Whitney has raised and bred different species of geckos, snakes, lizards, tortoises, and other exotics since 2003.
How to Raise Silkworms
Silkworms are a great staple feeder for your reptile. Here are some of the reasons they are one of the better feeders for your pet:
- They are packed with nutrients
- They have no smell
- They can't jump or run away
- They cannot bite
- They are slow-moving
Silkworms can be a great feeder, but of all the feeder insects, they are hardest to breed—although it's not impossible to accomplish.
Materials Needed for Breeding Silkworms
- Plastic containers
- Wire or toilet paper roll for worms to cocoon
- Petri dishes
- Silkworm chow
- Mulberry leaves (if available)
How to Set Up Their Habitat
Since silkworms do not drink water, they get their needed moisture from the food they eat. You will need a covered container to raise them in. The container should be almost air-tight to prevent the food from drying out but have small holes to allow air exchange.
- Add the toilet paper roll for the silkworms to climb and cocoon on.
- Add food, either a commercial-made silkworm chow or mulberry leaves. Silkworms eat 24/7, so food must be constantly provided in the container.
- A good temperature to keep silkworms at would range from 78-88 degrees F.
How to Breed Silkworms
Raising and keeping silkworms alive is one thing, but breeding is another story. Silkworms will spin a cocoon about 28 days from the time they hatched if they are raised at approximately 85 degrees, fed, and maintained regularly. Place a piece of paper or a paper towel on the bottom of the container, so that when the moths emerge and are ready to lay eggs, the paper can be removed with the eggs, easily.
Once the moths emerge, they will mate. (Females are significantly larger than male moths.) They stay mated for about a day, and after separation, the female lays eggs, while the male looks for another female to mate with. Sometimes another male will grab the female before she can lay eggs.
How many eggs does a female lay?
Each female will lay between 200–500 golden yellow eggs! Put paper on the bottom of the container and remove empty cocoons as the moths emerge. The moths will lay eggs on the paper.
How can I tell if they are fertile?
When first laid, all eggs are lemon-yellow. After three days, they will turn white if they are infertile, or turn black if they are fertile. Fertile eggs usually hatch about two weeks after being laid in the middle of the summer, but they usually won't hatch unless subjected to "winter" in your refrigerator for at least several weeks.
How do I store the eggs?
Wait until the eggs turn black before putting them in the Ziplock bag in the refrigerator. Once you take eggs out of the fridge, they will hatch in about 7-20 days. Direct sunlight in the morning for a few hours quickens the hatching process.
How do I hatch the eggs?
To incubate the eggs, place about 200 of them on a petri dish. Keep the eggs between 78 and 88 degrees F. An incubator works best at keeping the temperatures stable. The eggs can hatch at room temperature but will take longer.
Place a damp paper towel next to the petri dish to keep the humidity levels high. Once the eggs have turned from a purplish color to a light bluish/gray, shows signs that they should hatch within a couple of days.
How do I feed the hatchlings?
When the eggs begin to hatch, prepare silkworm chow, and place it in the refrigerator to it will be ready. Once they start to hatch, place small bits of chow in the petri dish, so the emerging worms will have something to munch on. Remember silkworms eat constantly, so always provide food. Try not to let the chow touch the unhatched eggs.
It is better to keep the young silkworms in the incubator to better assure their survival rates. After about 8 to 12 days, you can remove the worms from the petri dish, and place them into a small plastic container.
How do I prevent mold from developing?
Remember to clean the container to prevent mold. Mold develops from high temperatures and high humidity. If the worms are covered too long, mold can develop and may kill the worms. If mold develops, grate about 1/2 inch of chow all over the worms with a cheese grater. Several hours later, as the worms crawl to the top of the new chow pile you can peal and lift them off the moldy chow and place them into a new container.
General Care Tips
Remember to always provide the silkworms, of all ages, with food, either chow or mulberry leaves. Remember that young silkworms have weak jaws, so if you are using Mulberry leaves, provide only the smallest, newly grown leaves.
smile1999 on June 14, 2012:
hi i got about 8 silkworms from a friend and its been almost a month and they're really big but theres no silk.... has something gone wrong?
hayzodude on May 18, 2012:
i have 7 silkworms, and 6 of them are sealed in their own cocoons. but one of my silkworms appears to be a bit black and has shrunk. he has been busy spinning a cocoon for 5 days now, and i'm really worried. it was normal in the past few days.
Horse20 from South Africa on September 19, 2011:
I am wondering,I have 8 silkies and from hatching am feeding them beetrut leafs. Will they still servive without mulberry leafs? I don't have a mulberry tree near me. What should i do?
