The highest percentage of beardie food in the wild is made of animals. Given that there are tons of insects available I did some digging to find out whether hornworms are safe for the beardies. Here is what I found.
Table of Contents
Can bearded dragon eat hornworms?
Both baby and adult Bearded dragons can eat hornworms. Baby dragons can eat 20-50 small hornworms daily while adult dragons should have 20-50 hornworms once a week. Large hornworms can hurt baby bearded dragons, you should also avoid feeding bearded dragons wild-caught hornworms as they might be toxic to bearded dragons.
Hornworms can be a good treat for mature bearded dragons since they do not have a high amount of fat and protein which could cause obesity if offered in large amounts.
Hornworms in Bearded Dragon’s Diet
What are hornworms?
Hornworms are larval forms of the hawkmoth, sphinx moths, and hummingbird moths.
There are two types of hornworms namely tomato and tobacco hornworm and both have a horn-like structure at their last abdominal segment which gives them their name.
They are commonly found in most gardens that have tomatoes, potatoes, pepper, and eggplant. These pests can easily devour a whole garden within no time.
The adult form of the hornworms are nocturnal which is why they can easily devour a large piece of land.
The difference between the two hornworm species is that. Tomato hornworms have V-shaped yellow-white markings on the body while tobacco hornworm has white diagonal lines.
Additionally, The horn-like structure in the tomato hornworm is black, while on the other hand, it is reddish for the tobacco hornworm.
Hornworm Nutritional Value Breakdown
The nutritional benefits of a hornworm are mostly dependant on the diet it has been feeding on.
Below is a list of the nutritional benefit of hornworms to your bearded dragons. You can also dust them with multi-vitamin dust if you wish.
- Moisture 85%
- protein 9%
- fat 3%
- calcium 46.4mg
How to feed hornworms to Bearded dragons
The first thing to note is that on their own hornworms are not a well-balanced diet for baby bearded dragons. They are high in calcium and moisture but very low in protein.
Here is how to feed hornworms to bearded dragons
- Dust hornworms with a multivitamin
- Dangle or drop the hornworm in front of the dragon
- Leave hornworm for about 10-15 minutes
- Remove uneaten hornworms from the dragon’s cage
How often to feed hornworms to Bearded dragons
Baby bearded dragons need a lot of proteins and calcium as they grow and develop they should be fed 60% to 80% insects and 20% to 40% plant matter.
It is recommended that you offer about 50% insect diet to juvenile dragons and 50% plant, veggies, and fruit.
Therefore given the high amount of calcium and moisture you can feed your baby bearded dragon hornworms twice or once a day, and once for juvenile bearded dragon especially better when mixed with another insect that contains more protein.
In a day you should feed about 3-5 hornworms.
For adult bearded dragons you can feed hornworms about once a day.
Compared to their wild relative’s domestic bearded dragons should eat less meat as eating too much meat can make them obese.
Remember, your bearded dragon spends most of its time in the cage as compared to the wild dragon that spends its time moving up and down.
Hence, wild bearded dragons exercise more compared to domesticated ones.
Consequently, wild dragons burn fat easily compared to domesticated dragons.
Caring for Hornworms
You should always source your feeder insects from a reputable company or source.
Always remember that the health of your feeder insects affects the health of your dragon.
If you purchase sick hornworms they will end up making your dragon sick.
The size of your bearded dragon determines the size of the hornworms you buy. Most companies offer different sizes of hornworms.
Most hornworms are sold at one or two inches in size, and they are packed with enough food to last them about two weeks within which they will have reached a size of four inches.
For juvenile and baby dragons you can feed them right away, while for adult bearded dragons you can wait them out and allow them to grow.
Else you can opt to start feeding your younger dragons first and as the hornworms grow out you start feeding your mature dragons.
To care for the hornworms as they mature, despite the fact that they are packed with enough food. You can add fresh tomatoes, potatoes, pepper, and eggplant.
Even better you can dust them with some multivitamins, this will mean that the hornworms gut will be loaded with the same nutrients which will be translated to your bearded dragon.
Disadvantage of hornworms
Low protein, high water content
As shown above, hornworms have a protein content of about 9 % and moisture of 85%. Meaning that they cannot serve as a protein source for your pet.
For adult bearded dragon hornworms are okay since they do not need that much protein and fat which may cause obese due to lack of exercise.
However, for younger bearded dragons they need a high protein fat-rich diet, therefore you should always be aware of this fact.
If you opt to use hornworms in your bearded dragon’s diet, I would recommend using it as a source of calcium and hydration.
Grow quite fast
Hornworms have a very fast maturity rate which is common amomng most larval stages of most insects as they are always trying to make sure food does not run out.
Therefore you should only consider buying hornworms if you can feed them all before they outgrow your pet’s mouth size and become hard for your dragon to consume.
While making sure your bearded dragon is well hydrated is important. Overdoing it can lead to diarrhea. Based on this study, reptiles need 10-30ml of water per 1 kg per day.
An adult bearded dragon weighs about 300 grams give or take. That means using the above reptile water requirement formula.
An adult bearded dragon should drink about 10 ml per day both from food and direct drinking, that about two tablespoons of water.
Feeding your bearded dragon too many hornworms may lead to overhydration. However, that said one or two hornworm does no harm.
Where to buy hornworms
There are tons of reputable suppliers of hornworms on the internet. Starting with amazon.
Frequenty Asked Questions
When can bearded dragons eat hornworms? Bearded dragons can begin eating hornworms as early as a baby or juvenile dragon. Hornworms make a source of calcium for baby and juvenile bearded dragon, but should not be the only source of food as it has low protein content.
How many Hornworms should a bearded dragon eat? While a bearded dragon can eat up to 10 hornworms in a day. You should feed about 3 – 5 hornworms per feed supplemented with another treat that has high protein content such as citrus fruit.
Can Hornworms hurt bearded dragons? Hornworms cannot hurt bearded dragons when offered in their right size. For instance you should not offer mature hornworms to juvenile or baby dragons.
Are Hornworms a staple for bearded dragons? You should not treat hornworms as a staple food for your bearded dragon especially for juvenile and baby dragons due to their low protein content. However, they can serve as a good source of calcium and hydration for your bearded dragon.
Can baby Beardies eat hornworms? Hornworms can serve as an excellent source of calcium for baby bearded dragons. Baby beardies can, therefore, eat hornworms combined with other sources of proteins.
Well, we hope we have answered all your questions on feeding hornworms to your bearded dragon. The best thing is to ensure that your source them from a reputable source. Dusting them with a multivitamin could make them more nutritious.