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.

8 comments to Hornworm Care Sheet

  • diana serano

    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!!!!!

    • Billy

      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.

  • 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

  • Vincent Farrand

    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.

  • Vincent

    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.

    • Billy

      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.

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