Yellow mealworm larvae (Tenebrio molitor) inclusion in diets for male broiler chickens: effects on growth performance, gut morphology, and histological findings

Poult Sci. 2018 Feb 1;97(2):540-548. doi: 10.3382/ps/pex308.


This study evaluated the effects of Tenebrio molitor (TM) larvae meal inclusion in diets for broilers. A total of 160 male broiler chicks (Ross 708) at one-day of age were randomly allotted to four dietary treatments: a control (C) group and three TM groups, in which TM meal was included at 50 (TM5), 100 (TM10), and 150 (TM15) g/kg, respectively. The experimental diets were isonitrogenous and isoenergetic. Each group consisted of five pens as replicates (8 chicks/pen). After the evaluation of growth performance and haematochemical parameters, the animals were slaughtered at 53 days and carcass traits were recorded. Morphometric investigations were performed on duodenum, jejunum, and ileum and histopathological alterations were assessed for liver, spleen, thymus, bursa of Fabricius, kidney, and heart. The live weight (LW) showed a linear (12 and 25 days, P < 0.001 and P < 0.05, maximum with TM15 and TM10) and quadratic (53 days, P < 0.05, maximum with TM5) response to dietary TM meal inclusion. A linear (1 to 12 and 12 to 25 days, P < 0.001, maximum with TM15) and quadratic (12 to 25 days, P = 0.001, maximum with TM15) effect was also observed for the daily feed intake (DFI). The feed conversion ratio (FCR) showed a linear response (25 to 53 and 1 to 53 days, P = 0.001 and P < 0.05, maximum with TM15). Haematological and serum biochemical traits, carcass traits and histopathological findings were not affected by dietary TM meal inclusion (P > 0.05). TM15 birds showed lower villus height (P < 0.05), higher crypt depth (P < 0.05), and lower villus height to crypt depth ratio (P = 0.001) compared with C and TM5. In conclusion, increasing levels of dietary TM meal inclusion in male broiler chickens may improve body weight and feed intake, but negatively affect feed efficiency and intestinal morphology, thus suggesting that low levels may be more suitable. However, no effect on haematochemical parameters, carcass traits, and histological findings were observed in relation to TM meal utilization.

Keywords: Tenebrio molitor; broiler chickens; growth performance; insect meal; morphometry.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / analysis*
  • Animals
  • Chickens / anatomy & histology
  • Chickens / blood
  • Chickens / growth & development
  • Chickens / physiology*
  • Diet / veterinary*
  • Intestines / anatomy & histology
  • Larva / chemistry
  • Male
  • Random Allocation
  • Tenebrio / chemistry*
  • Tenebrio / growth & development