Can Bearded Dragons Eat Hornworms? All You Need to Know

Reptiles need nutrient-rich diets like worms and insects that fulfill their daily nutritional requirements. But can bearded dragons eat hornworms and want to try it for the first time. Follow the guide properly to keep your bearded dragon safe and healthy by adequate consumption of hornworms in its diet. As with every diet choice, excess of hornworms in your beardie’s diet can also cause harm.

Bearded Dragons and Hornworms

Bearded Dragons is a common name of the reptile genus known as Pogona, consisting of six lizard species. They are termed ‘bearded’ because the underside of their throat looks like a spiky version of a beard and is a distinct feature to identify them.

can bearded dragons eat hornworms

Their beard resembles a cockscomb and can react according to their behavior and situation of the surroundings. It turns black and puffs out for various reasons, but it mainly does if any threats or stressful conditions are sensed.

Bearded Dragons are very gentle and easygoing pets that can be trained or tamed in a short time by their owners because they are considered very easy to take care of and have very minimal needs for healthy sustaining.

Their aggressive appearance may seem quite intimidating, but their nature isn’t predatory towards humans and is not a potential threat to us. They can grow about two feet in length, having an average life expectancy of about 15 years.

Hornworms are the larval form or the caterpillar stage of sphinx moths, hawk moths, and hummingbird moths that belong to the Sphingidae family and are known as Manduca Sexta scientifically.

Tomato and Tobacco hornworms are the two types of hornworms that exist and are called so because of the horn-like structures present on their abdominal segment.

They are nocturnal and are commonly found in vegetable gardens like tomatoes, eggplants, bell pepper, and potatoes, feeding on their leaves and veggies for their growth. They are known to create chaos and are easily capable of devouring the entire garden.

Tomato hornworms: They are identified by V-shaped ochre-colored markings on their body and black horn-like structure.

Tobacco hornworms: They are identified by white diagonal lines on their body and reddish-brown horn-like structures.

They are also fed to reptiles and animals as a good protein source and are potentially safe for consumption.

The horns are merely for camouflage purposes and have no toxic effects as such. Hornworms are widely used as diet inclusion for chickens, bearded dragons, and many other insect-eating pets.

Animal, Lizard, Agame, Reptile

Dietary Habits of a Bearded Dragon

Bearded Dragons are omnivorous creatures that rely entirely on plant-based food and small insects for their diet requirements. They consume more insects when they are younger due to their simple dietary choices and weak digestive system.

Reptile, Bearded Dragon, Lizard, Agame

Usually, the statistics show that the younger bearded dragons are primarily carnivorous, and the adult ones are more herbivorous. If you feed insects in their regular diet, make sure to provide good nutritional values for their healthy growth and daily fulfillment.

Ensure the selectivity of the insectivorous diet by choosing the most nutritional choices and keeping the quantity in moderation to avoid toxicity. Bearded dragons can eat a varied range of food like:

  • Insects like mealworms, crickets, waxworms, hornworms, etc.
  • Veggies like leafy greens, parsley, cilantro, cabbage, etc.
  • Hay varieties
  • Fruits like strawberries, apples, grapes, raisins, etc.

They need to be fed once a day if they are in the earlier stage, or once every two days in their adolescent years.

Look for food items with excessive nutrients or negligible nutrients that may have any adverse effects on your beardie. Remember to keep those choices in strict moderation or, better, avoid them.

Nutritional Value of Hornworms

Hornworms feed on plants, veggies, and their leaves for gaining nutrition and are entirely dependant on those sources. They possess the same nutritional values that they consume and are healthy if fed to reptiles and other insectivorous animals.

Their nutritional consistency is as follows:

Moisture 85%

Protein 9%

Calcium 4.6%

Fats 3%

Hornworms are known as rich feeders primarily because it provides quick rehydration, as it has plenty of moisture in it. Bearded Dragons are fed with these hornworms when they are dehydrated, exhausted due to brumation, or tired after a period of mating.

Bearded Dragon, Pet, Lizard, Dragon

Can Bearded Dragons Eat Hornworms?

Bearded Dragons can safely consume hornworms without any issues. Hornworms are not toxic to this reptile’s digestive system and have no adversities hindering the nutritional assimilation process.

