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Can Bearded Dragons Eat Hornworms? What You Need to Know

Nicole Cosgrove

March 16, 2021

If you have a bearded dragon, you likely know that they have a very unique digestive system that makes them sensitive to certain food types. Unlike a dog, bearded dragons have stomachs and systems that have specifically evolved according to their harsh native habitat. As a result, you must be careful about what you feed it.

One of the most popular protein types to feed a bearded dragon is hornworms. These insects are the perfect food to feed your beardie on occasion, especially after brumation, because it provides protein, calcium, and high water content.

To find out more about how to feed hornworms to your bearded dragon, read on.

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Can I feed my beardie hornworms?

Yes! You can feed your beardie hornworms, and they will likely love it! When fed as a live meal, hornworms are a great complement to any beardie’s diet. It provides protein, calcium, and water, all of which being highly important to a bearded dragon’s health.

Bearded Dragon eats a Hornworm
Image Credit: Vic Rincon, Shutterstock

Are hornworms a staple for bearded dragons?

Hornworms are not a staple for bearded dragons, especially not when they are adults. However, you can feed bearded dragons hornworms every two or three days. Feeding the bearded dragon too many hornworms will lead them to have an imbalanced diet. Just like with humans, moderation is key when feeding your beardie.

If you have a juvenile bearded dragon, you can feed them 20 to 50 insects a day, including hornworms and other insects. This high count is appropriate for juvenile bearded dragons because they need extra protein to grow healthily and appropriately.

Adult bearded dragons, on the other hand, need more of a vegetation-based diet. Full-grown beardies should eat 20 to 50 insects a week, not a day. It’s a great idea to feed your adult beardie 3 to 5 hornworms three times a week.

It may be helpful to have a three-day rotation when feeding your beardie hornworms. On day one, only feed your bearded dragon vegetables, vegetation, and fruits. On day two, feed the pet insects and hornworms. On day 3, you can either take a break from feeding them or give them a couple of nibbles of vegetables.

It is important to feed your bearded dragon protein and vegetables on different days because they will likely prefer the protein and not eat the vegetation. Feeding these foods separately better ensures your beardie has a well-balanced diet.

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What to Know About Feeding Your Beardie Hornworms

Unfortunately, feeding your beardie hornworms isn’t as simple as it may sound. You need to make sure to select the correct hornworms for your beardie to ensure it remains happy and healthy. First and foremost, only give your beardie a hornworm that is smaller than the distance between the beardie’s two eyes.

Anything bigger is dangerous to feed to your beardie. Bigger items can lead to impaction, paralysis, and sometimes death. This is especially true for young, bearded dragons.

Once you find the correct sized hornworms, carefully place one hornworm at a time inside the cage. You can do this by dumping them in or placing them in with tongs. You could also try hand feeding your bearded dragon, but make sure to be careful that the bearded dragon doesn’t accidentally bite your hand.

Whenever you feed your bearded dragon hornworms, watch them for 10 to 15 minutes. Feed the bearded dragon as much as it would like during that time. Anything leftover should be removed from the cage, especially if it is live. The worms can potentially bite the reptile.

a tomato hornworm
Image Credit: Pixabay

How do I store my bearded dragon’s hornworms?

You should receive hornworms within cups or some other item that keeps them contained and alive. Place the cup in a safe and dry area. If you want the hornworms to grow, place the cup in an area around 82 degrees Fahrenheit. To slow their growth, you can keep them somewhere as cold as 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you want to stop growth completely and intend to feed the hornworms within a short period of time, you can place them in a refrigerator for two days.

How long do hornworms live for?

Hornworms can live between two to three weeks, depending on the temperature of the environment. Warmer environments will elongate the lifespan of your hornworm and allow them to grow bigger. If you keep your hornworm in a cool area, it will die faster.

Can you cut hornworms in half?

Yes. You can cut hornworms in half, but you must expect the process to be messy. Once you cut the hornworm in half, it will die. It is best to feed cut in half hornworms to your bearded dragon relatively quickly, especially if the beardie is used to live kills.

How do you dispose of hornworms?

If you need to get rid of a hornworm, you need to dispose of it safely and responsibly. Place it inside an escape-proof bag and freeze it for 24 hours. Then, simply place the entire bag in the garbage can for regular disposal. Do not release live hornworms into the wild because they can harm your native environment.

hornworm
Image Credit: Pixabay

Other Protein Sources

If you do not have access to hornworms where you live, there are other protein sources that you can feed your bearded dragon. Mealworms, wax worms, dubia roaches, and crickets are all great options to keep your beardie healthy.

You can also feed your bearded dragon nightcrawlers, but make sure that you purchase them rather than feeding ones you find in the garden.

What insects should I not feed my beardie?

All of the above-mentioned insects are safe to feed to your beardie, but not all insects are safe. Most importantly, do not feed your bearded dragon any insects you found outside. You do not know what the insect is, and the beardie may not be equipped to kill or digest it. Only feed your bearded dragon insects from a reputable vendor for reptile foods.

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Final Thoughts

To ensure that your beardie has the perfect diet, give them hornworms three times a week. These interesting insects provide great protein, calcium, and water for your beardie, ensuring that they remain happy and healthy. Even though you may be squeamish while handling a hornworm, your beardie certainly will love it.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.