Effects of insecticides on mortality, growth and bioaccumulation in black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae

Nathan Meijer*, Theo de Rijk, Joop J.A. van Loon, Lisa Zoet, H.J. van der Fels-Klerx

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Residues of persistent insecticides may be present in the substrates on which insects are reared for food and feed, which may affect insect growth or survival. In addition, insecticidal substances may bio-accumulate in reared insects. The objective of this study was to assess potential effects of selected insecticides on the growth and survival of black soldier fly larvae (BSFL, Hermetia illucens) and on their safety when used as animal feed. Six insecticides (chlorpyrifos, propoxur, cypermethrin, imidacloprid, spinosad, tebufenozide) with different modes of action were tested in two sequential experiments. Cypermethrin was also tested with the synergist piperonyl butoxide (PBO). Standard BSFL substrate was spiked to the respective maximum residue level (MRL) of each insecticide allowed by the European Union to occur in feed; and BSFL were reared on these substrates. Depending on the observed effects in the first experiment, spiked concentrations tested in the second experiment were increased or reduced. At the concentrations applied (1 and 10 times MRL), three of the six tested substances (chlorpyrifos, propoxur, tebufenozide) did not affect the survival or biomass growth of BSFL, compared to the control (non-spiked) treatments. At MRL, imidacloprid stimulated the growth of BSFL compared to the controls. Spinosad and cypermethrin at the MRL level negatively affected growth and survival. The effects of cypermethrin appeared to be augmented by addition of PBO. A mean bio-accumulation factor of 0.01 was found in both experiments for all substances–except for cypermethrin, which was comparatively high, but still below 1 (0.79 at 0.1 mg/kg). The lack of accumulation of insecticides in the larvae suggests that there is no risk of larval products being uncompliant with feed MRLs. However, we conclude that insecticides present in substrates may affect growth and survival of BSFL. More research on a larger variety of substances and insect species is recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0249362
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4 April
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2021


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