Schrodingers Hornworms

ConfusedHornwormGuy

Established Member
I have been recently trying to start a hornworm culture, this recent batch unfortunately wont work, I ordered about 25 hornworms, only 3 survived to burrow, all 3 burrowed but this is where I get confused, I can't wrap my head around where 2 of these worms that burrowed went. I was hoping someone here with experience in culturing hornworms might help explain.

To recap 3 hornworms survived, I watched 3 of them burrow into a small flower pot that I have inside of a mesh enclosure. It would've been impossible for these worms to hatch and escape, I only have 1 viable hawk moth pupa and the other 2 disappeared. I dug up the flower pot in its entirety, there is only 1 pupa that came out, the other 2 worms literally disappeared.

I looked all over the enclosure because there isn't really a place where they could hide, and these other 2 worms are gone.

How is it possible for 3 viable goliath hornworms to burrow, and for only 1 to pupate? Why isn't there a carcass or body for the other 2 worms? Did they die? Did one of the worms eat the other 2?

They didn't pupate, they literally disappeared, I only have 1 viable pupa from these 3 worms.

How is it possible for 3 worms to burrow in a locked enclosure and for 2 of them to completely disappear, no carcass or anything?

If there are any other details I can provide, feel free to ask. My fiancee and I are at a loss, I'm so confused.
 

ConfusedHornwormGuy

Established Member
For the record the 25 I started with all died during transit. Only like 7 survived and 4 died of some sort of illness/weakness and stopped eating, so I was only left with 3 viable worms out of 25.
 

ConfusedHornwormGuy

Established Member
There's a good chance the ones who pulled the disappearing act died in the soil, then were consumed by maggots/other detrivores. Have you noticed any flies around? They mush-ify pretty quickly after death, especially if the substrate is kept moist
This explains it and makes sense. I've had some gnats around, it makes sense because of how soft they are that they died and decomposed, that was the only explanation I could think of but I wasn't sure if they decompose quickly.
 

ConfusedHornwormGuy

Established Member
Neat reference... Schrodingers...as in Schrodingers Cat, I assume?
I'm betting something ate them too.
Haha yeah. You know the cat goes in the box, is it still in the box? You can't be certain unless viewed by an observer.

AKA worm goes in a pot, is it still in the pot? I guess they just warped to another dimension. (Or died) was just curious honestly as to how the carcass would have disappeared so quickly. But it makes sense their soft exoskeletons as well as microbacteria and small maggots from gnats or some form of mite within the dirt had eaten them.

I'll make sure to use clean soil. Will fertilizer in soil kill the pupas? I was using organic store bought soil with fertilizer and no pesticides but also mixed in soil from outside. So perhaps a bacterial thing. I appreciate the insight from you both! Thank you.
 

TayloredExotics

Established Member
Mine seem to do best in pretty dry substrate; I reuse soil from my plants, so there's probably some fertilizer residue. No idea if it hurts them; I usually have a few losses in the pupa stage, but nothing too crazy. My issue is that I can get them to metamorphose into moths, but my moths never breed! Good thing my big panther male loves the moths... 😁
 

ConfusedHornwormGuy

Established Member
Mine seem to do best in pretty dry substrate; I reuse soil from my plants, so there's probably some fertilizer residue. No idea if it hurts them; I usually have a few losses in the pupa stage, but nothing too crazy. My issue is that I can get them to metamorphose into moths, but my moths never breed! Good thing my big panther male loves the moths... 😁
I hope to get that far. I did put them in my planter that had the tomatoes planted and was watering those, I thought they needed moisture but good to know dry substrate works good too. I accidentally got some water on my ballast for my hornworm setup and my tomatoes have died so I'm probably gonna just go for mealworms. I have like 70 beetles in a container that are probably just mating away in there so I'll probably have some mealworms soon but we'll see. I buy the giants from the pet store and usually the metamorphose into beetles within a couple days of buying them.

I'm probably just gonna turn my hornworm setup into a chameleon setup because I clearly do not know the husbandry of hornworms well enough to not screw it up 🤣

You guys are great thank you so much.
 
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