Breeding Hornworms


Learn how to breed hornworms with these few easy steps. Breeding hornworms is great for those who want a staple feeder to breed for their reptiles.

Hornworm Egg Care

Let us begin with the egg.


Hornworm Eggs
Hornworm Eggs, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


You might decide to buy eggs in order to be more economical and wonder, ok now what?


First, you will want to be sure you have a deli cup with hornworm chow inside. They will no eat anything else! You can place the eggs on the lid of the cup and then put the cup on and allow them to hatch at room temperature or a bit higher. I keep all of my feeders in a room of the house that is kept at 80-85 degrees to maximize growth.


Hatching Hornworm Eggs
Hatching Hornworm Eggs, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


If you don’t have a deli cup you can try to just put the eggs in a Tupperware with some screen or gutter guard (comes in a roll from lowes) (…ard&facetInfo=) and just be sure they can make it up to the food.


I make my own deli cups. I order cups with mesh lids and then use the gutter guard and twist ties. This also makes it easy for me to pull out the entire mesh and food when I am ready to transfer the worms to a bigger container.


The worms will hatch and climb up to the food in the cup.


Baby Hornworms
Baby Hornworms, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


Baby Hornworms Pod
Baby Hornworms Pod, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


Hornworms Eating Chow
Hornworms Eating Chow, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


I allow them to grow in the cup until they are large enough to move. I make sure to take the lid off to dump the poo everyday and also inspect the food for mold or bacteria. If you see any mold, white milky spots or a film on the food you will want to get them transferred out of the cup as soon as possible to avoid a total loss of worms. I have read that in the case of mold you can just remove the mold spot, but I don’t take any chances.


If you need to slow down the growth of the worms in order to prolong the time you can feed them, you can put them in the refrigerator. I usually put them in a mini frig I have set at 50 degrees. I have read that they can go in for up to 2 days; however I have never put them in for more than a day at a time. I will put them in for a day and then leave them out for a day.


My next post will cover transferring the worms out of the cup to their main growth and maintenance container. I do this as I have had bad experience using deli cups for longer than a week or so in the past.

Hornworm Care

When the hornworms grow big enough to move, I then transfer them from the deli cup to a modified tupperware container. I use the sterilite 6Qt (5.7 L) Tupperware containers that state they are for shoe storage. Any Tupperware that is around that size should do. I then cut out the lid and hot glue some screen to it as shown below. I also cut some gutter guard (…ard&facetInfo=) to place in the bottom. I also put bottle caps in the bottom to raise the gutter guard up. This layer of gutter guard allows the poo to fall through and makes daily cleaning easier.


Transferring Hornworms
Transferring Hornworms, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


Hornworm Container
Hornworm Container, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


Hornworms Eating Chow
Hornworms Eating Hornworm Chow, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


Hornworm Container
Hornworm Container, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


This is where I will grow the worms while they are fed off and until they are ready to pupate.


I store the hornworm chow in the refrigerator and only put enough for them to eat each day in the container. This helps to ensure the food is fresh and does not get contaminated. When I add fresh food I remove all of the old food and clean the container. Proper cleaning and maintenance will ensure healthy hornworms.


I also take out a few that I plan to feed off within the next couple days and gut load them with greens, carrots and red bell peppers. They will readily eat many of your typical gut loading veggies.


If you need to slow down the growth of the worms in order to prolong the time you can feed them, you can put them in the refrigerator. I usually put them in a mini frig I have set at 50 degrees. I have read that they can go in for up to 2 days; however I have never put them in for more than a day at a time. I will put them in for a day and then leave them out for a day.


If you plan to breed them you may also want to keep them on a light cycle. Longer days, around 14 hours, promote more rapid development. Shorter days, 12 hours or less, could result in them going in to diapause once pupated and this could last for months.


In the next post I will cover what to do when it is time for them to pupate.

Hornworm Pupating

After you have grown your hornworms to full size you may wonder what to do when it is time to pupate. You might even wonder how to tell when they are ready to pupate.


The hornworms will grow to over three inches prior to pupating.


Adult Hornworm
Adult Hornworm, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


Once they reach this size there will come a time when they stop eating and start roaming around. They will then change to a lighter color and you can see the vein pulsing on their back. This is when they are ready to go in to the dirt.


Hornworm Before Pupating
Hornworm Before Pupating, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


There are many options for substrate, I prefer to use eco earth. Some people also use soil, moss or I have heard of just using paper towels to keep them. I have had the best experience using eco earth. When they are ready just put them in the container that has the moist substrate and they will burrow when ready.

Hornworms Digging
Hornworms Digging, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


Some may burrow immediately while others may take a day or two. I usually keep the dirt containers in a large bin as they tend to roam all over during this stage and will climb out of the container.

Hornworms in Pupating Bin
Hornworms in Pupating Bin, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


After burrowing they will slowly begin to pupate. They will change from green to brown and eventually harden. It is very important to mist the dirt daily to ensure proper development of the moths. One major result of failing to keep them moist is stunted wing development in moths. If the moths have stunted wings they will not be able to fly and will not survive. You may also want to arrange a light as a longer day cycle (14-17 hrs) will result in faster moth development. If they are on a short day cycle (12 hrs) they could go in to diapause that can last for months.

Hornworms Pupating
Hornworms Pupating, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79

I usually dig my pupated worms up after about a week or so and transfer them to new containers of fresh dirt. I do this because I have lost entire batches due to a worm that burrowed only to die and rot or due to feces being in the soil and molding. Many times that I do this I do indeed find a dead worm in the soil.


You can also dig them up and place them on 3 or 4 paper towels rather than in new soil. The paper towels will help to keep them moist and reduce the mess.


In my next post I will cover moth cage set up and care.

Hornworm Moth Care

About 3-4 weeks after the hornwoms pupate they will be ready to hatch in to hawk moths. You will want to be sure you have a cage or some other equivalent set up ready. I use a small repti breeze screen cage. I have a stick across the top to tie the humming bird feeder to and I line the walls and floor with plastic (you will see why later).


Hornworm Moth Care
Hornworm Moth Cage, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


The moths require the humming bird feeder in order to eat. It is best to use commercially available humming bird food from your local grocery store, hardware store or walmart. Attempting to mix your own solution could result in death of your moths.


