Can Chameleons Eat Hornworms? Feeding & Precautions

Every chameleon pet owner wants to give their pets a comfortable and healthy life. This can only be achieved by good feeding habits of a constant supply of the proper food nutrients. Chameleons are highly recognized to feed on nutritious insects that enhance their health. However, many people are not aware of whether chameleons can eat hornworms.

Chameleons, especially the recuperating ones, eat hornworms for their proteins and hydration. Given that hornworms are fleshy, they won’t hurt your chameleons in any way. Feed the chameleons 6 full-sized hornworms every 2 days. Too many hornworms fed to chameleons can cause diarrhea.

To better know how to feed hornworms to chameleons, you also need to know their nutritional components, benefits, and how to feed them to chameleons.

Chameleon Eating Hornworm

What are Hornworms?

Hornworms are moth caterpillars with a small horn on their last segment of the abdominal thorax. They are well known to wave their small horns when disturbed to discourage predators.

They are among the most famous pests you can easily find in your garden, especially in tropical areas. Notably, they are unique immature insects that can grow up to 10 cm long. At home, they eat leaves and you can even make hornworm food for them.

Their body is almost entirely made up of a digestive system. This makes them have a high growth rate of up to ten times their weight weekly. Five- or six-day larvae make hornworms which end their lifecycle in one month.

There are over 30 species of hornworms in the world. However, most wild hornworms cannot be used as feeder insects. The main hornworms used as feeder insects are tomato and tobacco hornworms.

Can Chameleons Eat Hornworms?

Chameleons eat hornworms although only some species of hornworms are good for chameleons. These feeder insects have soft chitin and high nutrient contents that benefit chameleons. However, not all species of hornworms are suitable for chameleons. 

Tomato-feeder hornworms are highly poisonous to chameleons since they contain a toxic substance called solanine which makes chameleons fall ill. Thus, chameleons should only be fed with hornworms specifically raised as feeder insects.

Also, these hornworms can be purchased from your online or local pet store. Hornworms are among the best live feeders for your pets. They can also eat dead hornworms.

Are Hornworms Good for Chameleons?

Hornworms are less harmful and possess a minimum threat to chameleons compared to some other insects. Feeder hornworms have high nutritional contents that contribute to the chameleon’s health. However, wild hornworms contain toxic solanine that poses a health risk to chameleons.

Hornworms Nutritional Value

The table below summarizes the nutritional components hornworms contain:

Components Amount 
Calcium46.4 mg/100g= 4.6%

Pros (for chameleons)

Here are some benefits these feeder insects bring to your chameleon:

  • A good source of hydration. 
  • High nutrient contents make them a great treat. 
  • Tasty and juicy making thus loved by chameleons. 
  • Their soft exoskeleton and squishy texture reduce the risk of chameleon impaction. 
  • Big hornworms have a reduced risk of choking chameleons. 

Cons (for chameleons)

Here are some drawbacks of these feeder insects to your chameleon:

  • Large hornworms can bite. 
  • Have low protein content. 
  • Their high moisture content can increase the chances of diarrhea. 
  • They can be toxic when wild hornworms are used unnoticed.

How to Feed Hornworms to Chameleons

Hornworms are large-sized with a squishy texture that makes them easy to pick. However, they will try to escape by whipping and trashing. It is advisable to use feeding tongs if you feel uncomfortable handling them. However, you should not worry about them damaging your pet’s skin.

Feeding chameleons with hornworms:

1. Place Hornworms on a Leaf

Placing hornworms on a leaf is one of the most effective ways of feeding hornworms to your chameleon. They are placed on a leaf within the chameleon’s field of vision.

2. Hand Feeding

Some chameleons are comfortable being hand-fed. Such chameleons allow you to feed your pet with the insect, offering a juicy and great treat. You can alternatively feed your chameleon using tongs.

3. Remove Excess Hornworms

It is advisable not to leave hornworms within your pet’s enclosure for more than 15 minutes. If this time elapses, the chances are that they will not feed on them. You should always remove all uneaten hornworms from your pet’s enclosure.

How Many Hornworms to Feed My Chameleon?

The number and size of hornworms to feed your chameleon varies with their age and size. Here is a summary of the size, number, and frequency of hornworms to feed to:

1. Baby chameleons

Baby chameleons require a high food intake for fast growth. It is recommended to supply them with adequate food until the age of six months. At six months, your pet should eat twice a day.

They need a high protein intake for healthy and robust growth that hornworms can’t supply. Hornworms have high moisture and low protein content. Also, they have an increased growth rate that can tend to be too big for your baby pet’s mouth.

Baby chameleons should be fed with at least 15 hornworms each meal.

2. Juvenile chameleons

Juvenile chameleons are between six months and one year old. At this age, they have a reduced appetite that allows you to feed them with hornworms once a day and use small hornworms as an occasional treat. 

Juvenile chameleons require high protein levels. Thus, after two days, hornworms can be substituted with one or two roaches/crickets. The appropriate number of hornworms to feed your juvenile pet is 8 to 10 insects per day. Medium-sized hornworms are suitable at this age.

3. Adult Chameleons

Hornworms are fed to adult chameleons at intervals of two to three days as a treat. At this age, chameleons can feed on any size of hornworm. When feeding adult chameleons with hornworms, it is advisable to mix them with other feeder insects such as crickets for the correct nutritional supply.

The cost of buying hornworms and other insects is quite reasonable given the benefits they have for your pets.

Feeding Hornworms to Chameleons: Tips

Here are some valuable tips you can always consider when feeding hornworms to chameleons:

1. Storage

You can buy these feeder insects from your local or online pet store. Sometimes, you may be forced to buy many hornworms that you must store. You can easily store the extra hornworms by placing them in a cup facing down – the ground is used as a lid. This allows poop to fall on the ground lid which is easy to clean. Further, it prevents hornworms from escaping.

You can remove hornworms that are fast (in escaping) from the cup and place them in an empty container. Later, do not supply them with food until they attain a suitable size that your chameleon can be able to feed on them. This may take a short time of 3-5 days.

2. Moderating the Growth

If you aim to reduce the hornworms’ growth rate, to allow you to feed them to chameleons for a longer time, store them within 50°F. Hornworms grow at an average growth rate of 72°F. If your chameleons prefer large hornworms, you can accelerate their growth by storing them at 80°F.

3. Feeding Big Hornworms

Sometimes, hornworms may be too big for your juvenile and adult chameleons. If you experience such a case, you can comfortably slice the hornworms in half and feed your pet with both halves. This is a great way to ensure you don’t feed your pet something too big for them to swallow comfortably.

4. Feed the Head First

As mentioned earlier, hornworms tend to be vigorous, trash out, and escape anytime you feed them to your chameleon. For your pet’s safety, always feed their head first to reduce the risks of bites.

Bottom Line

Chameleons can eat hornworms. They should be supplied with the correct amount and size of hornworms at various ages. Baby chameleons can be fed with hornworms in large amounts. The amount is reduced as they enter the juvenile stage.

Also, the feeder insects are used as occasional treats for adult chameleons. Now, with this helpful information, you can easily plan whether to breed hornworms for your pet chameleons or purchase them from your reliable pet store.


University of Florida. Be-at-Home with Nature: Tobacco hornworms.

University of Wisconsin. Hornworms.

Colorado State University. Hornworms and “Hummingbird” Moths.

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