Worm, Tomato Hornworm, Tomato Worm

Whenever you feed hornworms to your beardie, make sure that you mix other types of feeder insects like roaches, earthworms, flatworms, and crickets in them to create a mixture of distinct nutritional values and not overfeeding a single type of nutrition that may cause toxic overloading.

Feeding approximately 3-5 hornworms is enough for an adult bearded dragon and would be apt to fulfill their daily nutritional needs healthily.

Also, it is necessary to choose the size of hornworms correctly because feeding a large-sized hornworm to a baby bearded dragon could harm their gut health or have difficulty in the digestive process.

We should avoid some wild species of hornworms for your beardie to minimize the risk of food poisoning or any toxin side effects on them.

Hornworms are rich in protein, low in fats, and very well packed with nutritional values like moisture and calcium, making them a healthy food choice to promote healthy growth for your beardie.

See also  Can Bearded Dragons Eat Worms? All You Need To Know

At what age can bearded dragons eat hornworms?

Bearded Dragons are very particular about their food preferences and sometimes get uninterested in their daily dietary routine and crave different varieties.

Cricket, Insect, Fauna, Grasshopper

Feeding hornworms to your Bearded Dragon depends on the size of hornworms and not much on the age of your beardie.

It would be best if you chose the insects for feeding your beardie depending on their body size and approximate size of their esophagus to ensure proper digestion, swallowing, and avoiding any choking hazard.

We should give young bearded dragons small insects like crickets, roaches, and small-sized hornworms, whereas We could give adult bearded dragons large-sized hornworms or different worms.

An adult bearded dragon can eat 3-5 fully grown or 10-20 immature hornworms in a day at each feeding. The daily feeding frequency for a bearded dragon depends on their age and varies by the requirement of nutrition by their body for constant growth:

  • Before the age of 3 months 3 to 5 times a day
  • Between the age of 3 to 8 months Twice a day
  • After the age of 8 months Once in a day
  • After being an adult Once every two days is enough

So, we can feed hornworms to Bearded Dragons at any age; look for the size of serving you are providing them to avoid any choking or indigestion issues.

On an average day, how many hornworms should you feed your bearded dragon?

Bearded Dragons should have a balanced diet throughout their life to stay healthy and be free from any disorders because their digestive systems are conditioned to act differently in various phases of their life.

Hornworm, Nature, Insect, Caterpillar

When they are newly born or young, they need a carnivorous diet, and as they progress towards adulthood, their diet becomes more plant-based, and the insect intake gets reasonably reduced.

The ratio of veggies and insects in their diet is as follows:

  • For Age < 1 year, 70% insects and 30% veggies.
  • For Age > 1 year, 30% insects and 70% veggies.

The daily nutrition requirement for a bearded dragon is not very difficult to fulfill; that’s why a balanced amount of small or large insects combined with veggies and leafy greens is an ideal dietary routine with which your beardie will have guaranteed healthy growth with all nutritional benefits.

The number of hornworms or other insects should be moderated by you so that the bearded dragon doesn’t face any health problems due to overfeeding:

For Age < 1 year, Either 10 to 12 crickets/roaches or 6 to 8 large-sized worms/hornworms.

For Age > 1 year, Either 6 to 8 crickets/roaches or 3 to 5 large-sized worms/hornworms.

Can baby bearded dragons eat hornworms?

Baby bearded dragons can safely eat hornworms, but it is necessary to keep the quantity in moderation. The size of hornworms must be strictly enough for baby beardies to swallow easily.

Hornworm’s growth rate is very rapid, due to which this is a challenge for you to feed the immature or newly hatched hornworms to your bearded dragon as soon as possible so that the increased size of the worm doesn’t pose a choking hazard for beardies.

The general way to tell whether the hornworm is suitable for your bearded dragon to swallow is by measuring its length with the space between the beardie’s eyes. Suppose the length is comparable to the space in between.

In that case, you can undoubtedly feed that hornworm to your bearded dragon without any issues ensuring proper swallowing, chewing, and digestion of the worm.

However, you won’t have to worry about the size of the hornworm when feeding to an adult bearded dragon as they are well capable of swallowing and chewing a fully grown hornworm without any difficulties.

How Many Hornworms to Feed Baby Bearded Dragon?

