Other common names: Silk Worm
Scientific name: Bombyx mori
The silkworm is the larva or caterpillar of the domesticated silkmoth, Bombyx mori. Silkworm cultivation began 5,000 years ago in China. "Sericulture" (the production of raw silk by raising silkworms) then spread to Korea and later to Japan and southern Asia.
Today, the silkworm moth lives only in captivity and can no longer survive independently in nature because it has lost the ability to fly. The Silkworms' natural diet is the mulberry tree (Morus sp.), but an artificial diet has also been developed to make silkworm cultivation easier.
Today, raising silkworms is a popular educational activity in schools, and silkworms are also widely used for feeding many reptiles, amphibians and other animals, and they offer great nutritional value.
Silkworms go through four stages of development: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Silkworm eggs hatch in about 6-20 days. The larva is the silkworm caterpillar, and caterpillars eat for about 26 days before spinning silk. It takes the caterpillar about 3 days to fully spin a cocoon and turn into a pupa. The moth emerges from the cocoon after about 21 days.
Since the silkworm grows so much, it must shed its skin four times while it is growing. These stages-within-a-stage are called "instars". The adult (imago) stage is the silkworm moth.
life cycle, favourite school project, Fun Silk worms, Great starter pet, silkworm eggs
fresh mulberry leaves, special dietary needs
mulberry leaves, decently warm room
There is just something about silkworms I will never grow tired of. I find their lifecycle to be as close as magical as one can get without going to Oz, and although all caterpilliars are the progenitors of moths and butterflies, it is only with the silkworm that one can see it every year, unless of course, you want to spend weeks andd weeks in the bush. Not that that is a problem; it is just that some of have to work for a living.
I have kept silkworms continiously for more than forty years, and in this time, I must have given away several tons of silk in the form of spun silhouettes, coccoons, unwound silk thread, and even some attempts at woven silk cloth. Of course, that was when I still thought since the Chinese can make silk cloth, anyone can; is a silly notion, but still.
For some reason or other, I have always had access to mulberry trees and leaves, but once as an experiment, I added some beetroot tops to their food, and I still have some of the pink coccoons they spun. Another time, I added some carrot tops, and I also still have some of the orange coccoons. However, little did I know at the time that the beetroot and carrot tops would eventually kill the worms, but in my defence, this happened when I was raising my very first batch of worms.
But here is the thing though: I have no practical use for silkworms. I do not feed them to my koi, because I feel sorry for them and I would never dream of feeding them to my poultry for the same reason, although I am certain the ducks chickens, and geese will enjoy them immensely. So why do I keep them, or more to the point, why have I kept silkworms for more than forty years?
Do I need a reason? Perhaps I do, and that reason is probably the way they demonstrate the cycle of life and death- of birth and rebirth, which is the way of the world, and something we all should perhaps be reminded of more often. I also think that my silkworms are not pets, at least not in the conventional sense; they are more in the way of a reminder of my own mortality- which is something I tend to forget about at times.
Silkworms as pets? Perhaps, but don't spend too much time on whether they represent some deep philosophical truth or not; they are after all just worms- or are they?.
From reinier1 Apr 22 2015 7:34AM
Interested in something a bit unconventional but unable to bite you?
One morning, I mentioned to my father that I had found a large mulberry tree a few streets away from us. I was just wondering if we could try the fruit. A few days later, I returned home to discover that he had bought 30 silkworms from the local pet store. When he heard the phrase "mulberry tree", he immediately thought of the pet silkworms he had kept as a child, and the mulberry leaves he had fed them. Apparently he decided it would be a fun project for me.
I was rather surprised, to say the least, but also delighted. I had been interested in various creepy-crawlies from a young age, and was eagerly looking forward to observing them throughout their life cycle. What other kind of creature undergoes such a dramatic metamorphosis?
We kept them in a large, clear container and filled the space with fresh leaves, twigs, and rocks. At first they were very small and cute to watch, especially while eating. Caterpillars somehow have a very endearing way of chewing on a leaf. As they grew larger and larger, they went through the leaves very quickly, and every morning I needed visited the mulberry tree to pick a new bunch. At some point in their growth, you can actually hear them chewing!
Silkworms are generally quite easy to keep and maintain, especially due to their small size and simple diet. However, one should be mindful of regularly removing their droppings to prevent mould growth. The container should also be fully cleaned of any debris every few days. They are creatures of delicate constitution - a few of our silkworms died of unknown causes.
After two weeks, several of the caterpillars started to spin silk here and there. I placed them in a more compact container, where they found a suitable niche and spun their cocoon. This was very fascinating to watch, and the end result was a beautiful, fluffy, golden cocoon.
The moths which emerge two weeks later couldn't fly, but mated in captivity and laid eggs. These eggs can be kept in the freezer and hatched the following spring. Raising silkworms is a great learning experience for children and curious adults alike!
*Silkworms are low-maintenance and very docile
*Watching their life cycles progress can be very interesting, especially the cocoon-spinning phase
*Quite bland in appearance
*Won't fetch a ball for you.
From Arianna Mar 20 2015 4:41AM