Here is a moth drinking from the feeder.


Hornworm Moth Drinking
Hornworm Moth Drinking, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


Video of moth drinking


I also place a small potted tomato plant in the cage for them to lay their eggs on. The moths will breed by attaching their abdomens together and then the females will lay tons of eggs all over the plant and even on the cage walls and hummingbird feeder. It will be important to pick the eggs daily or they could get out of control.


The eggs will be small and green, but they are fairly sturdy and easy to collect.

Hornworm Moth Laying Eggs
Hornworm Laying Eggs, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


Now for the dirty……….the moths are extremely messy. They fling dirt everywhere as they emerge and when flying around. They also spray all over. If not for the plastic I would have it all over my walls.


Hornworm Mess
Hornworm Mess, photo by Rachelle/ Pigglett79


Please let me know if you have any questions.


Info Submitted by Rachelle/ Pigglett79

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    • Hello Heather,

      We fixed the issue. Thank you for letting us know. The pictures are now up and running correctly. If you have any questions at all, feel free to ask.

  1. Hello! Thank you for a wonderful guide! I am planning to breed hornworms for my reptiles, have you done any rearing without tomato plants in the moth cage? Thanks!

    • Personally, no. I have not. It is also important that you do not let the hornworms hatch on the tomato plant. If your worms eat the tomatoes, they are now toxic towards your reptiles and frogs. They have to lay their eggs on a live plant.

    • The number can vary depending on how many moths you have and how long you keep them in the enclosure. But a single female is known to lay around 2,000 eggs. I can not give you a specific number because I have never really counted.

  2. Can you cool the eggs in the fridge and hatch out what you need or do you have to hatch them as they are laid?

    • From what I have been told and have experimented, no you can not. They need to be hatched as they are laid unfortunately. If you are looking for an alternative, I know silkworm eggs can be stored in the fridge.

  3. Hi, How long do the Moths live…? I am interested in Breeding Hornworms, but afraid of Moths…lol
    Also, How many should I pupate at a time? And any Tips on keeping the Moths contained while picking the eggs, or are the moths short lived… Maybe I can recover the eggs after the moths Die?

    • Hello Falkor,

      The moths are short lived because they don’t really eat much. They only live for a few days to breed. The eggs take about 6 days to hatch, so just make sure to keep that in mind when deciding when to pick the eggs. I wouldn’t do anymore than about 4 – 5 moths. They can lay a lot of eggs. You also need to have the hornworm chow ready for the hornworms for when they hatch.

  4. Thanks so much for your reply!
    I’ve ordered some Hornworms from a Feeder Breeder, how can I tell if the worms have, or have not been exposed to Tomato Plants? Is there anything I can do to ensure the health of my Dragons? If the worms have eaten tomato leaves, does the toxicity wear off after some point? Or does it stay in their systems for good?
    Sorry for all the questions.

    • To be honest, I don’t really know when the toxicity wears off (if it does, which I don’t think it does). I would ask the breeder what their main diet was while in their possession (hornworm chow or tomato plants) to be safe. You can not tell based on appearance what the main diet was, so you would be playing a guessing game. Where did you buy them from (online or local)?

    • I ordered them online. They are bred for reptile consumption, and haven’t seen negative feedback regarding any of their feeders… I guess I just worry about what I feed my Dragons… And I didn’t think of it, until after ordering…
      Thanks for the Post, and additional info…!

    • If they are bred for reptile consumption, they should be very safe. No reptile food breeder would ever grow their hornworms on tomato plants. And yeah, I understand. I am the same way with my bearded dragon. Everything that I feed him, I check thoroughly. Feel free to share some pics of your dragons on the forums.

  5. Hi Again…
    Another quick question… I have some eggs on the way, should be here tomorrow… I was wondering if they will climb out of a plastic bin, if there is no “lid”… I have a plastic drawer thing, with 2 small drawers, and 2 larger drawers, and was thinking about using that, but it doesn’t have lids… Would they just crawl out?
    Here is a link of what it looks like:

    • Hello Falkor,

      It’s good to hear from you again. The hornworms should not crawl out. I have kept hornworms in shoebox sterlite containers before, and they never crawled out. They usually just slipped when they tried to. You should be fine.

  6. I want to thank you for this post, my moths love there cage and set up I even got my first harvest of eggs it is going on 5 days since there hatch and still going strong. Again thanks so much for this post.

  7. Hi, I need Help…!
    I ordered 100 eggs from GLH… They started hatching the day after I received them (Friday)… Well, I lost 1/3 of them already… They constantly pound each other… They pound each other to the death… The dead ones have black bruising on their mid sections… and some others… well, all thats left of them are their butt-hair… there is plenty of food, and tons of space… What am I doing wrong…?

    • Hey Falkor,

      Die offs are not good. How do you have the food? In big chunks, shredded and all over the place, or in a container like how they are usually sold? Also, feel free to ask your questions in the forums. I respond a lot quicker to the forum questions.

    • Well, a few die offs aren’t bad. I think you are adding way too much food though. You will run out in no time, and we all know how expensive hornworm food is. I see that most of the food is drying up before they even eat it. I would go a lot more lighter on the food. Only out about 1/4 of what you have. Also, make sure they are not trying to eat the glue that you have holding the screen to the bottle caps.

      Besides the over feeding, I don’t see any problems. Just go lighter on the food. They will all eat from two or three pieces. And like I said, die offs are normal.

      If you can, try to add little pieces to the bin (using a cheese grinder or something). If the food is hard, they might be having trouble eating it causing the die offs.

  8. Hi Billy, thx for the great info. I have one moth in the pupated stage, it shed off his skin and was green 2 days ago. Today is day 2 and its brown for some reason the pupa is half out the soil thats why i can tell the color change and see its alive as it wiggles. Is it normal for it to be fully under the dirt or do i need to cover? How long for moth to emerge? And you said it dies after 3 days? So is there even apoint in feeding? Im growing just 2 for my kids to learn and school show and tell, so not sure if its worth buying a feeder and food for 3 days. Can you also explain the moth mess and what should i expect? Mine are in a small 10 inch round container w a bird net so this may not work. Its in my kitchen thinking that would be bad i need to move it outside, lol thx again.

