Hornworms are a pretty large insect that look like they should make a great feeder for leopard geckos.
Looks can be deceiving, however, so it’s important to make sure they’re safe before we feed something new to our leopard geckos.
Can Leopard Geckos Eat Hornworms?
Leopard geckos can eat hornworms, but they should only eat them in moderation.
As a snack, they make a great choice for a feeder insect. They’re large, have a decent amount of nutrition for what they are, and have some advantages over other bugs. They are a huge step up over bugs like wax worms, which should generally be avoided.
As a dietary staple, however, they leave a lot to be desired.
Because hornworms can contain a lot of moisture, they should be fed sparingly. Feeding your leopard gecko too many hornworms can lead to digestive issues like diarrhea. Long term, it can also lead to malnutrition.
Here’s how they stack up nutritionally to other feeders:
|Insect||Moisture||Protein||Fat||Calcium (per 100g)|
As you can see, hornworms don’t stack up very well against feeders like crickets or silkworms.
Hornworms contain low protein content, so they aren’t as nutritious as other types of insect feeders.
On the upside, they do contain a lot of calcium, so you don’t have to dust them with calcium like you do with other insects.
It is recommended to feed your adult leopard gecko only one large hornworm at a time, no more than once per week as a snack. Alternatively, you can do 2-3 medium or 3-4 small hornworms.
You should generally only feed bigger hornworms to adult leopard geckos, however. They are a bit too big to be fed to juvenile leopard geckos, though the smaller hornworms should be safe for younger geckos as long as you get them small enough.
Will Leopard Geckos Choke on Hornworms?
I’ve never heard of an adult leopard gecko choking on a hornworm.
This is one of the concerns with feeding larger feeders like hornworms to young geckos, however, so you should only feed hornworms to adult leopard geckos unless you just happen to find a particularly small hornworm.
For adult leopard geckos, hornworms are very safe to use as feeders for an occasional snack.
As a general rule of thumb, you should avoid feeding a leopard gecko anything larger than the space between its eyes. This ought to help you judge what is safe to feed your leopard gecko to avoid potential issues with them choking on something.
Where to Get Hornworms for Your Leopard Gecko
If you grow tomatoes, you may be tempted to take the hornworms off of your tomato plants and bring them inside for your geckos to eat.
As tempting as that may be, it’s a bad idea to do so. Wild hornworms can contain parasites that can be harmful to geckos, so its best to buy feeder insects from your local store so that you know you’re getting healthy, uncontaminated hornworms.
Disadvantages of Hornworms for Leopard Geckos
One of the main disadvantages of hornworms for leopard geckos is the cost.
Hornworms can get a bit expensive when purchased from a store for something that provides so little nutrition. If the alternative is getting them from outside it’s still worth the cost, but it’s still questionable when compared to other feeder insects.
Hornworms also get pretty big really quickly, so you need to feed them to your gecko before they have a chance to grow to their full 5″ size. You can slow down their growth by keeping them between 50-60F if you have anywhere to put them that’s around that temperature.
The fridge is too cold, but putting them in front of an AC vent or in an appropriately configured drink chiller may be appropriate.
Then there is what I mentioned earlier – their high moisture content can cause digestive issues. Feed too many and your leopard gecko’s poop will turn runny and green. Not very fun.
Ultimately, hornworms can safely be fed to adult leopard geckos, but they’re not very nutritious. Because of this, they should be fed sparingly – only as the occasional snack.
There are better (and cheaper) options out there that have fewer disadvantages than hornworms do.