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Complete Nutrient Composition of Insects

Complete Nutrient Composition of Insects

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Zoo Biology 21:269–285 (2002) © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Complete Nutrient Composition ofCommercially Raised InvertebratesUsed as Food for Insectivores
Mark D. Finke*
PETsMART Inc., Phoenix, Arizona 
A variety of invertebrates are commonly fed to insectivorous animals by bothzoos and hobbyists, but information as to the nutrient composition of most com-mercially raised species is limited. Adult house crickets, house cricket nymphs(
 Acheta domesticus
), superworms (
 Zophobas morio
larvae), giant mealworm lar-vae, mealworm larvae and adult mealworms (
Tenebrio molitor 
), waxworm lar-vae (
Galleria mellonella
), and silkworm larvae (
 Bombyx mori
) were analyzedfor moisture, crude protein, crude fat, ash, acid detergent fiber (ADF), neutraldetergent fiber (NDF), minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and vitamins. Earth-worms (
 Lumbricus terresstris
) were analyzed for moisture, crude protein, crudefat, ash, ADF, NDF, minerals, amino acids, and vitamins A and D
. Proximateanalyses were variable, with wide ranges found for moisture (57.9–83.6%), crudeprotein (9.3–23.7%), crude fat (1.6–24.9%), ADF (0.1–7.4%), NDF (0.0–11.5%),and ash (0.6–1.2%). Energy content ranged from a low of 674 kcal/kg for silk-worms to 2,741 kcal/kg for waxworms.Using an amino acid scoring pattern forrats, the first limiting amino acid for all invertebrates tested was the total sulfuramino acid methionine+cystine. Deficiencies by nutrient (% of samples defi-cient vs. NRC requirements for rats on a dry matter (DM) basis) were as fol-lows: calcium (100%), vitamin D
(100%), vitamin A (89%), vitamin B
(75%),thiamin (63%), vitamin E (50%), iodine (44%), manganese (22%), methionine-cystine (22%), and sodium (11%). Deficiencies by invertebrate species (numberof nutrients deficient vs. the NRC requirements for rats on a DM basis) were asfollows: waxworms (9), superworms (8), giant mealworm larvae (7), adult meal-worms (6), mealworm larvae (5), adult house crickets (4), house cricket nymphs(4), silkworms (4), and earthworms (4). These data provide a basis for determin-ing nutrient intake of captive insectivores, and will aid in the development of gut-loading diets to provide captive insectivorous animals with appropriate lev-els of necessary nutrients.
Zoo Biol 21:269–285, 2002.
© 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Key words: insects; minerals; vitamins; amino acids; fatty acids
*Correspondence to: Mark D. Finke, 6811 E. Horned Owl Trail, Scottsdale, AZ 85262.E-mail: mdfinke@cox.netReceived for publication June 26, 2001; Accepted December 21, 2001.DOI: 10.1002/zoo.10031Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com).
Insects are an important food source for both animals and humans, and refer-ences to their nutritional value are found in a number of articles across a range of scientific disciplines [for reviews, see DeFoliart, 1989; Bukkens, 1997]. While mostof these studies focused on the protein and energy content of insects, some includedmore extensive analyses of the minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and amino acids foundin insects.Since the 1970s insects have been evaluated as a potential feedstuff for poultryand other food-producing animals. The insects evaluated include house flies [Calvertet al., 1969; Teotia and Miller, 1974; Ocio and Vinaras, 1979; Onifade et al., 2001],Mormon crickets [Finke et al., 1984; Finke et al., 1987], silkworm larvae [Ichhponaniand Malik, 1971; Fagoonee, 1983; Lin et al., 1983; Rao, 1994], house crickets[Nakagaki et al., 1987; Finke et al., 1989], and several other species [Phelps et al.,1975; Landry et al., 1986; Finke et al., 1989]. Most of these data evaluate the nutri-tional value of dried insect meals, not intact insects; but the data pertaining to pro-tein quality evaluations are important as they represent evaluations based both onamino acid analysis and animal feeding trials using both poultry and laboratory rats.More recently the nutritional content of selected species of cultured insects hasbeen studied because of their role as food for captive insectivorous reptiles, birds, andmammals kept either in zoos or as pets by hobbyists [Jones et al., 1972; Martin et al.,1976; Frye and Calvert, 1989; Pennino et al., 1991; Barker, 1997] Most of these studieshave concentrated on analyses of moisture, protein, fat, ash, calcium, and phosphorus,although some more extensive analyses have been published [Barker et al., 1998].Unlike many free-ranging animals that feed on a variety of different species,animals in captivity may be fed only one or two species of invertebrates. As suchthey are likely to be more prone to nutritional deficiencies, especially since theseinsects are probably fed a standardized diet. For these reasons it was decided to do acomplete nutritional analysis of invertebrates commercially raised as food for cap-tive animals and compare these values to requirements established for the laboratoryrat. In addition to providing valuable information concerning the nutrient intake of captive species fed these invertebrates, these data will also provide a valuable baselinefrom which to develop diets designed to enhance the nutritional value of these preyspecies.