Baby bearded dragons are in the essential phase of growth and need an extremely nutrient-rich diet to fulfill their requirements and assist in healthy growth and the development of a good functioning body.

Baby beardies can easily consume 25-30 small or 10-20 medium-sized hornworms each day, ranging on their appetite and other complementary food items.

This excessive requirement of nutrients like protein and calcium is required in the early juvenile stage because the bearded dragon reaches adulthood at around six months of age, having a lifespan of about 15 years.

This fact means that only 2% of the dragon’s life is as a baby and the rest 98% of its life is as an adult bearded dragon.

That’s the reason that baby beardies need to fuel their body at short intervals to promote rapid growth and build a healthy digestive system. It is also necessary to transition from an insectivorous diet to a vegetarian dietary routine in adulthood for its healthy growth.

The leafy greens, fruits, and veggies become the primary diet in the adult stage, fulfilling the required nutritional values adequately.

Can bearded dragons eat dead Hornworms?

Bearded Dragons look very wild and intimidating but have a susceptible digestive system regarding the quality or quantity of insectivorous food. Insects, when alive, are an excellent source of food for dragons.

Still, as soon as the insect dies, it begins to decompose and is deprived of all containing nutrients, making it useless and even more dangerous for beardies to eat due to the bacteria’s decomposition process, which is potentially harmful toxic to bearded dragons.

However, you can’t arrange live insects for your dragon every time they need to be fed. That’s why dried/preserved insects are one of the options which you should go for only in case of rare emergencies.

Lizard, Pet, Dragon, Bearded

But remember that dried food can only be substituted as rare and occasional treats and not a standard diet inclusion.

If talking specifically about feeding dead hornworms to your bearded dragons, we should strictly avoid them, or else they would cause severe health problems.

As soon as the hornworms die, various types of decomposing bacteria start to infest the worms that get out of control, which may severely affect the intestines and digestive tract if ingested by your bearded dragon.

For feeding your dragon, wait till the hornworm has been dead for a brief period of time.

However, if it has been dead for a lengthy amount of time and has begun to disintegrate gradually, it is preferable to dispose of it and replace it with new hornworms for your beardie instead.

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Hornworms are extremely rich in moisture content, comprising 85% of the nutritional value. They cant be appropriately dried no matter how hard you try to preserve them. That’s the reason you won’t see any dried hornworms for sale in the feeder shop.

Where to buy hornworms?

Hornworms should be fed fresh and live to your bearded dragons for providing all necessary nutrients in the optimal amount. It would be best if you chose the place to buy the hornworms trusting their genuineness.

Indeed, you could identify the right kind of healthy hornworm for your beardie to consume when you buy it from the store, but keeping in mind the source and quality of the feeder is crucial for ensuring the safety of your bearded dragon.

You can find any feeder shops in your locality or around your city that serve fresh reptile food. It is best if you find a physical shop to buy quality feeders every time.

Suppose you cannot find any shops near you; no need to worry because there are plenty of reputed shops on the internet that would supply you with the required feeder at affordable prices, high quality, and according to your convenience.

Many people think to counterattack the availability and high prices of hornworms by capturing wild hornworms themselves from the forest to feed their bearded dragon.

But that is not the right and safe way to acquire the feeder because we don’t know where the worm has been or what it has ingested. For instance, tobacco hornworms are found on the tobacco plant.

They can digest the harmful toxins from the tobacco plants, which, if ingested by the dragon, indirectly cause severe health problems.

Similarly, such fatal disorders may harm your bearded dragon if not taken into consideration. Tomato and Tobacco hornworms are challenging to differentiate for amateurs and would be mixed up and cause toxicity in the dragon.

For the safety of your dragon, you should always buy good-quality hornworms from a credible source.

How Often Can Bearded Dragons Eat Hornworms?

Hornworms prove to be one of the most nutrient-rich feeds in a bearded dragon’s diet because it provides sufficient amounts of moisture and calcium.

It has a good amount of protein, but it is not sufficient to fulfill the beardie’s daily requirements. You must also add other food items that would provide all other nutrients that the hornworms have inadequate.

Apart from the quantity of each serving, make sure you include different types of insects and worms in the dragon’s diet to provide a variety along with different nutritional values regularly.

