Hornworm Care Sheet



Hornworm, photo by Leeks 'N' Bounds
Hornworm, photo by Leeks ‘N’ Bounds
  • Scientific Name: Manduca quinquemaculata
  • Lifespan: Approximately 4-5 weeks.
  • Handling: Hornworms are handable but may try to hit you with their heads in defensive and may even try to bite.
  • Size: Approximately 3-4 inches.
  • Care: Easy
  • Community: Yes, as long as you have lots of room for them to move around.
  • Lifestyle: Nocturnal, active at night.


When you buy hornworms, you will most likely buy them in deli cup or a ‘pod’. This type of enclosure is perfectly fine to keep them in, but if you are looking to make your own enclosure for them to allow maximum movement and to allow for more cleanness, follow the directions below…


1) Get a sterilite 6Qt (5.7 L) Tupperware container and cut out a big hole in the lid, then hot glue some screen to it.

2) Get gutter guard to seperate the worms from the poop.

3) Cut the gutter guard to fit into the container.

4) Get a few bottle caps and place them beneath the gutter guard before you place the gutter guard in the container to allow some space for the poop to fall into.

5) Get your hornworm food and worms and put them into the container.



No furnishing is needed.

Lighting and Heating

Hornworms do not need any special lighting whatsoever. The only thing they need is a source of heat through a normal house bulb or heat lamp.

Temperatures should be…

Day Time

70 – 85 °F is recommended.

Night Time

No lights are necessary. 70 – 75 °F is recommended. If it is too cold to achieve this temperature without lights, I recommend using a heat emitter or a reptile infrared heat light. Make sure to check temps at night, to reassure the temps are good to avoid stress.


When you usually buy hornworms, they will most likely come in a pod with food already in there for them. However, the food that usually comes with your worms will usually only last them about a week or so (depending on size of worms). So the odds are, you will most likely need extra food for them. Unfortunately, the only food that they eat are either a commercial food diet sold specially for them or toxic foods that are very bad for your reptiles and amphibians if you are feeding the worms to them. Hornworms need a hornworm chow made specially for them which you can get from an online supplier. You may buy it made already or powdered which you will then have to mix and make yourself. Making it yourself will be more difficult for you, but will save you more money if you choose to do so. The other way would be the ‘toxic way’ and is not recommended if you are feeding these worms to reptiles and amphibians. The ‘toxix way’ would be feeding them pepper, tomato, or tobacco leaves.


All in all,

  • If you are feeding these hornworms to amphibians and reptiles, use the hornworm chow.
  • If you are wanting to keep them as pets or even study them, you may feed them pepper, tomato, or tobacco leaves.

When feeding your worms, make sure to only feed enough for that one day. Because the hornworms need a dry enclosure, the food will most likely dry fast if feeding in large amounts of food.

Humidity and Hydration

Humidity should be low. Too much humidity will most likely wipe out your colony of worms. Humidity builds up bacteria and mold in a hornworms enclosure.


Hormworms will get all their hydration from their hornworm chow. No water bowls need to be included in their enclosures.


The best substrate for hornworms, is no substrate. This will make cleaning the container a lot more easier.


  1. I have a tobacco hornworms, and they are perfectly healthy, except since yesterday. they are now a bit brownish, and are not eating. They aren’t moving much, and I don’t know if they are shedding, or they’re sick. There are two. I got them six days ago, and on the 1st-3rd day, fed them tomato leaves. 4th through 5th i gave them both tomato and potato leaves. At the end of the 5th day, i gave them romaine lettuce leaves, and woke up today, to find they were slightly brown around the head area, won’t eat, and minimal movement. They twist around weirdly, and wave their butt around a bit, but that’s it. All the information on taking care of tomato/tobacco hornworms said it was ok to feed them romaine lettuce. I washed the lettuce thoroughly before feeding them. Is it the stuff they may have put on the lettuce? Maybe I can’t get it off and they got a slight dose of it? I’m worried, and I’ve been raising tobacco hornworms for years. this is the first time I have fed them lettuce. HELP JEFFREY AND BOB PLEASE! Frankie is digging around to start his coccoon, and he didn’t eat any lettuce yet. PLEASE HELP MY POOR CATERPILLARS!!!!!

    • Hey Diana,
      I would refrain from feeding them lettuce. Instead of feeding them the leaves, try a humming bird feeder. It is best to use commercially available humming bird food from your local grocery store, hardware store or walmart. If you cant find humming bird food, you can try to make your own by mixing 1 part sugar with 4 parts water and bring it to a boil to kill any bacteria. Hope this helps. Please keep us updated.

  2. Hi! I think my hornworm is dead because the dirt I had for it to pupate was too wet, so I dumped it out & he was stiff with his head cocked up. I’m sad if he’s gone. I put him in some shredded news paper & keeping him in the warm house, hoping he’s just in diapause. I’ll have to wait & see. Any advice/ideas? Please let me know. Thanks, April

  3. My daughter picked up a Hornworm as a pet, and now it’s in PUPA stage.
    Problem is, its WINTER, and we need to know at what point we can put it in the fridge to try and keep it from becoming a moth before the weather warms up.
    He has been a PUPA since Feb 28th.
    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  4. At what point in the Pupae stage can I put it in the fridge?
    It’s still winter and I’d like to have it go to moth in the spring.

    • Hello Vincent,
      I am unaware of when to put the pupae in the fridge. If you do find this information out, please let me know your findings.

  5. I know if the hornworm eat tomato leaves it becomes toxic, but what about if it eats the actual tomato fruit? Would it be toxic to feed to my bearded dragin??

  6. So I received my hornworms in a container about a week and a half ago. There are six of them in one container. The company also provided six additional containers and extra food along with cedar shavings and six brushes. The hornworms are getting bigger and the little container seems to be too tight. Can I transfer each of the hornworms into the additional containers and adding food to the bottom of them container? The container that the six hornworms came in also had a yellow net in it. Do I need to place a net or something similar in the other containers?

    • Hello Margaret,
      The netting is for the hornworms to not have to be in the food 24/7. It gives them climbing material to get out of the food. I would say the netting is needed. But yes, you can definitely separate them into different containers; that wouldn’t be a problem. Try to get some netting in there for them though.

    • Hello Ari,
      I would worry more about the size of them. They get huge, then start digging to turn into moths. Their maturity isn’t affected much by the temperature I’d say.

  7. The best thing to feed the worms are Sweet potatoes. I have been doing this for years and the worms triple in size after 2 days. My bearded dragon loves them. .Sweet potatoes sliced

    • Hey Boyd,
      This is actually surprising. I have not met anyone who got their hornworms to eat anything else but hornworm chow. That’s awesome.

  8. I also got hornworms as feederes for my bearded dragons . I need to know what i can keep them in what to put in bottom for crwling in and can we feed them collard greens or anything like that .

  9. I got a tobacco horn worm a few months ago, I fed him spinach leaves and two days later he turned into the larvae stage, he was in it for a few months bit he recently turned a very dark brown colour and didn’t move at all when I poked him, when he usually wiggles a little bit. Is he dead? He was doing just fine until he turned super dark, his shell has warm and kinda mushy. I didn’t keep him under dirt, I had him in a plastic container, please help!

    • Hey Brianna,
      If the shell is mushy, I am sorry to say, he is most likely dead. It’s supposed to be hard.

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