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Tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta)


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Hi all

I'm always seeking for a variation in food for my bearded dragons (well, they already eat better than I do) and found something promising: tobacco hornworms (Manduca sexta)! Easy to breed, fast reproduction, good size, and nice appearance.

But how can I get them in Switzerland? They are quite frequent in nature and used for research reasons and as pet food, which would make it easy to get some captive or wild caught ones from the USA. But they are stated as 'pest' there too leading maybe to 'legal difficulties' in exporting...

Any ideas on how I can get some from over the ocean?

Grüessli

Andreas

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Hi all

I'm always seeking for a variation in food for my bearded dragons (well, they already eat better than I do) and found something promising: tobacco hornworms (Manduca sexta)! Easy to breed, fast reproduction, good size, and nice appearance.

But how can I get them in Switzerland? They are quite frequent in nature and used for research reasons and as pet food, which would make it easy to get some captive or wild caught ones from the USA. But they are stated as 'pest' there too leading maybe to 'legal difficulties' in exporting...

Any ideas on how I can get some from over the ocean?

Grüessli

Andreas

With all of the problems they cause in the U.S. definitely check on the regulations in your region. These are not something you want to have with you if people don't want you to have them...see? Good luck!

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Regulations in Switzerland: No obvious ones... they say one needs to fill in a form (for all sorts of phytophage and feeding insects and such for terrarias) and give them infos about the species, its pest potential and so on (well... if I have to inform them on that point...)!

M. sexta would not survive here I guess. Really problematic animals should be mentioned somewhere by name but M. sexta isn't one of them.

Besides: They are so careless at the duty and just do something if you declare the package correctly (that meas: wasting time until the pets die).

First I don't care that much on what people think of my hobbies (couldn't swallow that much Prozac) and second if people don't know that I have them... Or if they do they would recognize them as beautiful butterflies being much better than all my roaches... see? ;)

So it's theoretically no problem on my side of the big lake...

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You could always catch wild specimens, breed them, and raise the offspring on artificial diet. Tobacco and Tomato leaves are toxic to your bearded dragon, so if the hornworms eat the leaves of those plants, and you feed those to your beardie, it will die. If you raise the hornworms on artificial diet, then feed those to your beardie, that is ok, but NEVER feed wild caught. So mabye buy artificial diet and breed ones caught by you.

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@Zephyr: Thought so too but unfortunately it's not...

@Orin: That would be great!

@Peter: Thanks! I'll check if they deliver to Switzerland

@Keith: Well, I already know that they accumulate nicotine as a powerful defense mechanism but thanks anyway for that info!

Because the only tobacco easily available here around is in the form of cigarettes and tomatos don't grow that good on my balcony (especially not in winter ;) ) I'm forced to feed them the artificial stuff (they seem to eat some grain sprouts too).

You could always catch wild specimens
: Well, I nearly tried to but due to the fact that they don't exist in Central Europe I consider that attempt as quite fruitless... :)

I first thought about a deal: Roaches for hornworm eggs (especially because here around roaches cost about a tenth than yours and the wild collected eggs are for free making it a deal good for you and good for me). But I've been told that your law seems to be quite restrictive and so I don't think that anyone of you guys would risk to export a potential pest insect and import another one... (That'll be a deal bad for you and bad for you, wouldn't it?)

Grüessli

Andreas

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Andreas,

Here is a link to a guy who uses them in lab research in Germany and he may be able to help you out. They are frequently used in research because of their size and because they are so easy to rear in captivity on artificial chow as well as their host plant. I have a beardie and although he is a picky eater (UGH!) my chameleon loves hornworms. You do have to raise them on the chow as the build up of toxins from their host plants (family: Solanaceae) are harmful. If Jan's contact info is not up to date send me an email/PM and I will see if I have a more recent one for him, but try via his site first.

good luck!

lele

http://www.jan-dolzer.de/

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Hi lele

Thanks a lot! This guy does no more work in the group in Marburg but I contacted one of the group and got a positive answer hours later!!

Well, thats for the good part of the story...

The bad (VERY BAD) thing is, that M. sexta needs to be kept in an underpressure ventillated or specially air-filtered room because the small wing-scales are strong allergenes causing for sure hayfever symptoms sooner than later. At least the guy working with them has never heard of any group without that problem (and that's the reason why research labs keep M. sexta always in special rooms).

I could try to keep them on the balcony during summer, but that's not a good option for me. I think I'll have to wait until we have a bigger flat where I can set up my own isolated critter room...

Besides: The guy told me that they are easy to rear in comparison to other sphingidae but it seems to be quite an effort, far from what we're used from roaches. But that's more a challenge than a hindrance except for that allergy-thing.

Grüessli

Andreas

P.S. You know Jan personally? How comes, he's from germany and your not (or does NH mean Kreis Neuhaus and not the state)? :blink::D

I,ve seen that you keep saturniids: Did you ever had problems with the scales or is it unique to Manduca?

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  • 7 months later...

what would you be able to feed (or whats in the hornworm chow), the larva and moths in order to breed them successfullly. i am unable to find a setup situation to look at to try to figure out the best way to keep them. would a room with an air filter work as wel, even if it was set up to suck the air right up from one side of the enclosure?

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  • 4 weeks later...

@laughing dog

M. sexta is nearly the only bigger moth/butterfly easily kept on an artificial diet over several generations. In the USA you can buy the caterpillar diet online, prepare it yourself (there are some recepies online, mainly in older scientific publications as can be found with www.sciencedirect.com) or feed them tobacco leaves.

A good filter (HEPA) to suck away the air and the tiny wing-scales (being responsible for allergies) should work fine.

