Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Large terrarium

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Question
I I am planning to start an ecosystem with my son
and we would like to have some clear answers rather than
risk the critters lives.  Stick insect   
Praying mantis
Beetles
Hermit crabs
Hissing cockroach   
Ladybugs
Pill bugs
Gdaddy long legs
Snails
Millipede
We would like to have as much diversity as possible.
Can you help me out with whom will live naturally with each other
and what specific foliage I should provide for the tanks?

Answer
Dear Philip - This is a very difficult question to answer succinctly, as so much depends on exactly what specific type(s) of some of these creatures would be included. For example, there are countless thousands of different species of beetles, with extremely varied habitat requirements (and BTW, 'ladybugs' are beetles). And when you include predators (preying mantids, most lady beetles, and many other beetles), you have to be prepared to replace those inhabitants that the predators consume. Also, although millipedes in general are harmless scavengers on decomposing organic material, some flat millipedes can give off a cyanide compound when disturbed, and this can be harmful to other arthropods in an enclosed space. Finally, the term 'daddy long-legs' can refer to three different types of arthropod, namely harvestmen (relatives of spiders in the order Opiliones). cellar spiders in the family Pholcidae) and crane flies (family Tipulidae) - which one did you mean?
  For simplicity's sake, I would suggest sticking with a few organisms that prefer a moist environment and that would be unlikely to harm each other. These could include snails, pillbugs/sowbugs, sporobolid millipedes, harvestmen, and some non-predatory beetles. This also would preclude the need tor finding specific types of vegetation (herbivorous insects have a wide variety of preferences, depending on the species); you would just need soil that could be kept reasonably damp, with some mosses, twigs, dead leaves, etc. as well as a source of water, such as a shallow dish with a few pebbles in it. You also might be able to find some other hints on this site - http://tinyurl.com/kfy5vvd

Hope this helps,
Saugy

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad

Expertise

Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.

Experience

21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Organizations
Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

Publications
American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

Education/Credentials
B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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