    • Hello Claudia,

      You do not need to cover the moth. It will be fine the way it is. If you want, you can dig them up and put them in between paper towels and mist (light mists) the paper towels to keep them moist. When I used soil, my moths had trouble digging themselves out and by the time they dug themselves out, they had messed up wings. I believe it takes about 1-3 weeks for the moth to emerge. I never really counted the days, but it’s definitely not overnight. The moths can live up to two weeks, so I would suggest feeding them. If you do not want to buy humming bird nectar, you can feed them sugar water. But if you choose to feed them sugar water, the ratio needs to be exact or the moths can die. The ratio is two teaspoons white or brown sugar to one cup water. The mess is usually just the soil going all over the place when they are emerging from the container. Their wings will spread soil all over the place when they flutter them trying to get out. Other than that, it’s just the eggs that will be spread out all over the cage (if you have male and female hornworm moths). Do you have a picture of your setup? I can’t really picture what you have in my head. lol

  9. I was wondering how much hornworms smell?
    I live in an apartment, and don’t really want a bunch of odor spreading through the place. I know lizards can get smelly, but I keep my beardie clean, so no odor.

    Also, from your guide, it sounds quite labor-intensive and expensive to start breeding hornworms. How much time/money would you say a general setup and care would take?

    • Hey Greg,

      To answer your first question, they do not smell that bad. If you keep them in a room, you wont have to worry about the smell ever traveling through your apartment. As long as you provide proper ventilation, the smell will never be a problem. Just a little heads up, the smell is like a fruity/tangy smell (not the yummy type).

      To answer your second question, the price for me was about $5 for bins and about $19.99 for food. I buy the food in bulk to save money. I own chameleons and had the extra screen cage laying around (needed for hornworm moths). I am sure you can find a small screen cage on craigslist for about $20 – $30. So in total, it’s about $50 – $60 to start.

      In my opinion, you are better off breeding silkworms. They are more nutritious for reptiles and are easier to breed. The silkworm moths do not fly and are very small, so you wont have to worry about buying a screen enclosure. The food for silkworms and hornworms are around the same price too.

      I own a bearded dragon too. He loves both worms, but I feed him more silkworms. I feed him hornworms after he gets out of brumation to make sure he is properly hydrated. They are like huge waterbags.

  10. .Wow! you have written a great article. Thank you so much. I tried to raise silkworms and failed. Do you have information on raising them? I am sure that myself and others would love to read any information that you may have on them. Thank you again. Dee

    • Dee,

      As much as I would love to take the credit, I cannnot. Rachelle (Pigglett79) is the actual writer of this article. She is a chameleon owner who loves the hobby of raising chameleons and feeders. The only reason why I respond to the questions is because I have bred hornworms using her methods and others. As far as silkworms go, you can read another article on how to breed silkworms written by the same author as this article here…

      I have also bred silkworms easily, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

  11. Hi again,
    I’ve had my Moths for about 3 days, and no sign of eggs… I have them in a large Sterilite Storage Bin, about 18″x24″x24″, with Hummingbird Feeder, and some screen on the wall to climb up on… I do notice that they try to fly, but not very well… and I haven’t noticed them drinking from the feeder… Their wings look normal, and not stunted… Should I give up hope, or does it take them some time to start breeding…? I do not have a tomato plant in there, because I didn’t want to take that risk…

    Thanks for any info

    • Hey Falkor,
      Do not worry about not seeing them eat. They are nocturnal, so the odds of you seeing them eat are very slim.

      There are only two reasons why I think you don’t have any eggs.
      1. You have all male moths and no females. How many do you have?
      2. “I do not have a tomato plant in there, because I didn’t want to take that risk…”. The plant is used to stimulate egg laying. We all use the plant for this reason only. You don’t have to worry about anything toxic. The moths will not eat the plant and you will collect the eggs before they even hatch.

      The moths will usually die within 1 – 2 weeks. Try adding some hummingbird feeder to a cup to see if they will drink that way.

    • Hey Billy… I have a total of 8 moths… it wasn’t intended to have so many, but they got too big to feed to my Dragons (and that’s after giving 5 away lol)… I did find some eggs today, so thats great… My babies will have some treats soon (hopefully, if the hatch)…
      So, since Ive got eggs, Im not going to worry too much about `if they are eating`…
      Thanks so much again for this very helpful info…

      BTW, I’ve been breeding Superworms, but started seeing mites… would you happen to know how to get rid of them, or how to protect against getting them…?

    • Falkor,

      Excellent news. It’s good to know that they will lay eggs without the tomato plant. Make sure you have food on hand for them to eat. And watch out, they will grow super fast.

      Are you sure they are mites? If it were me, I’d throw away the entire batch, clean out the bins very good, and start over. But if you don’t want to do that, you can pick out each superworm/beetle one-by-one and put then in a different container. Once you are done, you can throw away the bedding and wash the containers out. Make sure to take the trash out once you throw the bedding away. The last thing you want to do is keep them in your house.

      To prevent them from appearing again, feed your superworms in small quantities, avoid using lids if you are giving vegetables (causes humidity) and take out any uneaten vegetables the next day. Humidity causes problems. Also, check your dry bedding that you have stored to use later. Sometimes, it can contaminated.

  12. Soooo I maybe Sking the wrong person about this. But I bought a couple horn worms to feed my beardie. I think the worm is pupating? Can I still feed him to my beardie? The worm is hardly moving and is really light in color. Thanks for reading, hope to hear from you soon.

    • Hello SarBear,

      Normally, hornworms will not start to pupate unless it has dug itself in some moist soil. You might be seeing the hornworm at its full adult stage (ready to pupate). As long as it’s not hard, you are free to feed him to your bearded dragon.

    • Romaine lettuce is fine for them to eat. I know of some individuals who feed romaine lettuce and collared greens to their hornworms. But their main diet should be made up of hornworm chow. This is the food they do best on. But to save some money, you can feed the other two greens I mentioned above sometimes. I also read that they will eat dandelion leaves too.

