Can Crested Geckos Eat Hornworms? Feeding & Precautions

Crested Geckos are among the most common reptile pets people love. They have a relatively easy-care level that makes them perfect for experienced and inexperienced pet owners. Compared to other reptile pets, Crested Geckos have simple diet requirements. They belong to the omnivorous group, and they can feed on both plants and nutritious insects. However, many people wonder whether Crested Geckos can eat hornworms.

Crested geckos can eat hornworms but only as a treat once or twice a month. Hornworms are better than other insects as they have no chitin, low fat, and high moisture levels. To avoid impaction and death, feed the geckos hornworms that they can comfortably swallow – smaller than the gecko’s head.

Crested Gecko with Hornworm

What are Hornworms?

Hornworms are caterpillars belonging to the moth family, Sphyrnidae. As the name suggests, hornworms have a horn-like projection on their back, the last abdominal segment. They are well-known for their horns and the many available species. You can breed hornworms at home.

The most common hornworms you will easily find in your vegetable garden are tobacco and tomato hornworms. Other species spend their time in the wild and can be easily noticed when adults. Currently, reptile pet owners have discovered hornworms to have high nutritional benefits to their pets.

Hornworms Nutritional Value

The table below summarizes hornworms’ nutritional components:

Components Average Amount 
Calcium46.4 mg/ 100 g

Can Crested Geckos Eat Hornworms?

Yes, hornworms do not have chitin making them easily digestible by Crested Geckos. Their high moisture, calcium, and low-fat components make them a perfect feeder insect for crested geckos. Notably, they have an attractive color that makes them appealing to crested geckos for eating. 

However, most worms should always be gut-loaded and dusted before feeding them to your crested geckos. This ensures they supply your pet with the proper nutrition. When feeding hornworms to your crested geckos, they should always be gut loaded and dusted with usual supplements. Crested geckos also eat waxworms.

Are Hornworms Safe for Crested Geckos?

Not all hornworms are suitable for your crested geckos. Wild hornworms feed on plants that contain toxic alkaloids. Once fed to your crested geckos, they feed on these toxins that harm their health. Thus, the best hornworm for your crested geckos can be captively bred or bought from your local or online pet store. 

You should not be afraid of the small horn on the hornworm harming your crested geckos. The horns are meant to discourage predators from attacking them. This small horn can neither hurt you nor your crested gecko.

Recently, hornworms were reported to cause some burns when in contact with crested geckos’ skins. However, after intensive research, they were not found to cause such harm. Only butterworms cause such kinds of burns and should be highly avoided.

How to Feed Hornworms to Crested Geckos

Here are vital aspects to consider before feeding your crested geckos on hornworms:

1. How Many Hornworms for My Crested Geckos?

Crested geckos should be served with a whole hornworm per meal, although hungry geckos will show that they even want to eat more. The number of hornworms to feed your crested geckos depends on the size. 

You should always test using one hornworm and observe the experience. You will identify the appropriate number of hornworms to feed your crested geckos in one serving from your observation. 

However, we highly advise you to feed at most 2 hornworms per serving to prevent loss of appetite in subsequent days. Too many hornworms can cause diarrhea to crested geckos due to their high moisture content. 

2. How Often to Feed Hornworms to My Crested Geckos?

You should feed your crested geckos on hornworms between 1-2 times per month. They are used as treats. However, hornworms may appear better than superworms and mealworms, but they have a low-balanced diet for crested geckos.

3. What Size of Hornworms for My Crested Geckos?

The appropriate hornworms for your crested geckos should have a head size similar to the distance between the eyes of your pet. The distance between the eyes is used as a general measure to determine whether hornworms are too large for your crested geckos. 

Hornworms tend to be too fast and it’s thus advisable to use small hornworms for their slow speed. Alternatively, you can slice large hornworms into small pieces. 

4. How to Gut-Load Hornworms for Crested Geckos

Hornworms bought for your crested geckos should be gut-loaded before feeding them to your pet. Non-gut-loaded hornworms will have a low nutritional value for your crested geckos. 

The gut-loading process ensures that the worms have the right nutrient composition. Feeding crested geckos with such worms supplies them with high nutritional contents.

Hornworms should be gut-loaded at least 12 hours before feeding them to your pet. The appropriate diet for gut loading may include carrots, apples, citrus fruits, and dark green vegetables. Always wash these fruits and vegetables before feeding them to the worms as they can transfer contaminants to your crested geckos. 

5. How to Dust Hornworms for Crested Geckos

The dusting process involves adding supplements to the worms before using them as feeder insects. The most common supplements are vitamins, calcium, and minerals. These supplements are available in powder form hence the name dusting. 

You can easily access dusting supplements from your pet store, but the most appropriate contain ultra-fine powders. Such powders are best for dusting since they easily stick on the exoskeleton and do not fall off easily. 

Supplements used for dusting should contain the following minerals and vitamins:

  • Phosphorous
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D3
  • Vitamin A

These nutrients are needed for the growth and general development of your pet lizards. 

Dusting Procedure:

Dust hornworms for crested geckos as follows:

  • On your plastic container or cup, place the appropriate number of hornworms.
  • Scoop some little amount of the supplement and sprinkle it on the hornworms. 
  • To distribute the supplement, gently shake the container.

After that, you can feed them to your crested geckos. 

6. Do Hatchlings and Juvenile Crested Geckos Eat Hornworms?

No, crested gecko hatchlings are too small to eat hornworms. They need a well-balanced diet for enhanced growth. On the other hand, juvenile crested geckos can start feeding on small-sized hornworms once or twice a month. 

The same level of care needs to be exercised across the board when feeding insects to pets. Pacman frogs, which eat mealworms, can also suffer when fed too large a worm.

Should I Throw Away Leftover Hornworms?

Yes, you need to dispose of leftover hornworms if your crested geckos don’t feed on them. The best disposal approach is putting the worms in a plastic sealed bag or container and putting them in a freezer for up to 24 hours. After freezing them, dispose of them in your garbage bin.

What Can Crested Geckos Eat?

Here is a comprehensive list of common foods for crested geckos:

  • Mealworms
  • Roaches
  • Ants
  • Grapes
  • Pollen
  • Grubs
  • Grasshoppers
  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries
  • Mango
  • Nectar
  • Bananas
  • Flies
  • Crickets
  • Silkworms
  • Figs
  • Spiders
  • Waxworms

Individual geckos may have a liking for certain foods more than for others. For this reason, always beware of the harm that can be caused by eating certain foods too much and regulate it.

Bottom Line

Hornworms are a tasty treat for your crested geckos. You should use them as a feeder insect once or twice per month. Before feeding them to your crested geckos, gut-load and dust them to ensure they add nutritional benefits. 

Immediately killed and dusted hornworms can also be fed to your pet. Before feeding a hornworm to your crested gecko, always ensure it is of the correct size. Not to forget, only hornworms bred and bought from your pet store are appropriate for your pet. Now, you can confidently decide whether to feed your crested geckos on hornworms.


Bowling Green State University. A Crested Gecko Finds His Favorite Food.

Ask Dr. Universe. Why do lizards lose their tails? -Bailey, Inwood, Iowa.

Animal Diversity Web. Macaca Nigra: Celebes crested macaque.

Leave a Comment