Prepare a schedule of the insectivorous diet assigning different insects like mealworms, crickets, roaches, earthworms, waxworms, etc., every day for the week so that the hornworms only are fed once a week in moderation.

It is always best to consult your reptile veterinarian about the particulars of feeding your dragon and taking good care of it for its healthy survival.

Do you have to feed your bearded dragon live food?

Bearded Dragons are from the reptile family. Their body and habits are naturally conditioned to mimic the life of the wilderness in which they need to hunt for insects and consume them alive.

Caterpillar, Green, Insect, Pest, Bug

Bearded Dragons have a controlled appetite and strong metabolism, enabling them to restore the energy obtained from food for 2-3 days and stay without food. However, it is necessary to feed them live food, including insects and worms, daily to be healthy.

Live food also ensures optimum nutritional benefits that are far better than preserved or canned food.

The nutrition is consumed in the same raw form in live food making, making it quite logical and straightforward to prefer. The sense of wilderness and mental stimulation is also vital for growing well and sustaining themselves better.

Is hornworm suitable for bearded dragons?

Hornworms are among the most excellent feeders for your bearded dragon due to various reasons. They are pretty high in calcium and are less in fat content; these qualities lie in the beardie’s favor of their daily nutritional requirement.

Bearded Dragon, Dragon, Lizard, Reptile

Calcium consumption is an essential part of the dragon’s diet. It should be taken in adequate amounts every day to ensure a healthy lifestyle and avoid any potential risks involving its insufficiency.

Calcium is a pretty sensitive requirement for dragons. They must consume at an optimal quantity; otherwise, its absence can cause deadly metabolic bone diseases, and excessive intake can make them prone to severe health disorders.

Hornworms grow very fast and should be bought when immature and must be fed immediately to your baby bearded dragons. If your beardies are adults, let the worms fully grow and get to their maximum size to feed the dragon.

Hornworms are usually fed to adults rather than baby bearded dragons. If the worms are kept idle for a couple of days, they’ll grow and become inappropriate for baby dragons.

Young beardies are mostly fed crickets, roaches, and other worms that don’t have a rapid growth factor.

Your bearded dragons can safely eat both tomato and tobacco hornworms, and they have the same nutritional value. You need to buy the ones that are fresh, affordable, and of good quality. Selecting a well-reputed shop for buying all the feeders is necessary for ensuring genuineness.

How To Feed Hornworms to your Bearded Dragon?

Feeding hornworms or anything to your reptile pet isn’t as simple as throwing the food in front of them to eat. We must establish a sense of bonding and familiarity between the bearded dragon and the owner to get friendly and lovable for each other.

There must be a touch of personal affection and consideration to keep your beardie healthy and loyal to you.

  • Initially, ensure that the size of the hornworms is appropriate for your bearded dragon (smaller than the distance between their eyes).
  • Please don’t feed your beardie anything that would harm its digestive tract or esophagus while swallowing. Keep the food items malleable and in small pieces.
  • Food having a bigger size than the recommended one can cause hazardous health issues due to the harm done to the spinal cord just adjacent to the food tract. These problems could be paralysis, choking, brain damage, or even death.
  • So, keep the size of food compact for young bearded dragons, and a little bigger can be allowed for adult bearded dragons.
  • Then schedule the feeding hours properly by dividing the sessions into 10 to 15 windows so that proper digestion and nutrition assimilation is possible.
  • Be attentive during the feeding sessions to observe any uneasiness or choking issues while eating and feed only a small amount at a time so that your dragon can have healthy meal digestion.
  • If your bearded dragon has enough food and refuses to eat anymore, consider the feeding session over and take the residual live food out of their mouth as it can bite back or cause injuries internally.
  • Feed your pet either by hand or by serving it in a food bowl. If you choose to hand feed, make sure you keep your fingers away from the tips of worms so that your pet doesn’t accidentally bite it.
  • When feeding your pet, mix up the contents and feed different varieties interchangeably, so they don’t get bored due to bland food.
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How long can you keep hornworms?

Hornworms are best and nutritionally adequate if fed to your bearded dragon fresh.

Still, if, due to some reason, you cannot buy this feeder near your locality and you are obliged to order it from an online store, there should be a time throughout which the feeder remains safe and suitable for feeding the dragon.

