Date of Award


Document Type

Distinction Paper

Degree Name

Zoo and Conservation Science-BS


Biology & Earth Science


Dr. Sarah Bouchard, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

Dr. Sarah Bouchard, Ph.D.

Second Committee Member

Dr. Michael Hoggarth, Ph.D.

Third Committee Member

Dr. Steffanie Burk, Ph.D.


Bioremediation, Tenebrio molitor, polystyrene, mass, length

Subject Categories

Biology | Entomology | Other Nutrition


The growing field of entomoremediation explores the use of insects and other invertebrates as biological agents for the natural removal of hazardous substances, and recent research has investigated the potential for using mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) to digest and decompose polystyrene. Two experiments conducted over two years tested the tolerance of mealworm populations to the inclusion of polystyrene in their diet, and the ability of these diets to support multi-generational populations. The first experiment compared mealworms raised on a diet of 100% polystyrene foam with mealworms raised on a control diet of wheat bran and potatoes. The second experiment involved four treatments that mixed polystyrene foam with wheat bran and potatoes, each incorporating 0% polystyrene, 50% polystyrene, 75% polystyrene, or 90% polystyrene. Once beetles began to emerge, data were collected on the number of beetles emerging over time, as well as the mass and length of these beetles. No beetles emerged from the replicates with 100% polystyrene, suggesting that this diet was unable to support a sustainable population. Beetles in the control treatment had significantly smaller masses than the 50% and 75% polystyrene treatments, and also had significantly shorter lengths than beetles from the 90% polystyrene treatments. Regression analysis found a significant correlation between length and mass in all treatments except the 75% polystyrene treatment. These results suggest that some diets with polystyrene may be able to support populations of mealworms, and may result in larger, more successful beetles.