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HomeHoming in on Hornworms: How to Care for the Big Green Worm

Homing in on Hornworms: How to Care for the Big Green Worm

by Ryan Heuther Homing in on hornworms Hornworms are a fantastic feeder for your reptile and amphibian pets. Not only are hornworms high in calcium (47mg/100g) and low in fat (3%), but they also have a soft exoskeleton, making eating and digestion easy! A wide variety of reptiles and amphibians love hornworms, including bearded dragons, leopard geckos, crested geckos, Pacman frogs, monitors, tegus, skinks, pixie frogs, and many tree frogs. How do I store Hornworms? Store the pod upside down, with the food at the top. This way, the hornworms will climb up to eat. Their waste will fall to the 'bottom' of the container for easy cleanup. Make sure to place them on a wire rack or something similar, so that they receive proper ventilation. How do I feed Hornworms? Hornworms eat a special food developed specifically for them. If you wish to grow yours beyond the capacity of the diet provided with them, you should purchase additional Repashy SuperHorn well before they are in danger of running out of food. If your Hornworms run out of food, feed them out as fast as you can. You will not have time to source additional food for your Hornworms. Foods other than formulated Hornworm diet will not work. Anecdotally, there seems to be some success with feeding Hornworms on green unripened tomatoes after their diet is depleted, but we cannot guarantee this method as Hornworms will sometimes be reluctant to accept diets that differ from those they were started on.
How big will the Hornworms get?
Hornworms will grow as long as there is food present. The 25ct pods have enough food for worms to reach about 1.5”. The 12ct pods have enough food for the worms to reach 4” long and weigh about 10 grams.
How long do Hornworms last?
Hornworms will  die within a day of running out of food. They will grow the fastest when kept in the low 80s F, but can be kept as low as the mid 50s F to slow growth. Hornworms can also be kept in the fridge (at 45F) for 2 days, then removed for one day, to slow growth. By keeping the Hornworms cooler, you can make a pod last for up to 2 weeks.
How do I raise Hornworms into adults?
The Larvae
Hornworms are the larval stage of moths in the family Sphingidae, commonly referred to as Sphinx, Hornworm, or hummingbird moths. The adult moth of our Hornworms can reach wingspans of up to 5”. So if you are more interested in observing the process of metamorphosis than you are in feeding critters, there isn't all that much more you will need to do. First you will need to make sure you have enough food. The worms from our 12ct pods will sometimes be large enough to complete their larval stage without additional resources but we would recommend having additional food on hand if needed, either Repashy SuperHorn or green unripened tomatoes if you are okay with a little more uncertainty as to whether they will accept the new food source or not.
The Pupae
Eventually your Hornworm will stop eating and begin wandering about in search of a place to pupate. At this point, they will need some kind of substrate to submerge themselves in. Many substrates have been used successfully ranging from potting soil to wood shavings to layers of paper towels. Your Hornworm will disappear beneath this and should not be disturbed for at least a week so. Doing so runs the risk of damaging a freshly molted pupae. Be sure, though, to keep the substrate somewhat damp. Too dry of an environment can result in significantly stunted wing development after eclosion (the final molt into the adult insect). Additionally, be sure to have enough space available for the moth to expand its wings fully.
The Adult
A few weeks to several months later, your adult moths should emerge. Whether your moths emerge sooner or later will depend on the photoperiod they experienced as caterpillars. The photoperiod is how long their environment was lit each day. If the photoperiod is longer, they assume that it is summer and will pupate quickly. If it is shorter, they will assume winter is approaching and pupate slowly. Once you have your adult moths, you can then release them into the wild blue yonder or attempt to rear them. If you wish to rear them, you should move the adult moth (after its wings have fully expanded and dried) to a flight cage. In nature, they feed in a manner very similar to hummingbirds and can actually be fed using a commercially available hummingbird feeder and hummingbird diet.
Given time, males and females will mate with one another. Then you are left only with the problem of getting the females to lay eggs. The obvious method is to place a tomato plant inside the cage with the moths for them to lay eggs on but you can also place the mated female moths into brown paper bags. Strangely enough, this will induce them to lay eggs. If the eggs are laid in a brown paper bag, you may then either remove them from the inside of the bag or cut out the portion of the bag to which the eggs are adhered. These may then be placed with food for them to feed on once emerged. If laid on a tomato plant, you may also then remove the eggs or the part of the plant they are stuck to and place them with artificial food or you can leave them to devour the plant. Either way, you have successfully looped your way back to the part of the life cycle you started from.Links of Interest: Try Repashy's SuperHorn to serve up more food for your hornworms! Now available in 3 oz, 6 oz, 12 oz, and 70.4 oz jars![button-green url="" target="""" position="left"]Buy Repashy Superhorn[/button-green]