    • To be honest, I don’t know. I have never let them hatch in the cage before. But I will say that they are very small and will be very hard to pick up and collect if you don’t transfer the eggs into a container before they hatch.

    • Hey Aaliyah,

      I am not 100% sure on this. To be on the safe side, I would not use those eggs. I am not 100% sure though. You might be able to. I just don’t know the answer to this.


  13. I bought about 15 hornworms from an expo and decided I wanted to breed them because my water dragon loves them to no end. I have three currently in the brown pupae shell, they’re still moving when I spray the soil though. Two other look like they’re going to start before tomorrow. Can you tell me a bit more about the pupating stage? Is it okay that they’re still moving, what do I do with them after they have hardened and how long does it take for them to harden? How long will they be in the pupae stage? And do they have to be on the light cycle the whole time? Does it help if it’s UVB or just a heat bulb? Phew, sorry for the blow up. I’m surprised it’s going successfully this time!! After I get these guys going, and maybe some mealworms I’ll move on to silkworms. Would they be a good staple, like 50% crickets and 50% silkworms?

    • Hello Gabby,
      It should take only a week or two for them to harden. They will move, don’t worry it is perfectly normal. When mine harden, I like to remove them and put them in between moist paper towels, so it can be easier for them to hatch and so it does not ruin their wings when they try to dig out of the soil themselves. What do you mean by light cycle? The bulb does not matter. They will only be alive for a few weeks. Yes, those would be a good staple. Silkworms are the best!

    • Hello Robert,
      I have asked that question myself to many people and on many forums, yet nobody has come up with a successful recipe yet (to my knowledge).

    • Hey Steve,
      Unfortunately you can not make the hornworm chow yourself. You need to buy it. I have looked everywhere for a recipe but there isn’t a recipe for the public to make it. Only certain individuals make it (or import it) to sell here in the U.S. The link is in the article to buy it if you’d like.

  14. How about fruit fly mix can that be used as a substitute? Or does it need to be hornworm chow because it contains certain things for them to eat. I was just doing this for fun. I don’t have any animals that eat hornworms.

    • Hey Steve,
      They will most likely die without the hornworm chow. I have not found a substitute yet to keep them alive with. If you ever do find a substitute, please let me know.

    • Hey Ryan,
      Normally you will have a moth lay about 5 eggs per plant visit. They can lay up to 2,000 eggs, but will usually only lay a few hundred (if you’re lucky).

    • Hey Jess,
      Great Find! I wonder how nutritious this if for the hornworms and for the reptiles/frogs that eat them though. Do you have any experience using this recipe?

  15. I’ve been wondering the same! I am just now starting to use it, I know there’s a lot of good stuff in it, but how it is for the reptiles I’m unsure. I may post the ingredient list on my fb group, chameleon central usa. there are a lot of very knowledgeable people. I will let you know what I find!

  16. Hey I need help I want to breed hornworms for reptiles and for profit. So I can not afford to use tomato plant. Do to possible poisoning. What to do please reply. Any other thing I can use that is not risky.

    • Hello Changa,
      To be honest, I have never bred hornworms without anything except for a tomato plant. Try adding a different type of plant with wide leaves and see if the moths will lay the eggs on that.

    • Hello Changa,
      I personally use a paintbrush to brush the hornworms eggs off the screen enclosure and then just brush them into the container where I keep them.

  17. Update on that recipe I found, I’ve decided it’s no good lol. For one, it spoils pretty quickly, I assume because of the dairy in it. Also, I’m told that you should not use dairy products as a gutload, which I believe I remember reading somewhere now. Maybe try to find a replacement for the dry milk, or take it out all together. Will have to try. They did eat it though so that’s a bonus and a step in the right direction.

    • Hey Jess,
      Thanks for the update. Maybe a few changes to the recipe will do the trick. Spoilage can wipe out your entire colony of worms, so you need to be very careful. We all know how expensive these worms are to replace. I believe I read somewhere that hornworms can eat dandelion leaves and mulberry leaves. So that might be something to look into, especially if you have them growing in your backyard like some of us might.

  18. Changa, why are you afraid of poisoning? The moths will lay eggs on the tomatoe plant, then you remove the eggs. No harm in poisoning. The eggs are actually pretty durable, you can pick off by hand, be careful because if you drop them they bounce! I have heard of a tomatoe scented oil you can use but have not tried it.

  19. I know hornworms will also eat sweet potatoes, I think they are also more nutritious than a regular potato. I use them as backup if I run out of chow, stick them in the microwave for a min to make them easier to eat.

  20. I have about 20 worms in pupate stage. I dug them up and buried them in new soil. Can you explain a little bit better how to use the paper towel. Do i just set them on top of the soil or paper towel or bury them?

    • Hey Michael,
      I have never used the paper towels, I have only heard of people using paper towels, therefore I can’t really tell you how to use them. The soil will work just fine.

  21. Do i cover them up or just lay them on top of the soil. Thanks for helping with the light. this is my first time trying this and so far so good. Just not sure what to do with pupate after i dig them up.

    • Cover them up, because they will need to stay moist. The soil will help keep them moist. You don’t want them drying out.

    • Hey Michael,

      I wouldn’t. The whole point of the light is to mimic day time and night time. Keeping them on a light cycle of 12 hours on and 12 hours off will be best.

  22. HI, I have a question. My hornworms hatched out fine, but they are not flying. Their wings are not stunted. They look completely normal. Any advice? Thanks!

    • Hey Maggie,

      They are nocturnal. So they will usually only fly at night. Are their wings ripped? Sometimes they can rip trying to dig out of the dirt. Have you seen them fly yet?

    • Hey Ray,
      Unfortunately, I don’t have any hornworms that I am breeding right now. But if I get some more in the near future, I will make sure to post a youtube video.

  23. First of all, thanks for the guide!
    My question is: Can I feed the hawk moths to my beardie? Is it safe?.. My Hawk Moths have produced more than enough eggs to keep me busy and keep my beardie happy with a full tummy.

    • Hey Chay,

      I would not. The only reason being is because they are not gut loaded so they will be pointless to feed. I do not know exactly if there are any positive or negative outcomes in feeding a hornworm moth to a bearded dragon, so I would say no just to be safe.

