Time to read 5 minutes
Named after the soft horn-like structures that grow on their foreheads, hornworms are moth-like caterpillars that grow into sphinxes or hawkmoths. They are favored by many pet reptiles, however, can leopard geckos eat hornworms? Is it safe for them? Let’s find out!
The hornworms or Manduca sexta are also known by many names, including tobacco worms, tomato worms, and Goliath worms. They’re named Goliath worms because they are large, they are the largest of all immature worm insects. There are about 1,200 species of hornworms in the world, 120 of which can be found in North America. They make an excellent snack for most reptiles. But what about the leopard gecko?
Can leopard geckos eat hornworms? – The benefits
As far as worms are concerned, no worms can exclusively meet all of your Leopard gecko’s nutritional needs. That’s why we at petcaneat.com highly recommend that you keep their diets varied with several other additions.
Like most other worms, hornworms are high in water, providing them with all the hydration they need. They are also rich in calcium. However, they are relatively low in protein, which is why exclusively including these worms in your daily diet without dusting can lead to protein deficiency easily.
To understand better what hornworms add to your pet’s diet, tet’s take a look at the nutritional value of hornworms.
Benefits of hornworms for leopard geckos
- Hornworms have bright blue-green bodies that can be identified even from a distance. Believe it or not, their color is attractive to Leos.
- Since they contain little to no titin, they are relatively easy for your Leo to digest.
- Compared to other worms, they grow very fast and vary in size. Therefore, you can feed smaller ones to young fish.
- They are low in fat. So, even if you feed them more than they need, it will not cause them to gain weight.
- They have a lot of water in their bodies, which is helpful for the hydration of Leo.
- They are not one of the fastest moving worms around, and your Leopard gecko can immediately catch them.
- As far as worms go, hornworms are pretty expensive.
- They are low in protein compared to crickets, mealworms, and super worms.
- Their lifespan is relatively short. You cannot store them for more than two months.
- They are very addictive to Leopard geckos. Once your pet gecko eats them regularly, it may refuse to eat other worms.
Can leopard geckos eat hornworms? – The risks
We found in the previous section that hornworms do have health benefits for your pet Leo. However, do these worms pose any severe other threat to your pet’s health other than the drawbacks we discussed above? Let’s find out.
While hornworms themselves are not toxic to your young leopard geckos, they can carry parasites or bacteria that make them deadly to your pet. Once your pet ingests these bacteria, they live in their intestines and get worse over time and cause havoc sooner than later. So how do you make sure the worms you feed them are non-toxic?
Unless you are an expert in these areas, you may not be able to determine the toxicity of worms on your own. For example, suppose you collect hornworms for your young leopard geck from your backyard or garden.
These worms are wild and may feed on leaves of the Solanaceae family (also called nightshades) or have eaten fruits and vegetables that have been treated with pesticides or fertilizers. Your leopard gecko is likely to get sick if it feeds off of such plants.
That’s why we always recommend that you buy hornworms from a trusted supplier in your neighborhood, or local pet store, or online from Amazon.
On a side note, here is an excellent selection of hornworms from Amazon.
The risk of choking
Hornworms are called “goliath worms” for a reason. They are larger than most worms, so your Leo may have trouble swallowing them. That’s why you need to choose the right size insect for your pet. Please provide them with worms equal in width to the space between their eyes as a rule of thumb.
These worms are also quite fat and tough and cannot be killed easily. In addition, Leos tend to kill or chew their prey incorrectly when they are hungry or excited. This may also give them swallowing and digestive problems.
To avoid this, never leave your Leo hungry for extended periods; set up a proper feeding schedule for them. Also, offer them one worm at a time, so they don’t get too excited and focus on finishing the one they have.
Some reptile owners have also expressed concern that the spikes or horns of hornworms will hurt their pet Leopard gecko. However, these horns may look sturdy but are pretty soft and will not harm your pet.
Can leopard geckos eat hornworms? – The answer
To answer the question, the straightforward answer will be a Yes, they can eat hornworms, and they find them very flavorful. These worms are high in water content and will keep your Leo hydrated. However, it is best to feed them in moderation, as they can addict your pet and make them a persistent eater, and you don’t want that.
The first step in keeping your leopard gecko healthy is to keep their diet similar to the one they are used to in the wild. So, do wild leopards feed on hornworms in their natural habitat? Yes.
Remember that leopard geckos are strict insectivores, feeding on a variety of insects in the wild. Since hornworms are found worldwide and are attractive to the taste buds of young leopard geckos, they are certainly part of their diet in the wild.
Can leopard geckos eat hornworms? Quantity and Frequency
As we have already mentioned, your Leo can quickly become addicted to hornworms if you feed them too often. Once they become addicted, they may refuse to feed on the other worms you feed them, which is unhealthy. Therefore, you should limit the number of hornworms you feed them to weekly or every other week.
As for the correct number of worms for them, you will have to refer to their age. Baby leopard geckos have a minimal diet of about 2-4 worms per feeding.
However, the fast-growing leopard geckos have quite an appetite and can eat up to 8 worms at a time. As they reach adulthood, you should stick to feeding them 4-6 worms at a time.
Dusting your pet leopard gecko for hornworms
Like all other animals, Leos need all the nutrients they can get to stay healthy. However, their limited diet often leaves them suffering from some other vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
To make up for these deficiencies, dusting is required by using a supplemental powder that they can ingest along with their live food.
How to dust hornworms
Dusting hornworms is a reasonably straightforward process. Here we will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to perform this procedure.
- You require a multivitamin and a calcium supplement for healthy dusting. See below for our top picks.
- Get a zipper-lock bag.
- Add a pinch of the supplemental powders to the self-sealing bag.
- Take a meal of hornworms and put them in the bag.
- Shake the bag gently to cover the worms with the powder.
- Serve your pet Leopard gecko with the dusted worms.
- Watch your leopard gecko devour the worms without hesitation.
Can baby leopard geckos eat hornworms?
Yes, baby leopard geckos can safely eat hornworms as long as you feed them in moderation. Feeding them about 2-4 worms once a week should be sufficient. Also, to provide your Leo baby, you should look for small and easy-to-digest worms.
Can leopard geckos eat hornworms? The conclusion
In summary, hornworms are plumpy, hydrating, and calcium-rich, making them a healthy snack for Leopard geckos. However, dusting is required since they contain a very negligible protein amount. As long as you feed these worms in moderation and choose the right size carefully, you’re good to go.