Can Tarantulas Eat Hornworms? Can Tarantulas Digest Them?

Do you have a pet tarantula at home and want to add a bit of variety to its diet? Hornworms might have caught your attention because they are easily available at pet feeder stores. But can tarantulas eat hornworms? Let’s find out!

For most people, the idea of a giant poisonous spider brings up only one name – the tarantula. And why not? More than 1,500 species of tarantula are roaming the earth.

But considering their lifecycle and food habits, this arachnid may be just another gentle giant in our ecosystem. And many people love keeping them as pets, and obviously, feeding them the best possible diet becomes a big question for such pet parents.

Today, let us find out about the tarantula’s diet and what kind of food keeps them healthy.

can tarantulas eat hornworms
Ariadne the Tarantula

Are Hornworms a Nutritious Diet for Tarantulas?

Tarantulas are natural hunters who feed on small creatures like insects, lizards, pinky mice, moths, and worms. Hornworms are also part of a tarantula’s diet. If you have a tarantula at home, hornworms may be a good idea to give to them.

Yes, hornworms are nutritious. They are high on protein (9%) but low on fat (~3%), with 85% moisture content and a high amount of calcium (nearly 46.4 mg./100 g of body weight).

They are a great water source, obviously, but if you buy them from a good breeder, they can also be a source of antioxidants and carotenoids. This depends on the diet their breeder fed them. These chemicals help in repairing damaged cells and improving immunity.

This makes them good feeder insects for many common household pets, such as geckos, lizards, and of course, tarantulas. These worms are soft, and spiders can digest them easily.

For bigger spiders and pregnant female tarantula, hornworms can be added once a week as part of their diet. This adds both nutrition as well as variety to their meals.

For mature spiders who are refusing other food for some reason, hornworms are a tasty and filling snack that will help them to gain strength.

Do Spiders Eat Hornworms in the Wild?

Yes, they do. In the wild, spiders can hunt for hornworms which are amongst the largest insects on the planet (almost four inches long by the time they are ready to pupate).

Fully-grown hornworms can make up about two days of a tarantula’s diet. The spiders take their time to digest the worms fully.

In captivity, worms are a great source of food for tarantulas since they need live insects to feed on. The best idea is to gut load hornworms, mealworms, and other insects and feed them to your tarantula.

What Are The Negatives of Feeding Hornworms?

Sometimes, hornworms can harm your tarantulas without you even knowing it. Wild hornworms feed on plants of the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants, and tobacco.

Hornworms eat and store within them toxins that come from these plants, and these toxins can harm your spider.

Apart from this, there can be quite a few cons to using hornworms if you buy them from a dealer.

  • When you are buying hornworms at a pet store, they can be very expensive
  • Finding a reputed supplier can be difficult.
  • Hornworms grow very big, very fast, so you need to buy them young and feed them quickly.
  • If you aren’t able to feed them in time, hornworm caterpillars will turn into adult moths that are difficult to contain and lay eggs very quickly.

Can Tarantulas Eat Hornworms

Can You Use Them as a Primary Feeder?

While they enjoy eating hornworms because of their size and softness, you should probably use other food instead of hornworms as their primary food.

Tarantulas are very selective eaters, and there is a chance your spider will not eat any worm you offer them.

Neither are hornworms enough to meet all the nutritional value that tarantulas need. Especially if your tarantula is younger, the best idea is to keep a balanced diet of different protein sources that keep them growing.

Moreover, growing tarantulas need to have a varied diet. A singular food source might not be good for a tarantula since the spiders will get tired of eating it.

A hornworm-exclusive diet can also cause digestive problems because hornworms are nearly 85% water, and too much water can cause diarrhea in your tarantula.

What Type Should You Feed?

If you are considering feeding your tarantula hornworms, feed them container-bred only. This eliminates the chances of your spider eating something toxic.

People with tarantulas always go for larger insects when trying to feed the spider. While this could be helpful for fully-grown spiders, a growing spider needs a little more check on its diet.