  24. Thanks for your input!…
    One more question, I have not had a single worm hatch. The eggs seem to disappear. What could I be doing wrong? You think they might all be infertile eggs?

    • Hey Chay,
      Can you provide me a little more information as to what you are doing with the eggs when you first see them? Do you leave them in, take them out, etc..? Also, what is the temperature at which you are keeping the enclosure where your moths are laying the eggs.

  25. Sure thing. The enclosure is a 20 gallon tank with a well ventilated top. I use napkins for the substrate and also hanged them on the backside of the tank to give a place for the mothers to climb and hang around. The moths usually laid the eggs on the substrate but mainly on the side of their food cup I maid for them. Surprisingly the moths lasted 1 1/2 months. Here in CA it’s been hot and sunny even the temperature of my house has been toasty. The first time I picked out the eggs from the enclosure. I put them in the upside down food cup exactly how you instructed in your article. Today the moths just died and I’m gonna retrieve the eggs but I might just let them out side in the food cup so the can get a little more indirect sun.

    • Hey Chay,
      I don’t see anything that you are doing wrong. I can’t explain the problem to be honest. Let me know what happens with these new batches of eggs.

  26. Billy, I hope you can help us! My daughter is trying to raise a hornworm and we THOUGHT it was fine, but today it came out with the braconid wasp eggs on its back. Is it possible to safely remove the eggs at this point, and is there any chance our hornworm will survive if we do? We would love to help it if we can.

    • Hey Joan,
      Sorry to hear about the situation. Your best bet is to get some scizzors and start cutting away at the eggs (outside preferably). If you leave them attached, the eggs will act as a parasite to the hornworm and feed off of it. I am unfamiliar with how the whole process works, but I know if you leave them attached, they will end up killing the worm. But do not pull the eggs off unless you know for sure they have not punctured the skin of the hornworm. If they did, you might hurt the hormworm trying to pull the off. Cutting the eggs in half might kill the eggs and have the eggs fall off themselves once the egg fully dies. Try that and let me know your discoveries.

  27. Billy, thanks for your idea! I really appreciate it. It was pretty obvious pretty quickly that we couldn’t remove the eggs without further injuring the worm, so we had to opt for what I hope was a humane euthanization. (And next time we’re going to buy lab-raised hornworms so that we don’t have to worry about that!)

    I am so glad I found your page, though, as it has given us a lot of tips on how to best care for them!

    • Hey Joan,
      Sorry to hear that you couldn’t do anything to save the little guy. Most reptile websites that sell live food like mulberry farms, Great Lakes Hornworms, Amazon, etc… sell live hornworms that are captive bred and raised if you ever want more. If you ever need anything else, please feel free to ask.

  28. Hello,
    Thanks for this post it has been great!
    I have my pupa hatching but their wings do not seem to be developing, am i doing something wrong or does it happen to some in nature?
    Do they find the feeder on their own or do they need help?
    Thanks for any help you can offer.

    • Hey,

      Can you describe the setup that you had the pupa in? Was it just dirt and they dug themselves out?

      They will normally find the feeder on their own, but it will be hard now that their wings aren’t fully developed, not allowing then to fly.

  29. My one pupa came out tail end first. It has two wings loose but no face or legs. It has been struggling for almost 12 hours. Is there anything I can do for it? I don’t want to cause injury.

    • Hey Kals,
      No face or legs? I have never seen that before. I would probably assume that the pupa did not morph properly. I do not think there is anything that you can do. I am sorry.

  30. I think it was a moisture issue i started spraying them more often and the rest developed just fine. Things where going great and for two nights and i harvested about three hundred eggs which are now little worms. However after the third night they stopped laying eggs. i have eight moths and every morning when i check i am only finding two or three eggs. Is there something that causes the females to stop laying? My set up is a portable fabric closet with a light and feeder hanging from the clothes bar and i have a grow light hung lower with a tomato plant at the bottom. I am only using a 45 watt indoor flood during the day, do they need a red ceramic heat light for night? I figured if they produce in the wild that 72 degree room temperature should be fine for them at night. Thanks for the help it has been fun getting things figured out.

    • Hey Colby,
      Everything you are doing seems fine. In the beginning, they will lay more eggs than the later stage of their life. Soon, they will start to die off. Your setup seems great by the way.

  31. Found this in a report of 1977.Perhaps this explains the deformation of the moths.

    These units are kept in a holding room
    at 75-80 percent RH and 26°-30° C. The units
    are positioned so that the prepupae are resting
    horizontally. The surface on which the preipupae
    rest must be free of sharp projections to
    avoid punctures in the delicate pupal cuticle
    before it hardens. Unless the room is darkened,
    the prepupae may attempt to escape or go
    through the motions of building a cell, or both,
    for several days. However, we have not found
    any detrimental effects from this activity. At
    4 days, the prepupae shed the final larval skin
    and molt to the pupal stage (fig. 14).
    The pupal stage is a critical time in the insect’s
    life. If excessive desiccation has occurred
    because of low humidity or excessive activity
    because of a delay in placement in the pupation
    cells, the insect may be unable to pump enough
    blood into the anterior region to break the seam
    in the larval skin. The seam may be broken,
    but a lack of lubricant between the larval skin
    and the pupa may prevent complete ecdysis. If
    the prepupa is lying on a wet surface, the larval
    skin will become pliable and stretch rather than
    break at the seam. If molting is successful, the
    insect still faces the critical pumping of blood
    into the ventral sacs to expand them into their
    normal position. These sacs contain the developing
    wings, antennae, legs, and proboscis of the
    adult. If the pupa is tilted to one side, the
    weight of the sacs will cause them to slide off
    course as they move posteriorly, exposing the
    tender area normally covered by the sacs. Since
    this area is incapable of hardening or tanning,
    the insect soon dies from desiccation or loss of
    blood. If the insect is lying in the proper position
    but the blood volume is low, tender areas
    will again be left exposed because the insect is
    incapable of expanding the various sacs to their
    normal position. Even if the insect survives, the
    adult will be deformed because of improper expansion
    and knitting of the various sacs. Various
    stages in molting and expansion of the
    pupal sacs are shown in figure 1, A-F.
    At least 24 h are required for the pupae to
    tan and harden (fig. 1G). To insure that all
    the pupae are hardened, we do not harvest them
    until 7 days or more after the prepupae are
    placed in the cells.