Shanaaz on August 13, 2011:
Hi I'm also from South africa. generally grow my silkies on mulberry leaves but are trying lettuce for the first time. I must admit the worms are not as healthy and none have made it to cocoon stage yet. I'm having the same problem as Dave. many are found dead in a on a wet spot and are black and sometimes flat. Any idea why?
PenGuin on February 25, 2011:
I'm with Marie on they're fine on whatever you feed them from birth. I grew up in South Africa and kept silkies pretty much all through my childhood. Sometimes kept several shoeboxes - one with mulberry, one with white cabbage, one with red cabbage - never tried lettuce though. The lifecycle takes approx 3 months with approx 2-3 weeks from lay-to-hatch, 4 weeks to grow, molting 4 times as they are "very hungry caterpillars" and outgrow their own skeleton/skin!
curtis on December 21, 2010:
ok i wanna start breeding silkworms can somebody tell me the easiest way to this please!! what happens if the moths fly out of the container what can i do to prevent that?
Whitney (author) from Georgia on December 10, 2010:
Generally, you want to start with a larger collection.
jazashdenzel on December 10, 2010:
Do you think 7 silk worms is enough to try to breed them? We did have a lot more when we got them from the prep class as "pets", but our lizard did enjoy eating them as tasty snacks!
Class 1S on November 03, 2010:
We are raising silkworms in our classroom, and we are wondering whether they can see? We're not sure if they can see or not. Can someone help us please?
Whitney (author) from Georgia on October 28, 2010:
I wouldn't worry too much. Just keep an eye on them. Sometimes they don't all grow at the same pace.
Sophie Mcgeady on October 27, 2010:
I need some help here i have just hatched silk wormes for the first time and i have never really looked after the babies. 2 of the silk worms are changed in colour and are big enough to see but the others are not very lively should i be worried what should i do???
Annoying9876543210 on October 22, 2010:
"Silkworms can eat lettuce, cabbage or beetroot leaves, but then you must feed the specific leaf FROM HATCHING. Whatever they eat "from birth" is the only plant they can eat the rest of their lives without dying." - Not quite! Silkworms can only survive and stay healthy on mulberry leaves. You can feed them lettuce, cabbage or beetroot leaves towards the end, maybe a week or a little longer before they spin their cocoons to get different colored cocoons (and they will switch to eating it after being fed with mulberry leaves for the first several weeks, mine did!), but by this time they have built up enough energy from the mulberry leaves to survive the ordeal. If you only feed the worms these other foods from when they hatch, they will die or be very sick puppies by the time they spin, I'm not sure they'll make it though... Mulberry leaves contain specific chemicals/nutrients that the other plant matter don't have and is essential to have healthy silkworms.
Someone on October 17, 2010:
How do ya tell the difference in male n female????
Marie on September 13, 2010:
Silkworms can eat lettuce, cabbage or beetroot leaves, but then you must feed the specific leaf FROM HATCHING. Whatever they eat "from birth" is the only plant they can eat the rest of their lives without dying.
rachael on June 15, 2010:
I really want to breed silkies -- can anyone help? This website helped a lot but I may need some more lol.
Joe MAMA on June 07, 2010:
i have a question that i would want someone to answer ASAP please,
i have 4 silkworms, do i have to have an incubator? do i have to put the eggs in a fridge?? if someone could please answer this for me. i would be very pleased. thankyou,
Jim Strutzin on June 02, 2010:
Any ideas on why silkworms are ideal for reptiles, perhaps they are healthier? Great hub and feedback.
reviewadon on April 19, 2010:
this brings back memories, I used to breed these thigns when I was a kid. (or at least I watched while my mum did it all!)
Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 08, 2010:
Is the food on the paper towels? If so the paper towels are draining the water out.
Dave on March 05, 2010:
Right now I have them on a pre mixed chow from silkworm breeders, the worms are housed in a rubber made container and the bottom is line with paper towel. Daytime temps are about 84 and nighttime temps are 79ish.
Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 05, 2010:
The spots are probably defecation. Are you mixing enough water into the dry mix in the beginning? Where are the silkworms housed? What are the daytime temperatures? What are the silkworms housed in?
Dave on March 04, 2010:
A couple hours tops, also, my silkworms are dieing off like crazy!!!! they're large silkworms and i keep the temps between 78 and 85 day and night, i came home from work today and there was like 7 dead silkworms out of like 20. They were all black and flat. There has to be something wrong, Also, i noticed that there are some wet spots on the papertowel, is that the silks urinating? or is that a problem, I'm not sure what im doing wrong, I need help though. Thanks a lot!!!
Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 04, 2010:
I've never had problems keeping the chow moistened. It only lasts for a day or so anyway. How long is yours lasting?
Dave on March 03, 2010:
How do you keep a stable temp without the chow drying out in just a couple hours ?
alana on February 27, 2010:
woww my silkworm eggs just hatched a few days ago and they are doing fine on lettuce!!!!! i have raised many silkworms on lettuce they are all fine soo what's the thing about only mullberry leaves
Whitney (author) from Georgia on February 08, 2010:
They can only eat mulberry leaves or the powder mixed with water.
Madeleen on February 06, 2010:
Just a question... If you start feeding silkworms mulberry leaves can you switch over to lettuce/cabbage/beetroot leaves ie. can you feed them a mixture or should you stick to one chosen diet?
xprincess9x on December 28, 2009:
heey i only have 1 silkworm left all the other 10 died! :(
Whitney (author) from Georgia on October 22, 2009:
Females are larger, much larger.
Celine Picard on October 22, 2009:
How do you now if a moth is a girl or a boy?
Allan on October 12, 2009:
South African Silkworms well that's what we call them. We can feed ours with Cabbage/lettuce/Betroot for red Cocoons and Mulberry. I used to have 3000 silkies but due to the cold winter many did not make it. I have round about nine silkies and I am wondering if there will be enough males and females. I have 1 white one and the rest have stripes is that a varriation
Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 13, 2009:
They'll coccoon around the food.
Cheyenne on June 12, 2009:
Just brought home silkworms from my sons class.. also have some of the "chow" they had at the school that was already made.. hoping they cocoon before I run out of it lol. Do you have to separate them from a food source before they will do so? or will they do it even with food around?
create on May 29, 2009:
Read the book Project mulberry very informative
DEBBIE on May 21, 2009:
We raise silkworms as part of our science unit in first grade. I have a ton of eggs...would anyone like them?
Sheldon on May 15, 2009:
u Can tel the male and the female apart the one with stripes is male
rachey on May 13, 2009:
secretscp, you shouldn't be feeding your iguana protein though! tsk tsk.
nicko guzman from Los Angeles,CA on April 17, 2009:
Silkworms are extinct in the wild annd are fully domesticated.They cannot fly unlike their wild,now extinct ancestors.Great hub.
Whitney (author) from Georgia on January 17, 2009:
You can check out a few websites online. they offer a powdered mulberry mix that you mix with water (if i remember correctly). You can use that instead of actual leaves.
secretscp on January 16, 2009:
This is really fascinating. I should try this for my iguana. Where can you get mulberry leaves if you don't know where to find the trees?
Whitney (author) from Georgia on December 15, 2008:
You can't tell until they're moths.
someone on December 15, 2008:
how can u tell if a silkworm is male or female?
Whitney (author) from Georgia on December 04, 2008:
try mulberryfarms other than that, i'm not sure.
Alice on December 04, 2008:
I'm trying to buy some silkworms for my kids to raise as pets, can you recommend any place that I can order from?
Whitney (author) from Georgia on November 15, 2008:
I would stick with just the leaves.
sally08 on November 14, 2008:
can silkworms eat mulberry berrys i have been feeding mine them and they eat them so igust want to no if they do.is it bad for them.
tamika on November 13, 2008:
how do you tell the diff between male and female??
bob on September 30, 2008:
one of my silkworms didn't spin its cocoon and has gone a dark yellow colour.what will happen to it?
Whitney (author) from Georgia on September 25, 2008:
Typically they are incubated in an incubator, such as a hovabator incubator. You should be able to just remove them.
BigJohnster on September 24, 2008:
Hey, how do you go about incubating the eggs? I believe they have to be glued down for some reason? what's the process of getting them in an incubator after moving them from the place they were laid? What should the eggs even be laid on?
thanks in advance!
-Big John Ster
CK147 on August 20, 2008:
18 YEARS AGO I had a 5th grade teacher who every year had them as a class project and many of us my self included took them home as pets and loved raising them.
Whitney (author) from Georgia on July 23, 2008:
for best results use an incubator. He may have the shoebox at more stable and warmer temps.
Silkworm fan on July 23, 2008:
Can I hatch silkworm eggs from a shoebox cuz that's what my next door nabour does and it does not work for me and i do exactly what he does.
Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 20, 2008:
They've actually been popular for several years...
someone on June 20, 2008:
Silkworms became popular like 3 months ago.
