Meet Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, our fire-bellied toads. Unlike the other residents of the apartment, they like their food to be moving; in fact they’re demanding about it.
Today lunch for the next few weeks—five hundred crickets—arrived via UPS in a cube half the size of a Kleenex box. Unlike some people, I pay money to get an infestation, though a docile infestation. Give the crickets cardboard and enough food and water, and they’re content to stay in a slightly larger plastic box.
What the crickets eat is important, because it ends up in the frogs. So we try to give the crickets nutritious food, sometimes even leftover vegetables or fruit. Crickets are thirsty insects, but their stupidity means you can’t leave around pan of water (you end up with piles of drowned insects). Instead pet stores sell a Jello-like substance for them to “drink” by eating.
Occasionally we’ll forget to give the crickets enough water, and they leave the box to look for it on their own. Usually this happens when guests are over; the normally reticent crickets boldly march across the floor, the living room full of people. The crickets are on their way to the bathroom or the kitchen: they have an uncanny ability to locate water sources.
When it’s time to feed the toads, we “dust” the crickets in vitamins, using a “Shake ‘n Bake” technique. The toads know what it means when the magic hand appears at the top of the aquarium, but often they’re so busy anticipating supper that they miss it crawling around beside them, or on top of their heads. Sometimes in the mad scramble to be the first to eat, a toad will end up with his brother’s leg in his mouth (and it’s like hooking a fish; the more one struggles to extricate his foot, the tighter the other hangs on). But in the end they always manage to down more food than you think they could hold. Turning a contented bright green, they lounge partially submerged, with half-glazed eyes.