Bearded Dragon, Reptile, Peaceful

For storage purposes, hornworms can be stored in the refrigerator for a maximum of 2 days at a temperature of 45 F.

After these two days, take the worms out to acclimatize and grow at a slow rate and ensure proper circulation of bodily fluids and maintain the nutritional value at its best.

These hornworms can be fed after this period and would provide excellent nutrition and health benefits.

Moreover, for preservation purposes, if you store the hornworms in the refrigerator in an airlock preservation pod, the worms could remain suitable for the safe consumption of the bearded dragon for at most two weeks.

Can Hornworms Bite My Bearded Dragon?

Hornworms can bite the bearded dragon while swallowing or from the outer surface. But, it won’t be a serious issue because the hornworm’s mandibles are tiny and cant bite effectively through the scaly armor or hard textured tissues of the dragon.

Bearded Dragon, Lizards, Zoo, Animals

A hornworm bite is equivalent to a mosquito bite for humans, so there is no need to worry about a hornworm biting your beardie during a feeding session.

Disadvantages of Hornworms

Hornworms are highly nutritional and tasty for your bearded dragons but also possess some disadvantages, due to which pet owners try and avoid them. There are various reasons to support this fact:

Hornworms are pretty expensive:

Hornworms are among the most expensive feeder insects that are available for reptiles as food. If your bearded dragon gets used to it and you buy it frequently, it costs you a high amount considering the affordable maintenance of your pet.

If you have more than one beardie, your pockets are going to get immensely affected, and the costs are going to outweigh the benefits of feeding hornworms to your dragons.

Serving hornworms to your pet occasionally rather than including them in the daily diet is beneficial and affordable.

Rapid Growth:

Hornworms tend to grow much faster than many feeder insects, and it gets inconvenient for owners to store them properly to feed their dragons. You may buy them when they are just an inch long, but they would grow up to five inches in a matter of two weeks.

It becomes an issue when you have a baby bearded dragon that can consume fully grown hornworms; they can only eat immature and tiny-sized hornworms. The rapid growth of these worms poses a problem in this case.

This growing issue invites a severe storage problem and the availability of fresh and immature hornworms every few days. Online stores mostly don’t sell these types of worms in small amounts.

They can cause Digestive issues:

Some bearded dragon owners face problems where their pet tends to get bloated and suffers indigestion issues due to high water intake via the moisture in the hornworms.

Hornworms are a great water source, and feeding them in high quantities may cause excessive water intake.

It is also necessary to observe your dragon after introducing it to any new food item to look for any possible allergies or noticeable digestive problems so that you may discard that ingredient if not suitable for your pet.

Conclusion

So, to conclude the suitability of feeding hornworms to your bearded dragons, I recommend you feed it properly in moderation and only as an occasional treat. The source through which you would buy the hornworms or any other feeders for your bearded dragon should be well reputed and have total nutritional value.

The size of the served hornworm and the quantity depends on the age of the dragon. It is necessary to introduce variety in the dietary routine of your dragon to keep the feeding sessions exciting and not just forceful consumption of the same bland food.

FAQs

Can bearded dragons eat tomato hornworms?

Yes, bearded dragons can safely consume tomato hornworms as they are a hornworm that doesn’t have any potential toxicity for the dragon’s diet. They are equally nutritional to any other insect as a feeder and possess high-quality health benefits.

Can bearded dragons eat hornworms daily?

Partially yes, bearded dragons can eat hornworms daily. Still, it is best if they don’t consume them every day because of the high calcium content, which may create excessive calcium deposits in their body, causing severe issues. Try to keep hornworms on the menu only once a week so that the food doesn’t get monotonous. Instead, include other insect choices like mealworms, waxworms, roaches, crickets, silkworms, super worms, butter worms, Dubia roaches, etc.

Can bearded dragons eat tobacco hornworms?

Yes, bearded dragons can safely eat tobacco hornworms. But ensure that the worms are sourced from a quality store and have appropriate nutritional benefits. This exception is because the tobacco hornworms if acquired inappropriately from the wild areas, can contain ingested tobacco which may prove harmful if indirectly ingested by your bearded dragon.

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Gulshan
Hi, I am Gulshan, a pet blogger, and author. I've been working with the local pet groups for the past five years. I have been fascinated by our pets and am here to share that wonder with you.