Crowding conditions of larvae may have a significant impact on commercial production efficiency of some insects, such as Tenebrio molitor L. (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae). Although larval densities are known to affect developmental time and growth in T. molitor, no reports were found on the effects of crowding on food utilization. The effect of larval density on food utilization efficiency of T. molitor larvae was studied by measuring efficiency of ingested food conversion (ECI), efficiency of digested food conversion (EDC), and mg of larval weight gain per gram of food consumed (LWGpFC) at increasing larval densities (12, 24, 36, 48, 50, 62, 74, and 96 larvae perdm2) over four consecutive 3-wk periods. Individual larval weight gain and food consumption were negatively impacted by larval density. Similarly, ECI, ECD, and LWGpFC were negatively impacted by larval density. Larval ageing, measured as four consecutive 3-wk periods, significantly and independently impacted ECI, ECD, and LWGpFC in a negative way. General linear model analysis showed that age had a higher impact than density on food utilization parameters of T. molitor larvae. Larval growth was determined to be responsible for the age effects, as measurements of larval mass density (in grams of larvae per dm2) had a significant impact on food utilization parameters across ages and density treatments (in number of larvae per dm2). The importance of mass versus numbers per unit of area as measurements of larval density and the implications of negative effects of density on food utilization for insect biomass production are discussed.
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Vol. 108 • No. 5