  32. In an alternate procedure, prepupae are
    placed in a soil substitute for pupation. A tray
    50 by 38 by 9 cm deep will accommodate 50
    pupae. A 1 : 1 mixture of fine, firmly packed
    vermiculite and sand dampened with tapwater
    to the point that it still flows (readily sifts
    through a 0.6-cm-mesh screen) has given yields
    equal to those obtained with the wooden cells.
    However, if the soil mixture contains coarse
    material, the prepupae will either spend considerable
    time attempting to chew the material
    into small particles or will reject the site. Also,
    the pupation medium must be at least 8 cm deep
    to allow for construction of a durable cell. And
    placement of prepupae in a tray must be synchronous;
    otherwise late arrivals will burrow
    through the walls of cells constructed previously
    by early arrivals. The trays must be held at
    85 percent RH or loosely covered to prevent
    excessive drying. After the pupae are thoroughly
    hardened, they may be gently sifted from the
    medium. Disadvantages of this method are increased
    space and weight, the need to sift
    pupae, and the need either to replace or sterilize
    the medium. However, for small-scale orj
    intermittent production it may be the best
    method, since the need to construct wooden cells;
    would be avoided.
    In either method, the pupation site must be,
    absorbent to prevent the prepupa from drowning
    in the large amounts of fluid produced as
    it grasps soil particles in its mouth to “plaster”
    the actual cell wall (or merely goes through
    the motion when a wooden cell is provided).

  33. How big does the moths cage need to be? Do you have to use a tomato plant or can you use something else? I have six worms that are getting pretty big, can I use soil from my mom’s garden to keep them in while they’re pupating?

    • Hey Ashly,
      I would use something that isn’t too small. The smallest would be what’s pictured in the article. As for the soil, I would get new soil. Soil from yards tend to have pesticides and other unwanted items that could harm your worms. And yes, the tomato plant is a must. The scent and type of plant is what helps them breed. I have had much difficulty trying to breed them without the plant.

  34. Hey Billy,
    tomato plants are out of season where i am at, you think i could attach a coulple tomatoes from the store to a fake plant so it at least smells like tomatoes to the moths in my moth cage?

    • Hello Grace,
      The reason why screen is used is for the moths to hold on to something while they rest. I have never used a glass cage before, so I am not sure the results will be the same. If you do end up using the glass cage, let me know the outcome please.

    • Hey Grace,
      I make the chow myself in the deli cup and with the right consistency it will settle and stick to the cup. There’s no real trick to get it stuck.

    • Hey Makaela,
      Metal might rust, so I am not sure that is such a good idea, but you can always try. If you do, let me know your results. Have you tried looking online for plastic gutter guard?

  35. Hey just wanted to say great article! It is probably the most detailed one I have seen on this subject and I like how you are still answering questions kudos to you! I have a couple more questions for you.

    You say you change the chow out daily, but do they eat all or most of it in a day?
    How long does the chow usually last you?
    Have you or do you know of anyone who has tried and successfully raised hornworms to the moth stage by just feeding them greens and veggies?

    • Hey Dan,
      I can’t take the credit for the article, because Rachelle/Pigglett79 wrote it. But I am answering all of the questions because I use her method to breed my own hornworms.
      1. Yeah, they eat most of it. Hornworm chow isn’t cheap, so that’s why I only put just enough for them to eat for the entire day and still have a bit left over for next day. Never let them go hungry or you can start seeing a die off.
      2. What do you mean exactly? Like how long does it last with “x” amount of worms? or How long does it last made in the fridge? Or what exactly?
      3. I have not heard of this, but I have heard of some people using some sort of plant like dandelions or carrots to supplement the feedings. Never tried it though.

  36. If I have only 2 reptiles how many hornworms would I need to start out with? I am interested in starting my own but for now I want to start out small and see if I can actually do this on my own first?

  37. Hi, I live in central IL and have had a hornworm cocoon in my firdge as I have found an article before telling me that I can do this to keep him in a hibernation mode. I didn’t know when I should take it out to allow it to hatch if it has made it through the winter. I read something about it needing it to be in the 60s before you want them to hatch. Is this correct? Our nights still are in the low 50s so I’m thinking maybe mid May I’ll bring the cocoon out to hopefully help emerge the beautiful moth.

  38. I ordered hornworms and they took 13day to be shipped to me by the time I got them all the food they were shipped with was gone. I tried this recipe I found online problem is the worms wont go near the stuff they are dyeing from starvation rather than eat this stuff lol I was wondering if anyone has ever had success with this home made chow or is it just misinformation floating around the internet forum to forum?

    1 cup (100 g) of non-toasted wheat germ (Bobs Red Mill, Milwaukie, OR)
    1/3 cup (25 g) of nonfat dry milk (Sanalac, Fullerton, CA)
    4 tablespoons of agar (generic)
    1 teaspoon pure raw flaxseed oil (nonboiled, Sunnyside Corp., Wheeling IL)
    1/2 tablespoon nutritional flake yeast (generic)
    1 vitamin C tablet (1000 mg) (generic)
    2 vitamin B tablets (generic)
    2 multivitamin tablets (generic)
    1 tablespoon of table sugar (generic)
    2 1/2 cups water

    1. Place vitamin tablets in blender and reduce to a powder. To this powder, add the wheat germ, powdered milk, and sugar and blend until the dry components are well-mixed.

    2. Remove the dry mix from the blender and add 2.5 cups of boiling water. While mixing at low speed, add the agar. Be careful to replace the lid on the blender before turning it on. Blend for one minute and then add the dry mix and continue to mix.

    3. Add the linseed oil and increase blender speed. You may need to manually blend the diet while the blender is running. The diet gets rather viscous at this point.

    4. After blending for about 5 minutes, add the nutritional yeast flakes and continue blending for another minute. Components in the yeast are heat labile, thus, yeast is added as late as possible.

