Aflatoxin B1 Tolerance and Accumulation in Black Soldier Fly Larvae (Hermetia illucens) and Yellow Mealworms (Tenebrio molitor)

Toxins (Basel). 2017 Jun 2;9(6):185. doi: 10.3390/toxins9060185.


Crops contaminated with fungal mycotoxins such as aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) are often downgraded or removed from the food chain. This study aimed to evaluate the tolerance and accumulation of AFB1 in two insect species to determine whether they could be used to retain condemned mycotoxin contaminated crops in the food chain. First, instar black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens, BSF) and yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor, YMW) were fed poultry feed spiked with AFB1 and formulated to contain levels of 0.01, 0.025, 0.05, 0.10, 0.25, and up to 0.5 mg/kg dry feed. Poultry feed without any additions and feed with only the solvent added served as controls. The AFB1 in the feed did not affect survival and body weight in the BSF and YMW larvae (p > 0.10), indicating a high tolerance to aflatoxin B1 in both species. Furthermore, AFB1 and aflatoxin M1 (AFM1) were below the detection limit (0.10 µg/kg) in BSF larvae, whereas the YMW had AFB1 levels that were approximately 10% of the European Union's legal limit for feed materials and excreted AFM1. It is concluded that both BSF larvae and YMW have a high AFB1 tolerance and do not accumulate AFB1.

Keywords: Hermetia illucens; Tenebrio molitor; aflatoxins; food waste mitigation; livestock feed; novel protein source.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aflatoxin B1 / pharmacokinetics
  • Aflatoxin B1 / toxicity*
  • Aflatoxin M1 / metabolism
  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Diptera / drug effects*
  • Diptera / metabolism
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Larva / metabolism
  • Tenebrio / drug effects*
  • Tenebrio / metabolism


  • Aflatoxin M1
  • Aflatoxin B1