Hornworm adventure (aka What have I done?!)

MissSkittles

Chameleon Enthusiast
When I was nursing my Sweet Grumpy back to health, I ordered a bunch of hornworms. Unfortunately many were already too big to be fed off by the time they arrived. No problem! I’ll see if I can breed some hornworms. It’ll be an interesting new adventure, right? Ha ha ha ha! Well, to make a long story short, I am about to be completely swamped in hornworms. I’ve collected hundreds of eggs and as of this morning not even half have hatched. In the event that anyone wants to give this a try (and has a small army of reptiles), I thought I’d share my error in judgement experience.
I didn’t think to take pics of the massive bloated hornworms, but I think we all know what they look like. They had stopped eating so I assumed they were ready to cocoon…they were. I placed them in a plastic shoe tote containing some moistened coco coir/soil and they all tunneled down.
About 1 1/2 - 2 weeks later, I checked and they were all brown cocoons. I removed them and placed them on a paper towel in a small screen enclosure with branches and then waited. I did lightly mist every day or two as they do need some humidity to emerge properly.
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I didn’t keep track of the time frame, but it was about 3 weeks or so when they hatched into moths. I mixed up some nectar (recipe below), added some fiberglass screen and pool noodles and waited again. I did put a nano heat emitter bulb on top for them.
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It took about a day for them to dry their wings and then they got down to business. Similar to silkworms, they do make a bit of a mess spraying their secretions around. I’ve no idea how to determine their gender. After day 2 I found their pale green eggs scattered everywhere. They need to be collected promptly or they stick too firmly to be removed. Some that were laid on the branches just wouldn’t come off and I learned that although the eggs are pretty sturdy, if they are well adhered, you’ll destroy the egg trying to unstick it. The moths are nocturnal, so you can collect the eggs during the day when they are asleep. Every day you’ll be collecting dozens of eggs. After your first egg collection, you’ll need to get your chow ready. I had a bit of a problem with the water/chow ratio (instructions called for too much water), but as I had only mixed up half the package, I was able to correct it. I had some of the traditional tall deli cups with gutter guard that I put the chow into. I added a little mesh as the gutter guard didn’t reach the top. Initially I put the eggs on the lid (the worms natural instinct is to climb), but after collecting so very many eggs, have just started tossing them in the container of chow. I placed the deli cups upside down on top of my beardies enclosure next to his lights for some gentle heat. Within about 3 days, I found babies. They are super tiny and almost translucent. The easiest way to find them is to look for their horn. It looks like a petite eyelash. They are impossible to move without risk of killing them at this point.
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This is as far as I’ve gotten so far, but the rest is basically going to be just them eating and growing…and overwhelming me with their quantity. It’s been about 5-6 days since the moths hatched and 2 just died last night.
To make nectar for them is very simple and inexpensive. It’s 4 parts water to one part sugar, boiled together until all sugar is dissolved. I’m storing in the fridge. Some use a hummingbird feeder. I didn’t feel like going out to get one so just hot glued a Tupperware lid with a shallow indent on top of a tall deli cup. To give them something for their feet to grip, I wrapped a small bit of cohesive bandage around the rim. One of their favorite places to deposit eggs is underneath the overhanging lid.
A couple of handy tips…line the entirety of the interior of your screen enclosure with fiberglass screen. It is very difficult to remove the eggs from regular screen without destroying them. Line the floor with wax or parchment paper. It makes for the easiest removal of eggs. Paper Towel makes for the worst removal of eggs. If using branches, either wrap them in plastic wrap or make sure they are very smooth, like a bamboo. Pool noodles are awesome! Eggs come right off. No real need to add any plants. I’ve had fake ones and they don’t seem to like them much. Unlike silkworm eggs, these can not be refrigerated to hatch out when you choose. Expect to obtain dozens if not hundreds of eggs, so have plenty of chow mix on hand and a plan for what to do with all of the worms.
Happy adventuring!
 

siennas

Member
When I was nursing my Sweet Grumpy back to health, I ordered a bunch of hornworms. Unfortunately many were already too big to be fed off by the time they arrived. No problem! I’ll see if I can breed some hornworms. It’ll be an interesting new adventure, right? Ha ha ha ha! Well, to make a long story short, I am about to be completely swamped in hornworms. I’ve collected hundreds of eggs and as of this morning not even half have hatched. In the event that anyone wants to give this a try (and has a small army of reptiles), I thought I’d share my error in judgement experience.
I didn’t think to take pics of the massive bloated hornworms, but I think we all know what they look like. They had stopped eating so I assumed they were ready to cocoon…they were. I placed them in a plastic shoe tote containing some moistened coco coir/soil and they all tunneled down.
About 1 1/2 - 2 weeks later, I checked and they were all brown cocoons. I removed them and placed them on a paper towel in a small screen enclosure with branches and then waited. I did lightly mist every day or two as they do need some humidity to emerge properly.
View attachment 324452
I didn’t keep track of the time frame, but it was about 3 weeks or so when they hatched into moths. I mixed up some nectar (recipe below), added some fiberglass screen and pool noodles and waited again. I did put a nano heat emitter bulb on top for them.
View attachment 324456View attachment 324457
It took about a day for them to dry their wings and then they got down to business. Similar to silkworms, they do make a bit of a mess spraying their secretions around. I’ve no idea how to determine their gender. After day 2 I found their pale green eggs scattered everywhere. They need to be collected promptly or they stick too firmly to be removed. Some that were laid on the branches just wouldn’t come off and I learned that although the eggs are pretty sturdy, if they are well adhered, you’ll destroy the egg trying to unstick it. The moths are nocturnal, so you can collect the eggs during the day when they are asleep. Every day you’ll be collecting dozens of eggs. After your first egg collection, you’ll need to get your chow ready. I had a bit of a problem with the water/chow ratio (instructions called for too much water), but as I had only mixed up half the package, I was able to correct it. I had some of the traditional tall deli cups with gutter guard that I put the chow into. I added a little mesh as the gutter guard didn’t reach the top. Initially I put the eggs on the lid (the worms natural instinct is to climb), but after collecting so very many eggs, have just started tossing them in the container of chow. I placed the deli cups upside down on top of my beardies enclosure next to his lights for some gentle heat. Within about 3 days, I found babies. They are super tiny and almost translucent. The easiest way to find them is to look for their horn. It looks like a petite eyelash. They are impossible to move without risk of killing them at this point.
View attachment 324454