    5. Once the diet is thoroughly mixed, pour it into a plastic tray that has a sealable airtight lid. The diet will solidify and remain usable for about 7 to 10 days if kept refrigerated.”

    • Hey Cai,
      Is this the exact recipe that you did? All those ingredients sounds like it might be quite expensive to make the food. Why not just buy hornworm chow?

  39. Hey, so it seems that if you are successful in hatching and raising hornworms to the point of having a couple moths together, you could end up with a ton of eggs on your hands!! I’d like to learn how to breed hornworms to feed my chameleon at home first and foremost. If i am successful down the road then i’d look into breeding for sale as well, but until i reach that point, what do i do with all of those eggs?! Of course we are assuming that my enclosure is set up properly and the moths are doing their thing as intended. If they all were to mate and lay eggs, and then those eggs hatch within a week or so, that’s a ton of little buggers to have on hand for one little lizard! Unfortunately storing the eggs is not an option as it is with silkworms..What are some suggestions you have on this subject? Thanks.

    • Hey Nikki,
      Unfortunately I don’t have a solution for you except to sell the eggs possibly to local reptile and frog keepers like yourself. Make sure you have food to sell as well with them, because food for hornworms is not easy to come by. You can make a nice little cash on the side doing this. Keep what you need for yourself, and sell the rest. Or hatch all of them and feed them as babies to your chameleon before they get too big! Let me know what you end up doing.

  40. So, I’ve found myself in possession of 2 pupated tobacco hornworms, and I am just planning on releasing them outside once they move to the adult stage – other than keeping a moist environment for them until they finish pupating, is there anything else I need to do to keep them healthy?

    • Hey Tyler,
      You pretty much got it right. Just let them pupate. Check the substrate daily though. You wouldn’t want any mold or other bad substances to build up.

  41. Billy, just a followup to my previous post – I am keeping them in a quart-sized cup with moistened paper-towels on the bottom. I have been checking the PT’s daily, and I just changed them today (not for any particular reason, just to keep them fresh, I suppose). Should I get dirt from my garden instead? Thanks again for your help – I am a complete newbie when it comes to caring for critters like this!

    • Hey Tyler,
      I would only use dirt if you are 100% sure it’s pesticide free! Any chemicals in the dirt can cause harm.

  42. My wife and i currently have had 16 pupa in about 2″ of moist eco-earth with about 1/2″ of the substrate covering them for nearly 2 weeks.Today my wife decided that they should be “standing upwards” in the eco-earth with the top of the pupa exposed to make exiting easier for the moth when the time comes.Is this a good idea or should we place them back under the substrate completely?? thanks

    • Hello John.
      I have not tried this method, but I know that the moisture in the substrate helps them develop into the moth. But this method might help avoid their wings getting destroyed trying to dig themselves out. Please let us know how this method works for you.

  43. Thanks ! For all your info great stuff.Need to know how you tell boy from girl I have 10 Moths and counting 20 Pupas 102 Eggs My Moths are all big mouths, I hade a small moth it died.

    • Hey Tammi,
      I am not entirely sure how to tell a male moth from a female moth which is why it is recommended to have a good amount of moths in the cage to avoid having only one gender. The small one probably died because it was not fully developed. This will happen every once in a while. 102 eggs. WOW. You are going to have your hand full. Do not forget that they will eat a lot and grow fast, so make sure to have plenty of food ready.

  44. What if i didnt know about the mold issue and he burrowed yesterday. Should i remove him and change the dirt or do i need to let him develop a little while?

    • Hey Nathan,
      The worm just buried itself recently? I would wait until the moth develops the hard shell, then move him to a clean environment.

    • I dont know if this helps your research in any way but i went to relocate him after he turned brown (8 days), and his tail kept wiggling when messed with. Is that normal, bad, indifferent?

    • Hey Nathan,
      Thanks for the update. This just means that he/she is alive and is annoyed that you are touching him/her. lol

    • Hello Fredrik,
      I am not sure if breeding them in the glass terrarium will work as effectively. The screen allows them to hold onto something and to allow for good airflow. If you do try the glass terrarium, please let us know your experience.

  45. Hi! My hasn’t emerged from the pupas yet. My terrarium is large and have plenty of ventilations. I have placed egg crate along the sides in the terrarium and a potted tomato plant. I hope its a nog of space for the moths to cling on to.

    • Hello Fredrik,
      How long has it been since that turned into papae? Can you see if they are still a light brown color? Or did they turn to a Black color?

  46. Hi! I purchase them as pupae. Judging by the date on the box tree weeks. Two has emerged and lock big and healthy. I live in Europe we don’t have any commercial hornworms. I bought four pupas for 50 € incredibly expensive.

    • Fredrik,
      If I were you, I’d start breeding these worms asap and start selling. You will make a fortune at that price. That’s great news that they are emerging now.

  47. Hi! kind of what i had in mind. The commercial cricket farms is playing chicken no one want to pay the initial investment for a new feeder. But The price of silkworms is 10 for 5 €.

    All my moths have emerged.

  48. Hello….I have had hornworm moths lay thier eggs on my moon flower leaves. The larvae loves the leaves. When they are big enough to move them to a container, I continue to feed them the leaves. They pupate just fine in soil that I prepare for them. I have done this for the past three summers. I only have three or four at a time. It’s sort of a hobby. I am amazed at the whole process. I only have one at present in the pupae stage. I don’t think it is still alive. It stopped moving yesterday. The only thing I can think of is that I didn’t keep the soil damp enough. I live in the states in northern Alabama. Your posts are very informative. I learned all about hornworms by researching.

  49. Hello! I have one sweet potato hornworm. He started out green and we thought he was a tomato hornworm but then he molted into a dark brownish tan and had this dark head with yellow stripes which I found out we actually had a sweet potato hornworm. He got so big, bigger than my hand to be exact from top of my middle finger to past my palm a little bit. He finally buried himself in the dirt I had below the vines I was picking him daily. Here’s my problem/worry… That was 2 days ago, he has since dug himself up out of the dirt and then back in the dirt and up out of the dirt and now he is halfway in the dirt. He’s gotten much smaller and he’s kind of fat and rolley looking like with more wrinkles and he’s harder and he is alive but I don’t know if there is something wrong and why he hasn’t continued to stay in the dirt. Please help!!

