Leopard geckos are one of the most common exotic pets. These lizards usually live in deserts and come in a variety of colours. Like all other exotic pets, you need to follow some ground rules to properly maintain your lizard’s health.
First, you need to make sure your lizard has a balanced diet. They are completely insectivorous animals, meaning they only feed on insects. In the wild, hornworms are one of their favourite insects. Although hornworms don’t count as the perfect diet, it certainly adds variety and has good nutritional properties.
In this article, we are going to talk about whether hornworms are actually good for your leopard gecko and ways to feed them to your pet.
What Are Hornworms?
Hornworms are the early stages of a kind of moth. They have horn-shaped spikes on their bodies, hence the name “hornworm”. These horns or spikes are soft and non-toxic meaning your leopard gecko can easily swallow them.
Hornworms love to eat sweet fruits and leaves from plants such as tomatoes, eggplants, and different fruit trees. These worms are widespread across most regions in the U.S. and Southern Canada. They mostly come in blue or green colours and their appearance plays a vital role in attracting the leopard geckos.
Nutritional Value of Hornworms
Hornworms are well-known for their excessive moisture content. A hornworm has an 85% moisture content. They have a significant amount of calcium present and also contain a good amount of protein and fat.
Hornworms have the below-mentioned nutrition values.
Calcium: 40 g – 100 g
Moisture Content: 85%
In case you are having trouble keeping your leopard geckos hydrated, hornworms can be a good solution. With the added calcium content, the metabolism of your lizard remains optimum.
Although hornworms provide sufficient hydration, the lack of protein doesn’t make the perfect treat for leopard geckos. If you overfeed them hornworms, the excessive moisture content can cause diarrhoea.
Are Hornworms Harmful?
Hornworms used as staple feeders are docile and harmless but there are a few things that require close attention.
1. Wild Ones Can Be Toxic
It’s not advisable to feed your leopard geckos wild hornworms. Wild hornworms eat tomato leaves, beetles, and other leaves. These leaves can contain bacteria or parasites.
So, after eating wild hornworms, parasites may accumulate in your leopard gecko’s stomach. In the end, these parasites might affect the overall growth and health of your leopard geckos.
2. Can Cause Choking
You need to pick up hornworms carefully from domestic farms. The size of the hornworms matters because they can overgrow and become humongous. Often the matured leopard geckos can’t even digest or swallow a full-sized grown hornworm. Let’s talk more about the adequate size soon.
How Many Hornworms Should Your Gecko Eat?
Giving your leopard geckos too much food or too often will have consequences. You need to feed it the appropriate amount.
While feeding, give small geckos medium to small-sized hornworms. The large ones will be impossible for them to swallow, possibly resulting in choking. Therefore, you should provide the small ones with either 1 medium-sized hornworm or 2-3 small hornworms. Feed them twice or three times a week.
For adult geckos, you feed either 1 large hornworm, 2-3 medium-sized hornworms, or 3-4 small-sized ones. Unlike the small ones, only feed your adult leopard geckos once a week.
For matured geckos, you can give them larger hornworms. However, it depends on the size of your leopard geckos. Even if your pet lizard is an adult, it may not be able to swallow a fully grown hornworm. So, consider the size before feeding.
You can measure which sized hornworms will be perfect for your lizard. Here is an easy way to determine it: The hornworm must be smaller than the distance between your gecko’s eyes.
Tips on Feeding Hornworms
The below-mentioned tips can be helpful while feeding your leopard geckos these hornworms.
1. Ensure Variety
Don’t make hornworms part of their regular diet. First, these worms are expensive. Second, leopard geckos are very picky when it comes to food. So, if they get addicted to eating these, it will be challenging for you to change their food habits.
Moreover, hornworms lack protein content, which is important for your gecko’s growth. Thus, you need to feed other worms with at least 15-20% protein present. Some popular sources of protein are silkworms, isopods, and wax worms.
2. Monitor Them Closely
When you feed hornworms to your leopard geckos, you need to monitor how your gecko reacts. Usually, these worms are very brightly coloured which makes them appealing to the gecko. But some household geckos may not like to eat hornworms at all.
If that is the case, then don’t worry. There are plenty of other worms and supplements available to fulfil their diet.
3. Dust Them Properly
‘Dusting’ is an efficient way to ensure your leopard geckos are getting the necessary nutrients. Dusting is a process of applying a coating of nutritious powder over the hornworms. So, when your gecko eats the worm, it also gets the added nutrients it requires.
As hornworms lack protein, it’s a good idea to dust the hornworms with protein powder for better growth. Take a bag of protein powder and put the hornworms in the bag. Stir the bag gently to apply a firm coating over the worm. After that, feed the coated worm to your gecko.
4. Use Suction Cup Feeder
If you add variety to the feeding style, geckos will become more proactive in eating. You can buy a suction cup feeder to feed the hornworms to your leopard geckos. These cups are escape-proof so you do not have to spread the insects all over the gecko’s habitat.
Hornworms are great for your leopard geckos but you should not make it a regular treat. Since they are high in moisture content and low in protein, you should only feed them once or twice a month and supplement them with other nutritional insects.
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