View attachment 324455
This is as far as I’ve gotten so far, but the rest is basically going to be just them eating and growing…and overwhelming me with their quantity. It’s been about 5-6 days since the moths hatched and 2 just died last night.
To make nectar for them is very simple and inexpensive. It’s 4 parts water to one part sugar, boiled together until all sugar is dissolved. I’m storing in the fridge. Some use a hummingbird feeder. I didn’t feel like going out to get one so just hot glued a Tupperware lid with a shallow indent on top of a tall deli cup. To give them something for their feet to grip, I wrapped a small bit of cohesive bandage around the rim. One of their favorite places to deposit eggs is underneath the overhanging lid.
A couple of handy tips…line the entirety of the interior of your screen enclosure with fiberglass screen. It is very difficult to remove the eggs from regular screen without destroying them. Line the floor with wax or parchment paper. It makes for the easiest removal of eggs. Paper Towel makes for the worst removal of eggs. If using branches, either wrap them in plastic wrap or make sure they are very smooth, like a bamboo. Pool noodles are awesome! Eggs come right off. No real need to add any plants. I’ve had fake ones and they don’t seem to like them much. Unlike silkworm eggs, these can not be refrigerated to hatch out when you choose. Expect to obtain dozens if not hundreds of eggs, so have plenty of chow mix on hand and a plan for what to do with all of the worms.
Happy adventuring!
this is so cool! id love to see more pictures!!
 

siennas

Member
On top of all of these hornworms, I’ve got a couple of hundred young silkworms growing and Lord knows how many superworm babies that I’ve been breeding…in addition to my few hundred roach nymphs. I don’t even dare to check if my crickets have made any babies.
can you explain how to have superworm babies? im so interested in these things, lol! and i have a bunch of superworms. i read that they will not cocoon if they're around a lot of other superworms
 

bruce the cham

Established Member
can you explain how to have superworm babies? im so interested in these things, lol! and i have a bunch of superworms. i read that they will not cocoon if they're around a lot of other superworms
you need to get them hydrated put them in deli cups then put them in a pitch black place and then let them pupate then they turn to beetles then put them in a tub then they lay eggs then you separate the beetles from the eggs lay food throughout the tub then let them hatch and grow into super worms basically watch a you tube video on it
 

MissSkittles

Chameleon Enthusiast
can you explain how to have superworm babies? im so interested in these things, lol! and i have a bunch of superworms. i read that they will not cocoon if they're around a lot of other superworms
This isn’t hard to do. Let your supers get huge. When they are looking really big, you’ll want to stop feeding them and put them each in their own separate space. I use sectioned craft boxes with about 1/2” of organic soil/coco coir mix. I found I had to glue the separators down so that they couldn’t crawl under to visit their neighbors. I mist it about once a week or so to help their transition.
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It can take a few weeks for them to turn into pupae. They start curling up and turn into a thing of nightmares.
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I usually remove the pupae and put in a separate container on a paper towel that again, I mist every couple of days. They’ll start to darken in color as they get close to becoming a beetle. Once they are a beetle, I put them in a cricket keeper with about 1/2” of bug bran food, a little piece of egg carton and every few days give them something fresh to eat and hydrate from. Carrot, squash and bug burger work well. In about 2-3 weeks I move the beetles to another cricket keeper and wait for the eggs they laid in the first to hatch and grow. They live a long time and will provide you with tons of superworms over a period of a few months.
 

MissSkittles

Chameleon Enthusiast
Your chams have food for life. A lot of work though keeping them up right? Thank you for all the cool pics. Very helpful. Thanks
Yes and yes! A few months after getting my first cham (Sweet Grumpy), a tropical storm blew thru and I joined the masses of reptile keepers desperately searching for someone who had feeders to buy. That was pretty much what made me decide to breed roaches. As I like trying new things and saving money, plus my number of insect eaters grew, I started my attempts at breeding other feeders. Mealworms are super easy…just keep feeding them, they’ll pupate into beetles and start making more mealworms. I’ve made a few lame attempts at crickets, but they’re easier to buy. Wax worms are a total pain in the buttocks! They climbed up and started to eat thru the seal of my bin, the moths are stinky and I’m yet to figure out a decent way to get the worms out of their honey/bran before they cocoon. Much easier to buy.
 
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