The hornworm is the larval stage of a hawk moth. Although dreaded by gardeners for the wrath they unleash on plants, breeders endorse them for their nutritious value when used as feeder insects. Usually fed on commercial foods, hornworms can also eat food you make at home.
To make hornworm food, mix 1 cup of non-toasted wheat germ, ⅓c nonfat dry milk, 1 teaspoon of flaxseed oil, 4 tablespoons of agar, ½ tablespoon of brewers yeast, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. All the ingredients should be mixed in a blender apart from yeast and agar. Keep the food refrigerated.
The market is filled with different types of hornworm food. Always have enough stock of their favorite meal as hornworms are heavy feeders who can turn on each other when hungry.
At some point, you could run out of the commercial food meant for the hornworm. The next step would mean you’re up and running, fixing a meal for your hornworms. This article explores what you should make for them and how to do it.
How to Make Hornworm Food
As adults, hornworms can weigh 4 grams and measure 4 inches in length. This means the hornworm is a heavy feeder that can take up to 16 grams daily.
In the absence of their commercial food, you can feed the hornworms on leafy greens such as:
- Tomato leaves
- Turnip greens
You can get these from your garden or the stores. If you are preparing the hornworms to be feeder insects for your pets, avoid feeding them leaves from the wild as they could be toxic.
If you’ve run out of the commercial hornworm chow to feed the hornworms, you could make the paste at home with the right ingredients as below.
Here’s what you’d need to come up with the hornworm chow for your worms:
- 1 cup wheat germ (non-toasted)
- ⅓ cup dry milk
- 4 tsp agar
- 1tsp flaxseed oil
- ½ tsp brewer yeast
- 1tsp sugar
- 3 cups boiling water
In addition to having all the ingredients ready, you also need to have the blender, mixing bowl, and whisk in place before you begin the process.
Once all is ready, it’s now time to get to work. Follow this procedure to come up with the right thickness of the paste and to have all the ingredients mixed up well:
- Mix the wheat germ, sugar, and dry milk in your blender. Turn the blender on and allow them time to mix properly.
- Remove the mixture from the blender and put them in a spacious bowl.
- Add the boiling water to the blender.
- On a low speed, add the agar to your water.
- Add the dry mix from your bowl to the blender. Let the blender be at the minimum speed.
- Add the flaxseed oil slowly.
- Once the ingredients mix properly, forming a thick paste, add it to a clean container and ensure it’s airtight.
- Add the yeast and allow to mix and settle.
- Place the mixture in the refrigerator for an hour or two to solidify.
Once you are done, get the paste from the fridge and allow it to sit for a few minutes as the temperatures balance out, and you are good to go. Your chow is now ready to be fed to the hornworms.
What do hornworms eat?
Hornworms belong to the large worms category, and as such, they are heavy eaters weighing four times their size.
Here’s what hornworms eat:
You could get this ready from the stores and stock enough to avoid running out as the hornworms detest being hungry. However, in case your stock runs out, you could make it at home if you have the right ingredients.
In making the chow, you could customize your mixture. For instance, you can mix wheat germ, grapevine leaves, agar, flaxseed oil, yeast, and mulberry leaves. Mixing these up would give you a thick paste that the hornworms munch effortlessly.
Making the chow at home is favorable as you can alter the ingredients to ensure the hornworms benefit from a highly nutritious meal they’ll pass on to your pets.
Hornworms like to have tomato leaves that, in some quotas, they are referred to as tomato worms. You’ll find them feeding on the leaves of the plants from the lower side. That’s why tomato farmers use pesticides to disperse them as they cause havoc on the plants.
If the worms are captured, you could feed them the tomato leaves. Tie up the leaves, so they are hanging to allow them to retain a fresh appeal for a while as the worms munch them.
Avoid feeding the worms on the tomato leaves if you plan on feeding them to pet lizards as they can be toxic. Instead, mix up or alternate the leaves with other meal types to lower the toxicity.
Hornworms can feed on various vegetables, allowing you to mix up different vegetables to ensure they benefit optimally from the different nutritional values of the variety.
Some of the vegetables suitable for the hornworms include:
- Raw potatoes
- Red bell pepper
You could slice up the vegetables and place them in clean containers where the hornworms can easily access them.
As you feed the vegetables to the worms, analyze their nutritional value so you don’t have just large hornworms with minimal nutritional value. For instance, if you purely feed them celery, they would have a low nutritional impact on the pet that feeds on them.
The dandelion leaves are highly nutritious, and passing the nutritional value to the worms means the pets will also benefit from the nutrients.
The leaves possess antioxidant properties and help with digestion while boosting the appetite. So, if your pet is a poor feeder, having the hornworm feed on the dandelion leaves will help boost their appetite.
Evaluate the source of these leaves before sharing them with the hornworms to verify if they could have been sprayed with weed killer, which could turn out toxic.
Some hornworm species like to feed on tobacco leaves as they can easily secrete the toxins that come with tobacco.
Tobacco leaves are high in protein and amino acid nutrients that could benefit hornworms. Control, however, the amount you feed to the hornworms if you plan on feeding the worms to your pet, as they may not excrete all the toxins which could affect your pet.
Hornworms are high feeders. As such, you always need to ensure you have enough stock of their meals or the ingredients to make their chow at home.
In feeding the hornworms, ensure the meal is balanced with high moisture levels, fat, proteins, and fiber. The hornworms get the moisture and water from their feeds, so ensure you sprinkle some water on their feed if it’s dry.