answers

Hornworm FAQs

June 26, 2020

tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta

**ALWAYS OPEN LIVE INSECTS OUTSIDE OR OVER ANOTHER CONTAINER**

Table of Contents

What are hornworms?

Hornworms are caterpillars of Manduca genus hawk moths. The hornworms commonly bred for feeding to reptiles, amphibians, and other exotic pets are usually tobacco hornworms, Manduca sexta.

In the wild, hornworms are frequently viewed as pests because they like to eat tomatoes and other garden variety plants. Wild hornworms should never be fed to pets, as their diet can make them toxic. Captive-bred hornworms are fed a toxin-free diet that makes them safe for pets to eat.

What are the nutrition facts for hornworms?

  • Moisture — 85%
  • Protein — 9%
  • Fat — 3.07%
  • Ash — n/a
  • Fiber — n/a
  • Calcium — 464mg/kg
  • Phosphorous — 1394mg/kg

How do I house/store my hornworms?

When the hornworms are delivered to your house, they will arrive in a large, clear cup with plenty of food and a mesh divider that they can climb on. The hornworms can be kept in this cup for up to a couple weeks while you feed them off to your pet(s).

This cup will need to be placed lid-down so that hornworm droppings will fall down to the lid. These droppings will need to be emptied from the container every day.

Hornworms grow VERY fast, especially if they are kept warm. To make them grow slower and last longer, keep them in a cool room. Do not put them in the refrigerator or a wine cooler. 

What do hornworms eat?

Wild hornworms eat a variety of plants, especially crops like tomatoes and tobacco. This wild diet can make them toxic, which is why you should never feed wild-caught hornworms to your pet. However, when hornworms captive-bred, they're raised on a special diet that makes them safe for consumption.

All the food you will need for your hornworms should come with your purchase. If you start to run out of hornworm food, you can buy and prepare more so they will stay alive. It's best to only buy as many hornworms as you can feed off in about one week.

How big do hornworms get?

Hornworms can grow quite large — about 3-4".

What do hornworms turn into?

After about 3-4 weeks of growth, hornworms form a chrysalis and pupate into hawk moths. The moths are quite large and may look a little intimidating, but these can also be fed to your pet as a special treat.

Will the "horn" hurt my pet?

The horn may look hard, but it's actually quite soft — it's just a defense mechanism to help scare off predators. It will not hurt your pet when they eat a hornworm.

Will hornworms give my pet diarrhea?

Hornworms have a very high moisture content, so it's possible that eating hornworms will cause your pet's body to excrete all of that extra water in the form of diarrhea. This is not something to get terribly concerned about as long as it's not a frequent occurrence. However, for this reasons it's best for hornworms to be used as treats rather than a regular feeder.