PloS one

Uptake of Cadmium, Lead and Arsenic by Tenebrio molitor and Hermetia illucens from Contaminated Substrates.

PMID 27846238


Insects have potential as a novel source of protein in feed and food production in Europe, provided they can be used safely. To date, limited information is available on the safety of insects, and toxic elements are one of the potential hazards of concern. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the potential accumulation of cadmium, lead and arsenic in larvae of two insect species, Tenebrio molitor (yellow mealworm) and Hermetia illucens (black soldier fly), which seem to hold potential as a source of food or feed. An experiment was designed with 14 treatments, each in triplicate, per insect species. Twelve treatments used feed that was spiked with cadmium, lead or arsenic at 0.5, 1 and 2 times the respective maximum allowable levels (ML) in complete feed, as established by the European Commission (EC). Two of the 14 treatments consisted of controls, using non-spiked feed. All insects per container (replicate) were harvested when the first larva in that container had completed its larval stage. Development time, survival rates and fresh weights were similar over all treatments, except for development time and total live weight of the half of the maximum limit treatment for cadmium of the black soldier fly. Bioaccumulation (bioaccumulation factor > 1) was seen in all treatments (including two controls) for lead and cadmium in black soldier fly larvae, and for the three arsenic treatments in the yellow mealworm larvae. In the three cadmium treatments, concentrations of cadmium in black soldier fly larvae are higher than the current EC maximum limit for feed materials. The same was seen for the 1.0 and 2.0 ML treatments of arsenic in the yellow mealworm larvae. From this study, it can be concluded that if insects are used as feed materials, the maximum limits of these elements in complete feed should be revised per insect species.