An Investigation Into the Chemical Composition of Alternative Invertebrate Prey


  • D.G.A.B. Oonincx,

    Corresponding authorCurrent affiliation:
    1. Laboratory of Entomology, Department of Plant Sciences, Wageningen University, The Netherlands
    • Wageningen Institute of Animal Sciences, Animal Nutrition Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands
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  • E.S. Dierenfeld

    1. Department of Animal Health and Nutrition, Saint Louis Zoo, St. Louis, Missouri
    Current affiliation:
    1. Novus International, Inc., St. Charles, MO 63304
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This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: ERRATUM Volume 32, Issue 1, 119–120, Article first published online: 27 July 2012
  2. Errata: ERRATUM Volume 32, Issue 1, 119, Article first published online: 15 October 2012

Correspondence to: D.G.A.B. Oonincx, Laboratory of Entomology, Department of Plant Sciences, Wageningen University, PO Box 8031, 6700 EH Wageningen, The Netherlands.


The aim of this study was to determine the chemical composition of eight invertebrate species and evaluate their suitability as alternative prey. The species selected were rusty red cockroaches (Blatta lateralis), six-spotted cockroaches (Eublaberus distanti), Madagascar hissing cockroaches (Gromphadorhina portentosa), fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), false katydids (Microcentrum rhombifolium), beetles of the mealworm (Tenebrio molitor), and superworm beetles (Zophobas morio), as well as woodlice (Porcellio scaber). Dry matter (DM), crude protein, crude fat, neutral detergent fiber, acid detergent fiber, ash, macro and trace minerals, vitamins A and E, and carotenoid concentrations were quantified. Significant differences were found between species. Crude protein content ranged from 38 to 76% DM, fat from14 to 54% DM, and ash from 2 to 8% DM. In most species, calcium:phosphorus was low (0.08–0.30:1); however, P. scaber was an exception (12:1) and might prove useful as a dietary source of calcium for insectivores. Vitamin E content was low for most species (6–16 mg/kg DM), except for D. melanogaster and M. rhombifolium (112 and 110 mg/kg DM). The retinol content, as a measure of vitamin A activity, was low in all specimens, but varied greatly among samples (0.670–886 mg/kg DM). The data presented can be used to alter diets to better suit the estimated requirements of insectivores in captivity. Future research on the topic of composition of invertebrate prey species should focus on determination of nutrient differences owing to species, developmental stage, and diet. Zoo Biol 31:40;–54, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.