Hornworm adventure (aka What have I done?!)

Chameleoking

Chameleon Enthusiast
I think I need to find a reptile rescue near me to donate some feeders to.
You might as well sell them off to reptile keepers. You have some nice and healthy feeders their. There's so many people getting there feeders in the mail and lots of them are already dead. So the reptile community needs good healthy reptile feeders. Think about it.
 

snitz427

Chameleon Enthusiast
This is giving me flashbacks to my hornworm failures (and there were many)! I was so optimistic after a first “clutch” of about 40 eggs.

Then came the next clutch of 400… and they hatch QUICK!! mine failed and well… if you are curious what 400 dead baby hornworms smell like… its seared into my brain.
 

dinomom

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!
Brave lady, those guys are nasty! But thank you for the detailed and awesome pics.
 

MissSkittles

Chameleon Enthusiast
have you ever tried to breed wax worms? Im trying but they keep dying in the cocoon. Do you know any easy to breed bugs that would make good snacks in the place of wax worms?
They we’re one of the first bugs I tried breeding. It looked so simple. 😂🤣😂🤣 I had lots of moths that made lots of eggs that hatched into lots of teeny tiny worms. Then came the problem of how to remove the worms from the honey/bran mixture. I am a patient person with lots of spare time, but spending hours sifting thru trying to find and remove the worms was too much for me. I found lots of info on how to breed them, but nothing on how best to remove the worms from their food mix. Easier to just buy them.
 

MissSkittles

Chameleon Enthusiast
This is giving me flashbacks to my hornworm failures (and there were many)! I was so optimistic after a first “clutch” of about 40 eggs.

Then came the next clutch of 400… and they hatch QUICK!! mine failed and well… if you are curious what 400 dead baby hornworms smell like… its seared into my brain.
Any idea what caused them to fail?
 

snitz427

Chameleon Enthusiast
Any idea what caused them to fail?
Just too many, I think, in too small a container. Those I tried to raise in the cups molded over… so then I tried to hatch separately and move them.

The eggs were so unpredictable, too, that I gave up. Sometimes I got zero, sometimes 5, sometimes 400 heh. And they cant be refrigerated like silkworm eggs
 

Ghostbirb

Avid 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.
Are crickets easy to breed? Is it worth me even trying?
 

MissSkittles

Chameleon Enthusiast
Are crickets easy to breed? Is it worth me even trying?
I haven’t put any effort into breeding my own…just pretty much give them something to lay eggs in. Last week I saw about a dozen or so eggs, but next I looked they were gone. Either there are pinhead crickets hiding in my bin or the adults ate the eggs. 🤷‍♀️
 

bruce the cham

Established Member
They we’re one of the first bugs I tried breeding. It looked so simple. 😂🤣😂🤣 I had lots of moths that made lots of eggs that hatched into lots of teeny tiny worms. Then came the problem of how to remove the worms from the honey/bran mixture. I am a patient person with lots of spare time, but spending hours sifting thru trying to find and remove the worms was too much for me. I found lots of info on how to breed them, but nothing on how best to remove the worms from their food mix. Easier to just buy them.
i removed the beetles not the worms
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Queen
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MissSkittles

Chameleon Enthusiast
Lots of babies have hatched and more hatching every day. So far it looks like the number won’t be too terribly overwhelming. Today’s ‘harvest’ is only about a couple of dozen eggs, so they have most definitely slowed down. 🤞 I’ve got two containers for them and put today’s in a third. 3 moths have died, leaving 3 and 6 unemerged from cocoons. Hoping my leopard geckos will pitch in and do their share of eating. They’ve never been very impressed with hornworms in the past and even aren’t excited by silkworms. Such finicky eaters, you’d think they are cats.
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