See for example: www.manducaproject.com

@Tleilaxu

I know that not everyone develops an allergy but the likelihood for doing so is comparatively high especially for people already susceptible to allergy related reactions (according to some labs working with M. sexta it seems to be around 10% of the people even when using air filters and respiratory masks :blink: ). I have a very strong allergy against meal worms (even holding a sealed bag with a few dried worms lets my eyes itch and turn red, constricts my trachea and nose etc. within minutes), my wife has a slight cold-induced asthma and one of our dogs has hayfever (sounds stupid but his immune system is encoded by junk DNA :D )... the perfect setting that one or the other would start sneezing and coughing sooner than later.

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@laughing dog

M. sexta is nearly the only bigger moth/butterfly easily kept on an artificial diet over several generations. In the USA you can buy the caterpillar diet online, prepare it yourself (there are some recepies online, mainly in older scientific publications as can be found with www.sciencedirect.com) or feed them tobacco leaves.

A good filter (HEPA) to suck away the air and the tiny wing-scales (being responsible for allergies) should work fine.

See for example: www.manducaproject.com

@Tleilaxu

I know that not everyone develops an allergy but the likelihood for doing so is comparatively high especially for people already susceptible to allergy related reactions (according to some labs working with M. sexta it seems to be around 10% of the people even when using air filters and respiratory masks :blink: ). I have a very strong allergy against meal worms (even holding a sealed bag with a few dried worms lets my eyes itch and turn red, constricts my trachea and nose etc. within minutes), my wife has a slight cold-induced asthma and one of our dogs has hayfever (sounds stupid but his immune system is encoded by junk DNA :D )... the perfect setting that one or the other would start sneezing and coughing sooner than later.

thanks, and wow that sucke about all your house holds allergies. are you allergic to roaches to by any chance? i ask as im now learning that roaches do cause reactions in people over time occasionally. luckily i only have to content with stupid mouse allergies that are bad, but still may be worth it for snake food breeders as well as pets.

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thanks, and wow that sucke about all your house holds allergies. are you allergic to roaches to by any chance? i ask as im now learning that roaches do cause reactions in people over time occasionally. luckily i only have to content with stupid mouse allergies that are bad, but still may be worth it for snake food breeders as well as pets.

lol i forgot i wanted to add using them as a food source as well, so was curious about that, as i cant find sources on cultivating for food source for herps and inverts. i have found in the past that some wild animals seek th seek them out in the garden on tomato plants, as well as fire bellied toads after tasting them if let out to free roam in the garden, so wondering if why like my toad, prefers poisonous inverts, if they utilize the toxins as there own, or if its just an easy abundant food source they have become immune to as many scientists assume. ???

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I'm luckily not (yet) allergic to roaches but I guess to some mites in theire bins (that means moist culture is better for me than dry ones cause they don't dust around). This allergies come from my childhood and I didn't develop new ones.

Allergies to roaches are quite "common" for species like Periplaneta. It is believed that this is less due to the species (by the way; the concrete proteins usually causing the allergy are known) but because of their high frequency (in flats/houses). There is little you can do to avoid an allergy besides good hygiene... either fate hits you or not ;) .

I have quite some difficulties to understand your second post (don't know whether it's your fault or mine...) but I suppose that I got the point you're after:

Caterpillars of M. sexta feed mainly tobacco leaves which contain nicotine (a very potent insecticide) and similar alcaloids. I don't know the exact mechanism of resistence, typically it's a mutation in the receptors (like nicotinic acetylcholine receptor) and/or it's detoxification by metabolism or efflux pumps. Because caterpillars of M. sexta sequestrate nicotine to protect them from predators I guess it's a mutation. That means that tobacco hornworms are immune to tobacco/nicotine (they have nearly no competitors on this plant) and in addition use the toxins as their own (they are toxic for most predatory). This and their fast reptoduction makes them a very dreaded pest insect on tobacco plantations.

If you rais the caterpillars on an artificial diet or on a plant without nicotine (partially possible because they are not that plant specific) they are completely harmless, free of any toxin and can be used as food for herps (like most larvae of pupating inverts they contain a lot of fat and shouldn't be used as food too often).

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i knew about the allergy, and the use of tobacco and tomato plants and such as defense by them, but was under the impression that they would be harder to get to take other non toxic fresh plants, as well as not knowing what types of fresh, and dry foods theyd take (for instance like whatever the commercial diets are made from).

the mess up is mine, as i can go over it many times, but for some reason my comp hiccups, so some times things doesnt come out right, along with the fact that i am just not that good on a comp. also i wander off topic at times.

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One recipe is as follows [T. Ojeda-Avila, H. Arthur Woods, R.A. Raguso, Journal of Insect Physiology 49 (2003), 293–306]:

Casein 36 g

Wheat germ 80 g

Torula yeast 16 g

Sucrose 32 g

Wesson’s salt 12 g

Cholesterol 3.5 g

Ascorbic acid 5 g

Carrageenan 12 g

Water 733 ml

Some use agar-agar instead of carrageenan or other yeast species. There are even recipes without wheat germs or boosted with vitamines & trace elements.

Besides: Wesson's salt contains several salts (mainly calcium, potassium, phosphate, and carbonate) and some trace elements.

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well thank you very much. what would be the most widely accepted, and available live plants, that the hornworms would accept? as my wife would like the moths, id wonder about if it is just fine or the best to use sugar water for them, or are there any other ideas to prolong the life of the moths?

i was put under the immpreesion that the hornworms would be an excellent sourse of protiens as well as fats for herps and inverts. are there any other concerns as well as the high fat content?

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