The spider should also be fed worms that are smaller in size. Most baby tarantulas will not be able to eat full-grown hornworms and may develop digestive problems.

Breeding Hornworms To Feed Your Tarantula

While you can find hornworms on tomato plants and tobacco leaves, you cannot use those for feeding your pet. Captive-bred hornworms are the best way to ensure there are no toxins in them.

Breeding hornworms is not a simple task, but their rapid growth rate makes them a good option as a feeder. Here are the important things you need to know about breeding hornworms at home.

Feeding the Feeders

Be it tomato hornworms or tobacco hornworms; the insects are very low maintenance. When breeding them, all you need to do is keep them well fed. Most worm cans bought at a pet store will contain a layer of hornworm chow.

Once this layer runs out, you can switch to their usual diet, like leaves from tomato or tobacco plants that will be sufficient for all the worms living inside.

Can Tarantulas Eat Hornworms

How Much Time Do They Take To Grow?

Hornworms are famous for their rapid growth. A hornworm caterpillar will already be three or four inches long at around three weeks. The length depends on the diet you are providing and what kind of temperatures they are living at.

If you do not want them to grow very big, keep them at a cooler temperature of 45-55 degrees F to stunt their growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

What worms can a tarantula eat?

Tarantulas eat a large number of insects and bugs in the wild as well as in captivity. The common types of worms that a tarantula can eat include mealworms, silkworms, earthworms, and super worms.

You can also offer them the occasional vertebrate like a pinky mouse to fatten them up.

What pets can eat hornworms?

Many pet reptiles and spiders love hornworms. These include geckos, bearded dragons, chameleons, and tarantulas.

Mammals and rodents like hedgehogs and hamsters also enjoy an occasional meal of hornworms. Hornworms are easy to breed, don’t require much food, and their bright green color makes them attractive to most pets.

Can striped knee tarantulas eat hornworms?

The striped knee tarantula has the same diet as an ordinary tarantula. These spiders can also eat hornworms.

It is best only to offer captive-bred hornworms and to gut-load them with a high protein diet to increase their nutritional content before you feed them to your striped knee tarantula.

Do spiders eat hornworms?

Yes, spiders eat hornworms. They are a good source of protein and calcium, low in fat, and can’t move fast, so they are easy prey for spiders.

Moreover, hornworms don’t have an exoskeleton and are squishy to eat. They are easy to digest as well.

Wrap Up

Hornworms are a great addition to your tarantula’s diet. These worms are low maintenance, have good nutritional value, and are tasty snacks.

Moreover, they can grow to be quite large, so even a single hornworm can be equal to a whole meal for a growing tarantula. Thank you for reading!


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

13 thoughts on “Can Tarantulas Eat Hornworms? Can Tarantulas Digest Them?”

  1. i have recently moved to Crete and my neighbours have told me about a worm that resides here.i have experienced this on many occasions on my virandas.they call it the stink worm.If you tread on it,it produces a foul smell.what is this insect?

  2. Great photos of a wonderful caterpillar, congratulations!
    This beautiful animal is a fully grown larva of Theretra capensis.

    Best wishes from Berlin,

    • We were hoping you would come through with this ID for us Bostjan. Thanks for all your assistance with Sphingidae identifications over the years.

  3. Great photos of a wonderful caterpillar, congratulations!
    This beautiful animal is a fully grown larva of Theretra capensis.

    Best wishes from Berlin,

  4. Hi there,
    I have found a horn lava Silver stipe- hawk moth in My garden Cape Town . I would like to know what it eats in order to show my two daughters the transition from lava to moth?

  5. Hi there,
    I have found a horn lava Silver stipe- hawk moth in My garden Cape Town . I would like to know what it eats in order to show my two daughters the transition from lava to moth?

  6. I reared a hawkmoth from the Kogelbaai area from egg to moth and its markings were virtually identical to this one. It was identified as the Cream Stripe Hawk Moth (Theretra cajus).


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