapour in the air relative to the temperature of the air. Warm air can hold far more moisture than cold air. 100% relative humidity means that the air is saturated with moisture.
When you have measured the humidity and have determined what the humidity needs to be for the species you keep, you can adjust the humidity properly. There are different methods to increase or decrease the humidity. We’ll explain them below.
Methods to increase humidity
Most of the times, you’ll need to increase the humidity. There are different methods to increase the humidity. There is not one method preferred more over the other. It totally depends on the enclosure, the species, and your situation. Let me explain the different methods in the list below.
- Decrease ventilation – Try to reduce the ventilation capacity by closing ventilation holes. Some enclosures have this feature built-in. Be aware that the temperature does not rise too high instead.
- Use of live plants – Using plants in your enclosure does not only look better, but it also helps with increasing the humidity of the enclosure.
- Add a substrate that better holds water – Different types of substrates have different features. Peat and coco-peat, for example, works very well to retain moisture in the ground. But behold that it does not accumulate too much moisture.
- Place a water bowl – When you place a bowl filled with water in a warm environment (especially close to a heat source) will vaporize the water in the air. This method works very well to increase the ambient humidity of the room and with that increase the humidity of the enclosure. It would be best to place the water bowl outside the enclosure. If you want to use it as a drinking element as well, you’ll need to take extra precautions.
- Regular spray water mist – You can spray fine water mist into the enclosure every time the humidity is below the preferred range. If you use a spray bottle, be cautioned that it is not used for a chemical substance in the past. It would be best to buy a new one for this purpose. Be aware that not all bugs like to sprayed directly on them, so try to spray around them as much as possible.
- Use a humidifier – A humidifier is a machine that vaporizes the water as a real fine mist. There are humidifiers specifically build for terrariums. You can also use a humidifier to increase the ambient humidity. A humidifier needs more maintenance than the other methods described above.
Be gentle with using water to raise the humidity, so it does not get too moist. An excessively humid environment will give problems as well.
When using water to spray or when you use a humidifier, I can highly recommend using distilled or demineralized water instead. These types of water lack the (higher concentration of) minerals. When using a humidifier, it is recommended that minerals from tap water are not released into the air. When spraying water, but also with humidifier, you won’t get that white calcium stains on your windows.
Methods to decrease humidity
Sometimes you’ll need to decrease the humidity because it is getting too high. Which method you’ll need to use totally depends on what you are normally using to maintain the humidity, and the location and ambient humidity you keep your enclosure.
- Reduce the humidity increasing method – The most straightforward way, of course, is by reducing the method you use to maintain your humidity. If you stop spraying water, for example, will eventually decrease your humidity (at least when the ambient humidity is lower).
- Reduce humidity of the room – If the humidity of the room is high, you can also start reducing this humidity. In this way, the humid air of the enclosure will escape into the room and reduce the humidity in the enclosure.
- Increase ventilation – To stimulate the escape of humid air, you can increase the ventilation of the enclosure. Be careful, however, that the temperature will not decrease as well.
- Increase heating in combination with ventilation – The last option is to increase the heating with small steps in combination with enough ventilation so the air can dry out, without lowering the temperature of the enclosure.
Keep in mind that the temperature, humidity and ventilation are intertwined, and when you change one of the three, it may affect (one of) the other two negatively. So whatever you do, do it with small steps so you can see how the enclosure’s environment respond.
Problems related to humidity
The biggest problem you can have with humidity is that it is too humid. Too humid environments are susceptible to the growth of mould and bacteria. Mould and bacteria are deathly to all bugs.
When there is a lot of moisture in the air, it can accumulate on specific spots inside the enclosure, and you should be careful that small bugs such as ants don’t drown into this accumulated water. This accumulation can especially be the case when there is not enough ventilation in the enclosure.
Methods to provide drinking water for bugs
Providing water does not only help to increase the humidity, but it is also essential to hydrate the bugs themself. However, you can’t just provide a bowl with water. Many bug species will drown almost certainly when you do that.
So what ways would be good to provide drinking water then?
- Fill water bowl with a sponge – you can use a water bowl and put in a sponge. This way the bug can’t drown. But be careful! Many commercial sponges have chemicals in them that releases when they come in contact with water. Another product you can use is an aquarium filter medium. You can be sure that this does not contain any chemicals. When you use a water bowl have a look for one that has rough edges, so bugs can easily climb in and out. For some species, you have special drinking bottles available, like for flies and ants. Have a look at the species care sheet for tips about these products.
- Spraying water in the enclosure – When you are spraying water in the enclosure, many bugs will drink the droplets of the windows, branches and leaves. This method is an excellent alternative to provide drinking water for your animals if they need it.
- Use water crystals – There are special crystals available that slowly release their water content so bugs can drink that. These crystals are made of an absorbent polyacrylamide hydrogel and absorb many times their own weight on water. However, these crystals need to be maintained to keep them in good condition, and when you don’t do that can cause illness and death among your bugs. I am personally not a real fan of them, but many people tend to use them and are truly satisfied. So it’s up to you if you want to use them.
- Provide food that contains a lot of moisture – Food sources can contain a lot of moisture, and for some species, this is the only water source what they need. They can get enough water from the food so that they don’t need any other water source. Food sources that especially contain a lot of moisture are lettuce, endive, cucumber, tomatoes, melons and grapes. You’ll always need to provide fresh food because, with the higher temperatures, this food tends to be dry out pretty quickly.
- Moisture pellets – Some animals have benefits for feeding pellets, and when you make them wet, the pellets are easier to eat and provide hydration to the animal.
Not all bugs are eager drinkers: snails, beetles, moths and caterpillars are know that they get most to all of their water from their food. Drinking requirements can hugely differ between species, so always check for the specific species what their drinking needs are.
With some species, newborn nymphs may need instant access to water to survive. They can quickly dehydrate what may result in death. This need for water is, for example, the case with dubia roaches nymphs. So when you have your eggs and nymphs housed separately, you’ll need to provide drinking options as well adjusted for the species.
You should also consider the quality of tap water. Not every country have good quality tap water, and even if it is suitable for humans, it may not be ideal for bugs. In these cases, bottled water is preferred over tap water.