Adult house crickets, house cricket nymphs (
 Acheta domesticus
), superworms(
 Zophobas morio
larvae), giant mealworm larvae (obtained by treating mealwormlarvae with juvenile hormone to prevent them from molting into adults), mealwormlarvae and adults (
Tenebrio molitor 
), waxworms (
Galleria mellonella
larvae), andcultured earthworms (
 Lumbricus terresstris
) were obtained from a commercial sup-plier (Timberline Industries Inc., Marion, IL). All individuals of these species werefasted for approximately 24 hr to clear their gastrointestinal of any residual food.Silkworm eggs (
 Bombyx mori
) were obtained from Mulberry Farms Inc. (Fallbrook,CA). The silkworm larvae were fed an artificial diet until they reached a weight of approximately 1,000 mg (about 20–25% of their maximum size), at which time theywere frozen. Silkworm larvae were not fasted prior to freezing. Ten to 25 individuals
Nutrients in Commercially Raised Invertebrates271
of each species were weighed as a group. This was repeated 10 times to determinethe average weight for the individuals of each species. For each species tested, ap-proximately 1 kg of material was frozen for 48 hr, packed in dry ice, and shipped toa commercial analytical laboratory (Covance Laboratories, Madison, WI) for nutri-ent analysis. The data presented is from a single analysis and is expressed on an as-isbasis. Nitrogen-free extract (NFE) was calculated as 100 minus the sum of moisture,crude protein, crude fat, ash, and acid detergent fiber (ADF). Metabolizable energywas calculated using standard calculations ([g of protein
[g of fat
[gof NFE
4.0]). Protein recovery (as is) was calculated as the sum of the amino acidsplus taurine and ammonia divided by total crude protein ([nitrogen
6.25]). Proteinrecovery (corrected) was calculated as protein recovery (as is) minus 13.7% to cor-rect for the molecule of water added to each amino acid during hydrolysis of thepeptide bond. Fatty acid recovery (as is) was calculated as the sum of the fatty acidsdivided by total fat. Fat recovery (corrected) was calculated as fat recovery (as is)minus 10% to correct for the molecule of water added to each fatty acid and for theloss of glycerol during the conversion of triglycerides to free fatty acids. The nutri-ent content of these invertebrates was compared with National Research Council(NRC) [1995] recommendations for the laboratory rat for growth on a dry matter(DM) basis.
Animal weights, proximate analysis, and metabolizable energy content are shownin Table 1. As expected, all invertebrates were a good source of protein and con-tained sufficient quantities to meet NRC recommendations. While all invertebratescontained sufficient fat to meet NRC recommendations, silkworm larvae and earth-worms contained quite low levels (8–10% fat, DM basis), whereas mealworm lar-vae, giant mealworm larvae, superworms, and waxworms all contained high levelsof fat (35–60%, DM basis). As expected, invertebrates contained little if any carbo-hydrates (as determined by NFE), with the exception of silkworm larvae. Since thesilkworm larvae were not fasted prior to analysis, most of the carbohydrate probablyrepresents food remaining in the gastrointestinal tract. The silkworm diet containedapproximately 60% carbohydrates on a DM basis. Earthworms contained almost nodetectable fiber as measured by both NDF and ADF. In contrast, all insect speciescontained significant quantities of fiber, with the highest levels found in adult meal-worms and the lowest levels found in silkworm larvae. Adult crickets contained 40%more NDF than cricket nymphs, but a similar concentration of ADF. Energy contentvaried widely between species, ranging from 674 kcal/kg for silkworms to 2,741kcal/kg for waxworms (as is), and 3,796 kcal/kg for adult mealworms to 6,619 kcal/ kg for waxworms (DM basis).Mineral analyses are shown in Table 2. As expected, all invertebrates werepoor sources of calcium, with all insect species having less than one-third the dietarylevels recommended by the NRC. Earthworms contained slightly higher levels butwere still deficient. All invertebrates contained sufficient quantities of phosphorus,and calcium : phosphorus ratios ranged from 1:3.6 for earthworms to 1:16.9 for meal-worm larvae. Likewise, all invertebrates provided adequate magnesium, sodium, po-tassium, and chloride to meet dietary levels recommended by the NRC, with theexception of waxworms, which were slightly deficient in sodium (72% of NRC on a

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