Named after the soft, horn-like structure growing on their forehead, the Hornworms are a family of moth caterpillars that grow up to be Sphinx or Hawk Moths. These worms are also known as “Goliath Worms” because of their enormous size, making them the largest among all the immature insects. There are about 1,200 hornworm species in the world, out of which 120 species can be found in North America. They make a great snack for most of the reptiles. But what about Leopard Geckos?
Can Leopard Geckos eat hornworms? Yes, they can eat hornworms and find them appetizing. These worms have a high moisture content and can keep your Leos hydrated. However, it is best to feed them these in moderation since they can be addictive for your pets and make them stubborn eaters, and you wouldn’t want that.
Aside from water, do hornworms add any nutrients to your pet’s diet? Can you gut-load these worms? How many worms can your Leos eat at different stages of their life? If you’re wondering about these things, you will find all your answers in this article.
Do Leopard Geckos feed on hornworms in the wild?
The first step towards keeping your pet healthy is to keep their diet similar to the one they are used to in the wild. So, do the wild Leos feed on hornworms in the natural habitat? Yes.
Leopard Geckos are strict insectivores and feed on a variety of insects in the wild. Since hornworms are found in about every part of the world and are also appealing to the Leos’ taste buds, they are certainly a part of their diet in the wild.
Are hornworms beneficial for Leopard Geckos?
As far as worms are considered, there are no worms that can meet all the nutritional requirements of your Leos. This is why we recommend you to keep their diet varied.
Let’s take a look at the nutritional value of hornworms to better understand what they’re adding to your pet’s diet:
Take a look at the nutritional chart of hornworms:
Like most other worms, the hornworms also have a high moisture content and can provide them with all the hydration they need. They are also rich in calcium. However, the protein content in them is relatively low, which is why including these worms in their daily diet can lead to a deficiency of protein.
Below, we have listed all the benefits and downsides of feeding these worms to your pet Leo:
- Hornworms have a bright bluish-green body that can be identified even from a distance. Believe it or not, their color appeals to the Leos.
- Since they contain little to no chitin, digesting them is relatively easy for your Leo.
- They grow pretty fast in comparison to other worms and vary in size as well. Therefore, you can feed the smaller ones to the juveniles.
- They have a low-fat content. So, even if you feed them a couple more than they need, it wouldn’t result in them gaining extra weight.
- They contain a substantial amount of water in their body that is great for your Leo’s hydration.
- They are not one of the fast-moving worms, and your Leo can catch them in no time.
- As far as worms are concerned, the Hornworms are pretty expensive.
- They have a low protein content when compared to crickets, mealworms, and super worms.
- They have a rather short lifespan. You can’t store them for more than two months.
- They are highly addictive to Leos. Once your pet gecko eats them regularly, they might refuse to eat other worms.
- Since they are suckers for sweet food and touch little else, gut-loading them is not a viable option.
How can hornworms harm your pet Leopard Gecko?
We’ve figured out in the last section that hornworms do have health benefits for your pet Leos. However, apart from the downsides that we have discussed above, do these worms pose any other serious threat to your pet’s health? Let’s find out:
While hornworms themselves aren’t toxic for your Leos, they could be carrying parasites or bacteria that make them lethal to your pet. Once these bacteria enter your pet’s body, they would live inside their gut, making them sicker with time. So, how would you make sure that the worms you are feeding them are non-toxic?
Unless you’re an expert at these things, you probably won’t be able to determine the toxicity of a worm on your own. For instance, let’s assume you collect hornworms for your Leos from your backyard or garden.
These worms are wild and could have fed on the leaves of the solanine family, or eaten fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with pesticides or fertilizers. If your pet feeds on these worms, they will most probably get sick.
This is why we always recommend you to buy hornworms from a trusted supplier in your neighborhood or local pet store. If you’re still doubtful about it, you also order them online.
The Hornworms are known as “Goliath Worms” for a reason. They’re bigger than most worms and, thus, can be difficult for your Leo to swallow. This is why you need to choose the right sized insect for your pet. As a rule of thumb, offer them worms with a width equivalent to the space between their eyes.
These worms are also rather fat and powerful and can’t be killed easily. Moreover, Leos have a tendency of not killing or chewing their prey properly when they’re hungry or excited. This could also create swallowing and digestive problems for them.
To avoid it, never keep your Leo hungry for a longer period; maintain a proper feeding schedule for them. Also, serve them one worm at a time so that they don’t get too excited and focus on finishing the one they have properly.
Some reptile-owners have also expressed their concern about the spike or the horn of the hornworms harming their pet Leos. However, these horns might appear to be sturdy but are actually rather soft and pose no harm to your pets.
How often should you feed hornworms to your Leopard Geckos? And how many?
As we’ve mentioned already, your Leos are prone to get addicted to hornworms if you feed them these too frequently. And once they’re addicted, they might refuse to feed on the other worms that you feed them, which is not healthy. Therefore, you should limit feeding them hornworms to once a week or every other week.
As for the number of worms adequate for them, you will have to refer to their age. The Leo hatchlings have the smallest diet and would be full in about 2-4 worms per feeding.
However, the fast-growing juveniles have a rather large appetite and can eat up to 8 worms at a time. When they’re full-grown adults, you should stick to feeding them 4-6 worms per feeding.
Dusting hornworms for your pet Leopard Gecko
Like all the other animals, Leos also need all the nutrients in order to stay healthy. However, their restricted diet often makes them suffer from the deficiency of some other vitamins or minerals.
In order to make up for these deficiencies, you can dust the worms you feed them with supplement powder so that they intake it along with their live meal.
The process of dusting hornworms is fairly simple. Here, we’ll give you a step-by-step description of how to do it:
- Buy two different supplement powders for your pet; a multivitamin and a calcium supplement.
- Get a Ziploc bag. Make sure it is clean and dry.
- Add a pinch of both powders to the Ziploc bag.
- Take one meal’s worth of hornworms and put them inside the bag.
- Shake the bag gently in order to cover the worms with the powder.
- Serve your pet Leo these dusted worms.
Your pet will most likely not even notice the difference between the dusted and non-dusted insects. Therefore, you won’t face any challenges in feeding them these.
Is it safe for baby Leopard Geckos to eat hornworms?
Yes, the baby Leos can safely eat hornworms as long as you can take care of moderation. Feeding them about 2-4 worms once is week is enough. Also, to feed your baby Leo, you should look for worms that are smaller in size and, thus, easily digestible.
Frequently asked questions
Can I feed spiders to my Leo? You should avoid feeding spiders to your Leo because of its downsides. To begin with, they’re too small to gut as well as to make a proper meal for them. Moreover, they might have eaten bugs sprayed with pesticides and can potentially carry parasites and viruses that will make your pet ill.
Is it okay to feed my Leo woodlice? Yes, as long as you’re feeding them these in moderation. Woodlice are just the right size for your adult Leos and have a high calcium content as well. However, feeding them too man woodlice can result in your pet having trouble with digesting their hard shell.
Can Leos eat fish? Leos come from the deserts and it is, therefore, highly unlikely for fish to be a part of their natural diet. Moreover, their tiny bones could present a choking hazard for Leos.
Conclusion: Can Leopard Geckos eat hornworms
To sum it up, hornworms are plump, full of water, and rich in calcium, which makes them a healthy snack for your Leo. However, they contain very little protein and are also rather large in size, capable of being a choking hazard for your pets. As long as you feed them these worms in moderation and are careful about choosing the right size, you’re good to go.