Worm colonies: Silkies & Hornworms, no luck with BSFL


So, our Snowflake's about 5 months old now. As a baby, the breeder fed her Dubia and BSFL, along with daily salads. Since getting her, I've done so much research and discovered that the bigger variety of feeders provided, the healthier the dragon will be. Ultimately, that's what I want for Snowflake.

So, I decided to establish some feeder colonies. Of course a Dubia colony is a given, and fairly easy and common. However, in the interest of that variety, I also wanted to have silkworms, Hornworms, and BSFL colonies. So I ordered a batch of 500+ silkworm eggs from Mulberry Farms, as well as 6 cups of Hornworms. I ordered 500 BSFL from Flukers Farms.

Here's what my experiences have entailed so far:

Of the 500+ Silkworm eggs, I managed to hatch out over 850 tiny Silkworms. (They guarantee 500 PLUS- I was shocked and very pleased). We had absolutely no issues getting the Silkies to hatch. The room Snowflake is in in our home stays warm, due to the heat lamps, so it ended up being a giant incubator in itself. Ambient temps stay right around 80-82° and we increased humidity near the eggs by placing a moist sponge near the Petri dish. The toughest part was transferring the tiny hatchlings from the Petri dish into new containers and keeping the Silkworm chow moist and fresh until they were big enough to switch to Mulberry leaves. (We are fortunate to have several Mulberry trees available to us, so plenty of leaves to feed). Snowflake got Silkworms as a staple for 3 weeks, until they cocooned up to pupate. Now, the Silkmoths are emerging, and I have mating Silkmoths. They ARE laying eggs, which are turning dark after a few days to indicate they're fertile, so into the fridge they're going to simulate "winter". I won't know my success with those for another 6-8 weeks, but so far I'm optimistic.

We had a total of about 25 Hornworms that got too big to feed Snowflake, that we allowed to pupate. When they started emerging from their pupae, we built a custom moth enclosure from wood and screen that measures 4' tall x 2'x2' square. Into the enclosure the moths went, with paper towels as substrate and hummingbird nectar. We've had 1 or 2 new moths emerging from their pupae each day, so have been fairly lucky in having a pretty steady stream of eggs being laid. Over the last several days, we've had about 60 or so tiny Hornworms hatch, and have a lot more eggs still to do so. I'm hopeful the tiny worms will survive and grow quickly to be feeder size soon. I plan to hold back some worms to pupate again to try and repeat the cycle.

I kept the BSFL worms at a lower temperature using a styrofoam cooler and ice packs. Once the worms started to pupate, I placed them into a custom keeper I built by modifying a 56qt Sterilite Tub. I cut the 4 sides out and replaced with screen, as well as did the same to the top. I made the BSFL container smaller than the Hornworm/Sphinx moth enclosure, because the flies are so much smaller in size. The Soldier Flies began emerging from their pupae, and flew around the enclosure, but never mated up. I placed the recommended cardboard "laying boxes" above composting veggies, yet the BSFL never would mate up or lay eggs. I tried several different composting materials/foods to encourage mating, yet nothing seemed to work. Does anyone have any suggestions or advice on how I can get them to mate? I'd really like to have a BSFL colony as well, to round out my staple feeders, but BSFL seems to be the one that I am having no luck with. The flies just eventually died in the enclosure, never having mated or laid eggs.

I will say that so far I'm pretty pleased with the Silkworm and Hornworms experience. They seem to be doing well with colonizing thus far, and I'm hopeful I'll be able to establish a variety of healthy, inexpensive feeders for Snowflake. My only hold-up is the BSFL. Could the fact that I'm keeping them indoors have anything to do with the lack of success? Is the space they're in too small? Everything I've seen online for BSFL was on such a much larger scale, with huge areas dedicated to BSFL. I'm not quite invested to do such a huge colony. I just need enough to feed Snowflake, and any future reptiles we may acquire. I want to avoid any possibility of parasites, so we have designated Snowflake her own bedroom to house these feeder colonies alongside her tank. I can move the BSFL outdoors, I'm just worried about possible parasites if I do so. I feel like keeping them indoors lowers that potential risk.

Any advice or input would be greatly appreciated!


i know you did post this a little while ago, but i thought i could give a suggestion in case you need one.
do you have your BSFL bin set up at a window/close to any sunlight? after doing a lot of research myself, i think the problem you MAY be facing is that the flies you're hatching aren't mating because they are lacking enough light to encourage mating?

i read that having them at a window that gets lots of hours of sunlight helps the flies mate, because apparently without a strong, bright source of light they won't mate and will just die.

i myself am going to try to breed BSFL inside this winter so i can have a constant source of food for my baby beardie Valor, so i will be doing a similar setup to what you have, plus a bright light to offer some heat and lots of light to encourage the flies to breed!! i hope it will work, and i suggest you try it to see if it does too.

if i can find the links, i can link a few bulbs other BSFL breeders have used and that have supposedly worked. would you like me to?


Original Poster
Thank you! I'm in my second attempt at trying to colonize the BSFL right now, so I appreciate that you took time to post. I did not have the first batch near a window or any sunlight, so I will definitely make that adjustment. I'm afraid to take the colony outside, as I worry that parasites might infest them.

As for temps in my breeding area, it stays pretty consistent around 85° and the lights are on a timer to be on from 9 am - 11pm. But those are typical LED lights in the overhead fixture and the reptile lamps (directed at Snowflake's tank). If you can recommend lighting that may work better I will definitely look into it! I would much rather invest a bit of money up-front to create a long-term supply. I can also try relocating the BSFL colony to an area of the house that has lots of sunlight from a sliding glass door. (It'll just drive my cats crazy, lol.)

Thank you again for the advice, I really appreciate it!
no worries at all!! i had just remembered seeing you post and i was doing some more research for my own BSFL and im glad i could offer my help!!

i did read that even a minimum of 2-3 hours of direct sunlight through a window could stimulate breeding, so maybe having them at the sliding glass door for 2-3 hours could help, and then for a couple more hours you can try those bright lights. i read they need to be VERY bright, and like 4000 lumens or so. i saw people link those really bright white synthetic sunlight bulbs, and when i read the reviews it appeared to be the kind of light people use to grow plants indoor.

i found the link so you can take a look if you want!!

i think that one or a similar one is what i will be getting for myself to try out!!

but anyways, best of luck!!! and feel free to message me or update this thread about any updates because i'd love to hear about when you get success!


I have a question on your hornworm breeding. Today I just found out one of my hornworms pupated, I read that they need light to be able to emerge into moths. Do you have them next to a window or do you use some kind of bulb?

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