Effects of various diets on the calcium and phosphorus composition of mealworms (Tenebrio molitor larvae) and superworms (Zophobas morio larvae)

La'Toya V. Latney Department of Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

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Barbara D. Toddes Department of Nutrition, Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

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Nicole R. Wyre Zodiac Pet & Exotic Hospital G/F #4 Gordon Road, Tin Hau, Hong Kong.

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Dorothy C. Brown Department of Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

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Kathryn E. Michel Department of Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

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Johanna A. Briscoe USDA, APHIS Inspection Service, Riverdale, MD 20737.

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE To evaluate whether the nutritive quality of Tenebrio molitor larvae and Zophobas morio larvae, which are commonly cultured as live food sources, is influenced by 4 commercially available diets used as nutritional substrates; identify which diet best improved calcium content of larvae; and identify the feeding time interval that assured the highest calcium intake by larvae.

ANIMALS 2,000 Zophobas morio larvae (ie, superworms) and 7,500 Tenebrio molitor larvae (ie, mealworms).

PROCEDURES Larvae were placed in control and diet treatment groups for 2-, 7-, and 10-day intervals. Treatment diets were as follows: wheat millings, avian hand feeding formula, organic avian mash diet, and a high-calcium cricket feed. Control groups received water only. After treatment, larvae were flash-frozen live with liquid nitrogen in preparation for complete proximate and mineral analyses. Analyses for the 2-day treatment group were performed in triplicate.

RESULTS The nutrient composition of the high-calcium cricket feed groups had significant changes in calcium content, phosphorus content, and metabolizable energy at the 2-day interval, compared with other treatment groups, for both mealworms and superworms. Calcium content and calcium-to-phosphorus ratios for larvae in the high-calcium cricket feed group were the highest among the diet treatments for all treatment intervals and for both larval species.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE A 2-day interval with the high-calcium cricket feed achieved a larval nutrient composition sufficient to meet National Research Council dietary calcium recommendations for nonlactating rats. Mealworm calcium composition reached 2,420 g/1,000 kcal at 48 hours, and superworm calcium composition reached 2,070g/1,000 kcal at 48 hours. These findings may enable pet owners, veterinarians, insect breeders, and zoo curators to optimize nutritive content of larvae fed to insectivorous animals.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE To evaluate whether the nutritive quality of Tenebrio molitor larvae and Zophobas morio larvae, which are commonly cultured as live food sources, is influenced by 4 commercially available diets used as nutritional substrates; identify which diet best improved calcium content of larvae; and identify the feeding time interval that assured the highest calcium intake by larvae.

ANIMALS 2,000 Zophobas morio larvae (ie, superworms) and 7,500 Tenebrio molitor larvae (ie, mealworms).

PROCEDURES Larvae were placed in control and diet treatment groups for 2-, 7-, and 10-day intervals. Treatment diets were as follows: wheat millings, avian hand feeding formula, organic avian mash diet, and a high-calcium cricket feed. Control groups received water only. After treatment, larvae were flash-frozen live with liquid nitrogen in preparation for complete proximate and mineral analyses. Analyses for the 2-day treatment group were performed in triplicate.

RESULTS The nutrient composition of the high-calcium cricket feed groups had significant changes in calcium content, phosphorus content, and metabolizable energy at the 2-day interval, compared with other treatment groups, for both mealworms and superworms. Calcium content and calcium-to-phosphorus ratios for larvae in the high-calcium cricket feed group were the highest among the diet treatments for all treatment intervals and for both larval species.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE A 2-day interval with the high-calcium cricket feed achieved a larval nutrient composition sufficient to meet National Research Council dietary calcium recommendations for nonlactating rats. Mealworm calcium composition reached 2,420 g/1,000 kcal at 48 hours, and superworm calcium composition reached 2,070g/1,000 kcal at 48 hours. These findings may enable pet owners, veterinarians, insect breeders, and zoo curators to optimize nutritive content of larvae fed to insectivorous animals.

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to Dr. Latney (llatney@vet.upenn.edu).
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