    • Hello Staci,
      What is the status of the hornworm now? I would assume that he had started to molt. But please give us an updated status.

    • Hello Fredrik,
      The eggs should hatch within a few days of being laid. I am not entirely sure if you can fridge the eggs to postpone them from being hatched like silkworms, but if you do try fridging them, please let us know your results.

  50. Hi there,
    You might have already answered this but do the moths need a tomato plant to lay their eggs on or just a live plant they can grip? I’ve searched all over for tomato plants and I just can’t find any, and my worms are nearly ready to pupate. Thanks for the awesome guide and all your help.

    • Hello Anon,
      It’s the scent that helps promote breeding and the laying of eggs. But there are people who have reported that they have had success using a different and plastic plants. I believe you can do either.

  51. Does it have to be a tomato plants I started my breeding alittle late and there isn’t any stores that carry the plant. And can I use a storage been as the cage and cut holes out I’m soon going to buy a glass exo terra for them but I need to know soon my worms have already Made a cacoon.

    • Hello Lillian,
      As others have asked the same question you have, I am not really sure about the importance of the plant. I know the tomato plant gives off a scent to promote breeding. I believe I have read of people using fake plants, but can’t remember any links to provide support. If you do use a fake plant or other plant, please let us know how your experience went. And as for the cage, we use mesh so that the moths can cling onto something. I don’t think smooth surfaces like a plastic bin or glass tank will work well.

  52. Incredible article, thanks for sharing! also appreciate the commitment of staying here and answering everybody’s question. I have a few of my own.

    Backstory: I bought a 10 pack of hornworms (got 12) and they grew normally in their pod. Eventually they became full grown and I had 5 remaining. They ate all of their food that was included and I have no more. I can’t feed them to my only lizard because it would be too much protein to process for his particular species. So I decided to breed them. About 2 hours ago I placed them in hard plastic cups and they immediately dug into the dirt at the bottom to start the process.


    How much chow should I buy and from where? How much chow would be enough for all of the offspring of 5 moths. (Let’s say 3 females if I get lucky)

    Around how many eggs does a single female moth typically lay, I know you mentioned that they can lay up to 2000 eggs but I figure this is very uncommon. How many worms should I expect from a single worm?

    I think that is all for now, Thank you.

    • Hey Cesar,
      Thank you for the feedback. Much thanks goes to Rachelle (the true creator of the article). We just helped her get her article more easily found.
      I only know of a few places that sell their food (Greatlakeshornworms and mulberry farms). The amount depends on how many eggs you will have and how long you plan to keep them growing for. I would contact one of these suppliers and ask them how much to buy for your amount of worms, as I just always have some on hand. I would expect at least a few hundred from one female moth.

  53. Oh, I have a few more…

    What keeps the moths from flying out when you go and collect the eggs? Since they are nocturnal would they not react to you during day time unless you touch them?

    I will potentially use a sterilite tub I have on hand and use a lighting fixture for heat during day and night. Do you think the moths can get through 1/4″ steel mesh? Im not completely sure of how big they are.

    • Hey Cesar,
      If you collect the eggs during the day, you shouldn’t have a problem as they are nocturnal and sleep during the day.

    • Hello Pakos,
      Any light will be fine, you just don’t want them to freeze or heat up too much. Try to keep the temperature at about 70 – 80 F

  54. So I have been keeping them since 2009. Periodically of course. I have had great success in taking the cocoons and taking nails in a cork board and hanging them there on the side of my mother tank. It really has been helpful. Maybe this will spark new ideas for you Billy. Have a nice week.

  55. Quick question, my tobacco hornworm (jorge the hornworm) went into his pupae stage about 4 weeks ago and he is still moving and active when I check on him. I have him in a mesh 20X15X10 with cardboard on the bottom that he is sitting on. I have his hummingbird feeder and nectar ready to go when/if he comes out. I have the heat on because it is cold here. When should I expect him to emerge as marty the moth?

  56. Hey Billy! Awesome post! My hornworm is in the pupae stage and he has been in it for about 4.5 weeks now. He still is alive but I am just wondering why he hasent emerged yet. I have him in a mesh thing with cardboard and a hummingbird feeder with nectar just like yours.

    • Hey Lolo,
      He should have emerged by now, but some may take longer. As long as he is still alive, it’s not a problem. What’s the status so far?

  57. Billy, no joke he is still alive… should I take him to some like nature place? I don’t think he is going to emerge..I feel so bad for him.

  58. So dunno if anyones ever tried this before. I bought a cup of hornwormed. two got huge, ate all the food and i had like 10 more hatch.. So i took chicken feed, added water till it became mush then drained out the excess water.. the horn worms seem to eat it just fine and grow just as well imo. Might not be worm chow.. but they certainly chow it down.

    • Been feeding them on it for awhile now. Will say they seem to grow slower on it but already have several who’ve gone into pupating. Also they ravage lettec, blue berries and celery.

    • Thank you Malice. It seems like a lot of people would like to slow down their growth anyways, because they grow too fast. So this may help others.

  59. would suggest then keeping them about 55-65 degrees, about 20% humidity feeding on lettec/chicken feed with sparce bits of blue berry tiny bits of straw berry. I’ve had mine for about two weeks. The ones who’d eatten all the horn worm chow grew massive and already pupating or close to it while the rest that hatched after all the food was gone are still perfectly within size of my juvie beardies. If i had to guess at this rate i’d still have another week maybe two before the smallest got to large. I always give them access to the moist chicken feed, give them blue berries or bits of straw berry every two or three days usually the day before i plan on feeding them off. IN total had 22 hatch, 2 are pupated 4 are close couse they ate the worm food out of the 16 that didn’t only had two die they hatched last kind of feel like they weren’t going to make it reguardless though all the rest are healthy, bright and active. I’ll keep you all updated when the last of them gets too large for a juvie beardie about 7/8ths width between their eyes roughly. Hope all that helps! Planning on breeding those that pupate if i can so i’ll let ya’ll know how that goes raising them off worm chow.

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