Hornworms are among the most nutritious feeder insects preferred by pet lovers. However, determining the correct quantity of hornworms to feed bearded dragons depends on various factors such as the age and activity levels of the bearded dragons. Also, most individuals are not aware of hornworms’ nutrient composition, which can be too risky as it can pose health risks to their pets.
Baby and juvenile bearded dragons should be fed hornworms once a day due to high calcium and moisture levels in the worms. Ideally, they should be mixed with other insects that are high in protein. Adult bearded dragons should eat 3 to 5 fully developed hornworms each day.
What Are Hornworms?
Also referred to as tomato hornworms, hornworms (Mandula quinquemaculata) are the larval stage of hummingbird moths, sphinx moths, and hawkmoths. They have a horn-like structure at their tail end which gives them their name. They are major caterpillar pests in our gardens, mainly on tobacco and tomato leaves. They are mainly found across North America and Australia.
The nutritious pest is commonly used as a feeder insect for reptiles due to its high nutrient contents of moisture, protein, fat, and calcium that are helpful to the pets’ growth. Hornworms can also be eaten by human beings for their nutrition.
Can Bearded Dragons Eat Hornworms?
Yes, hornworms are good feeder insects for bearded dragons. They can be fed to beardies at any age, providing them with high levels of nutrients. Most preferably, bearded dragons feed on live insects. Therefore, you should ensure that you supply your beardies with live hornworms and that are not too hard for your lizard to handle.
Feeding Your Bearded Dragons on Hornworms
Feeding beardies on hornworms involves adding them to their primary diet. Place the hornworm in front of your pet to enable it to have a view on it. Leave the worm for 10-15 minutes with the bearded dragon. Ensure that the hornworm isn’t larger than the distance between the beardie’s eyes to avoid impacton.
Most beardies snatch it as soon as it comes into their presence. Beardies will not eat dead hornworms. As such, live hornworms are the ideal option for your pet. Once the 15 minutes are over, remove the hornworm from the beardies’ cage as it can bite your reptile.
Ideally, bearded dragons should eat 70% greens and 30% proteins. A typical bearded dragon feeding schedule is as follows:
|Day 1||Greens (fruits, vegetables, vegetation)|
|Day 2||Worms and insects|
|Day 3||No feeding (break)|
Benefits of Hornworms to Beardies
Hornworms have nutrient contents of protein, calcium, and fats that add nutritional value to our pets. They also have a high moisture content that helps to hydrate your dragon.
Unlike other feeder insects, hornworms have lower proteins and high amounts of other nutrients. Therefore, you should always mix up your bearded dragon’s menu to ensure you are providing a well-rounded diet. Chameleons also eat hornworms for their nutritional benefits.
Are hornworms good for bearded dragons?
Hornworms are nutritious and good for your bearded dragons. However, they are expensive, grow too fast, and can cause stomach upsets to bearded dragons when fed to the latter in large numbers.
Hornworms Nutritional Value
The table below summarizes the nutritional contents that the feeder insect supplies to your bearded dragon:
How Many Hornworms to Feed Bearded Dragon A Day?
The number of hornworms to feed your bearded dragons depends on their age. Here is a summary of the number of hornworms to feed your beardie at juvenile and adulthood:
1. Baby Bearded Dragons
Depending on their appetite, baby bearded dragons can feed on 20 to 40 small-sized hornworms daily. On the other hand, juvenile bearded dragons can eat 10 to 20 medium-sized hornworms at each diet.
Mid-adult beardies require high amounts of proteins in their diet for enhanced growth before they reach adulthood at 5 to 6 months old. After attaining adulthood, the protein-rich feeder insects should be reduced by slowly increasing their vegetarian diet.
2. Adult Bearded Dragons
Mature bearded dragons should eat 3 to 5 fully developed hornworms each day. Or they can be fed with 8 to 20 immature hornworms at each diet.
Hornworms are an excellent supplement to bearded dragons’ diets since they contain moderate proteins and fats. However, they should take a less significant proportion of the beardies’ diet since their primary diet should mainly consist of leafy vegetables and greens.
How Often Should I Feed Hornworms to Bearded Dragons?
Here is how often you should feed hornworms to juvenile and adult bearded dragons every week:
1. Baby Bearded Dragons
Juvenile bearded dragons can feed on hornworms daily. Each baby dragon can eat 20 to 40 medium-sized hornworms each day. However, it is advisable to feed them with 10 hornworms each day combined with other feeder insects such as mealworms, dubia roaches, crickets, and worms to provide a full set of nutrients.
Young bearded dragons require various insects to meet protein requirements. Since hornworms have a 9% protein composition, it is essential to supplement them with high protein feeder insects to provide full nutrient value.
2. Adult Bearded Dragons
Resting adult bearded dragons should eat 2 to 5 hornworms 3 times weekly. On the other hand, active beardies should eat 6 to 15 hornworms each week. This provides them with a nice treat without necessarily filling them up. Hence, they can easily feed on vegetables and insects.
Adult bearded dragon diets should be 70% greens and 30% insects. This shows how essential not to form a habit of feeding beardies on hornworms daily.
Disadvantages of Hornworms to Bearded Dragons
Although hornworms are a tasty treat to beardies, many pet owners know they have a few disadvantages. This makes them avoid them and use them as occasional treats only. The main reason is that they have low proteins and calcium, and have high moisture content, making them nutritionally imbalanced.
Here are some other disadvantages:
1. Hornworms Tend to Be Expensive
Compared to other feeder insects, hornworms are generally more expensive. This shows that they add up a large sum when pets need more insects daily.
Also, if you have many beardies, their costs outweigh the benefits added to the pets’ diet. This shows why feeding them sparingly saves on costs. Alternatively, they are used as treats rather than the main component of the main diet.
2. Hornworms Grow Quickly
Hornworms have an exponential growth rate since they can grow 3 inches long within 2 weeks. This is a challenge to juvenile stage beardies owners as they can’t feed them until they mature and develop full size.
This makes pet owners purchase smaller amounts of caterpillars at once to allow time to feed them to their pets. However, it is challenging since most insect-selling companies do not offer small amounts per purchase.
Therefore, most individuals buy the large quantities that grow too quickly before serving them to beardies. This is too expensive in the long run.
3. Hornworms Can Develop Digestive Issues to Beardies
Finally, the high moisture content in hornworms can cause stomach issues in bearded dragons. This is because too many hornworms in the beardies’ diet causes excess water intake.
Therefore, you should constantly monitor your pet after adding an ingredient to their diet. If any adverse digestion issues are noticed, you may consider regulating the hornworms’ intake depending on how often you use them as a treat.
These same disadvantages occur in crested geckos feeding on hornworms since the geckos and the dragons have an almost simialr digestive system.
Hornworms are suitable for your bearded dragon’s diet, but they should not be the feeder insects’ main part of their diet. It would help if you always used them as a treat, a few times a week, to avoid costs and health-related issues for your pet.
With this helpful information, you can ideally limit the amount of hornworms intake to your pets and control all possible risks involved with feeding pets on excess hornworms.
University of Illinois. Crickets, roaches, and worms, OH my!
NC State Veterinary Hospital. Caring for Your Pet Bearded Dragon.
Wisconsin Horticulture. Hornworms.