Mealworm chitin

What is the percentage content of chitin in mealworm sheds/molts/exoskeletons?
What other compounds make up the exoskeletons?

What is the percentage content of chitin in beetles (tenebrio molitar)?


  • edited May 3

    Xiaocui Han, in thesis (2018) “Chitin Analysis of Insects (mealworm & cricket)” says chitin is about “ ... 5% on a dry matter basis in both mealworm [larvae] and cricket.” Some compounds in the exoskeleton are hydrocarbons, melanin, fiber & protein. I am probably overlooking some.

  • As regards T. molitor beetle’s chitin content I am only able to refer you to the Coleoptera beetle Holotrichia parallela’s research for extrapolation. A recent report gives this beetle’s chitin content on a dry matter basis as 9.94% to 11%; for an average of 10.5% chitin. [Note: an earlier study gave the beetle H. parallela chitin content as =15%.]

    I’ll point out that: in another insect (grasshoppers) there were significant differences found between the males & females. Although the various kinds of grasshoppers analyzed varied somewhat in their % chitin the males of a specific variety invariably had more chitin than the females of the same variety of grasshopper.

    Furthermore, as regards to any end use project under consideration for elaborating chitosan from the chitin: apparently all of the different varieties of male grasshoppers’ chitin had nano-pores & none of the different varieties of female grasshoppers’ chitin had nano-pores. Whether any gender differences in Tenebrio molitor beetles’ chitin exists I am unable to say.

  • How much chitin is in the mealworm frass?

  • negligible in my estimation.

  • Do you happen to know the name of the test that would be used to determine chitin percentage? I'm trying to find a lab that could do this, but am unable to so far.

  • @MidwestMealworms we have also explored this issue along with other researchers we know. There is not a common commercial protocol for testing chitin content according to all of the labs we have queried. Some labs will be able to design a protocol for you, though it will likely cost thousands of dollars. You may be able to find a protocol in the literature and find a chemistry grad student somewhere to do the tests for you under the table.

  • @andrew

    does page 2 of this document provide the steps? Or is this taking the entire mealworm and analyzing chitin content, and wouldn't be usable to test the pure exoskeletons?

  • @MidwestMealworms good find - section 2.6 (starting page 17) describes the method for quantifying chitin (indirectly). The process follows the steps of extracting the chitin defined in section 2.5 which should work just as well (or better) with pure exoskeletons as with whole mealworms.

  • @andrew - the study was referenced by @gringojay above, just trying to connect some dots!

    I have a couple of universities near me that I'll try to circulate this with, see what sticks. I'm also gathering information on the scientific evidence of chitin's impact on plants, if you know of any that hit the spot I'd love to see them.

    I think with data on how much chitin is beneficial to a plant, along with how much chitin is in the castings / exoskeletons, that would give us the data we need to provide the value add proof to buyers. Your thoughts?

  • Hi MM, - It it chitosan, made from chitin that you want to make & market for commercial application.

    The plant registers molecular configuration pattern(s) of chitosan & responds as if challenged by insect chitin to do things. Forum search function will bring up several chitosan details.

    Most commercial chitosan is made from crustacean carapace. There is good new research on the relative superiority of chitosan made from insect exoskeletons that could help your marketing.

  • Thanks @gringojay I will search for the research you mentioned.

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