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Wormy action in silk production

Updated: May 13, 2020

When you run your fingers though lustrous silk products, many of us don't realise that this lovely fibre is derived from a worm i.e. the silkworm known in latin as Bomb mori. The worm is the caterpillar of the Bombyx mori moth. The moth is important because it makes the silk, and for Mulberry silk the worm and the silk production process is totally dependent on humans who feed it mulberry leaves.

Female silkworm lays about 500 eggs at a time. She lays eggs on the leaves of mulberry trees. The eggs are covered with gelatinous secretion by which they stick to the leaves. Female moth (silkworm) lays eggs and die after laying eggs as she does not eat anything. The eggs are kept in a cool place so that they can be stored for a long time. In a favourable condition, they hatch into larva. Larvae are produced in about 2 weeks from eggs at a temperature of 18 to 25 degree Celsius.

The cocoon is made of one thread of raw silk from 300 to 900 meters (1000 to 3000 feet) long. The fibers are very thin. About 2,000 to 5,000 cocoons are needed to make a pound of silk.

If the animal is allowed to survive after spinning its cocoon, it will make a hole in the cocoon when it exits as a moth. This would cut the threads and ruin the silk. Instead, silkworm cocoons are thrown into boiling water, which kills the silkworms and also makes the cocoons easier to unravel. Often, the silkworm itself is eaten.

The adult silkworms (moths) cannot fly. The silkworm-moths have wings about 2 inches wide and a white hairy body. Females and males are similarly colored. Adult silkworms have small mouths and do not eat.

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