The work package aims at improving the understanding of the nutritional needs of mealworms and assess the feed potential of a range of selected by-products. Moreover, there will be a strong focus on preventing mealworm diseases, e.g. by identification of key probiotic bacteria.
By improving the understanding of the nutritional needs of mealworms, we can boost future yields, prevent insect diseases, and design insect-based products for feed/food that contain e.g. desirable amino or fatty acids.
Selected by-products will be investigated to assess their nutritional value as feeding substrate for mealworms. This will be supplemented by an assessment of substrate suitability (e.g. volume, price, availability and safety).
Mealworm health constitutes the second main part of this work package with a strong focus on preventing mealworm diseases that, albeit harmless to vertebrates and humans, may be a significant challenge in industrial production of insects.
Currently, relatively little is known about insect diseases including factors that trigger disease out-breaks as well as preventive measures. Scientific assessment will be carried out to investigate how different diets, as prebiotics, influence several immune system-related traits in mealworms.
Probiotic bacteria with antimicrobial properties will be screened in vitro for their activity against insect pathogens. Moreover, mealworm bioassays will be conducted on promising prebiotic diets as well as selected diets including probiotics to assess in vivo effects of pre- and probiotic treatments on mealworm resistance and tolerance towards pathogens.