Whitney (author) from Georgia on June 19, 2008:
They've been pretty popular for the reptile community for several years now.
I'm not a silkworm farmer, so I wouldn't know about that one. ;-)
Health Conscious from South Florida - USA on June 18, 2008:
2Questions I have to ask.
When did silkworms become so popular?
Have any of you silkworms farmers ever spun any silk?
Another well written post - don't know why I read it but It was fun.
PC45 on May 25, 2008:
Quick question, does anyone know if the eggs stick to the surface they are first placed on, im afraid that if im not around they will either lay them on a towel covered with the fluid they release when they hatch from their coccoon or they will lay the eggs on the bottom and i wont be able to move them
Whitney (author) from Georgia on May 14, 2008:
Are the worms fully maured? You may consider raising the temps just a few degrees to induce the silkworms to coccoon.
uljanna on May 14, 2008:
Hi I have like 800 worms and they wont breed I have had them for a week and no breeding.Your page directions made 6 silkworms breed and that's it.but your info is helpful.
Whitney (author) from Georgia on May 06, 2008:
What do you need help with exactly?
angel on May 06, 2008:
i have to do a project for my school so i need some help seraching about silkworms but i have to write it in my own way please help me
Maddie Ruud from Oakland, CA on April 21, 2008:
Ah, brings back memories. I used to raise silk worms every year as a child, from the time I was about 4 to the time I was 8 or so.
Whitney (author) from Georgia on April 20, 2008:
What do you need help with?
Can't tell on April 20, 2008:
Whitney05, You are awesome! I want to raise silkworms. My best friend and I are doing an Animal Club. I have to raise Silkworms! I don't have anything to do it with. HELP!
michelle2020 on April 02, 2008:
yesmessenger on March 12, 2008:
To me these silkworms don't look very appetizing...
Whitney (author) from Georgia on March 10, 2008:
Not really. You can buy silkworm mix that you mix with water.
natalie on March 10, 2008:
i cant find malbruy leaves is there any thing else thay can eat
Whitney (author) from Georgia on January 15, 2008:
You should be able to see them moving around. I am not 100%, as I've never successfully hactched silkworms. But, at the slightest movement, definitely provide just a little bit of food.
Nancy1424 on January 15, 2008:
This is more of a question and if anyone knows the answer, please answer! I am hatching silkworms for the first time ever and i think they are getting close to hatching but my question is how can you tell when they are hatched they are pretty small so can you see them moving around? I want to make sure to give them food so they don't starve. Please help! Thanks.
Krysta on November 13, 2007:
Cool videos !
Carl on November 09, 2007:
Ouhhh!!! yuck, grouse , like totally disgusting!
Tiffany Haddett on November 09, 2007:
Wow that is cool!
Females seem able to retain sperm, but most mate several times each season. Additional clutches are produced at varying intervals, to a total of 8-10 eggs per female.
Breeding may occur spontaneously, but will be more likely if your anoles are subjected to cyclic changes in temperature, light and humidity levels that mimic natural seasonal variations. The Green Anole’s huge range extends from Oklahoma and South Carolina through Florida to Cuba and other Caribbean islands. A 6-8 week “winter” featuring reductions in temperature, humidity, and day-length is very effective in bringing them into breeding condition. Populations in the northern portions of the range experience longer and cooler winters than do those from the south. Most pet trade animals, however, are collected in central/south Florida and Louisiana.
Anoles do not require true hibernation or brumation. During the cooling off period, daytime temperatures can be kept at 81-83 F, with a warmer basking site available. At night, temperatures should be allowed to dip to 62-68 F (60-65 F if your anoles originated in the northern portion of the range). The daytime light cycle should gradually be reduced to 8 -10 hours. Mist once daily, but be sure that the anoles are drinking regularly. Lowering the humidity is not as critical as daylight and temperature reductions.
After 6-8 weeks, gradually increase day length, temperature, and humidity. Providing a wide variety of novel food items is a time-honored way of inducing reproduction in a wide variety of species. Try offering small roaches, silkworms, and wild-caught caterpillars, leaf hoppers, moths, beetles, earwigs and other invertebrates. Reptile misters and foggers can be used to dramatically increase humidity levels as the breeding season arrives. Please see these articles for further information on collecting insects.
Breeding and Raising Silkworms - pets
You may prefer to visit the website which is organized by topics and has photos, rather than this summary.
Silkworms are easy, fun and educational to grow in a classroom or at home. They are caterpillars that spin a silk cocoon and change into moths while inside. After hatching from an egg, the worms take one month to grow large enough to spin the silk. They spend three weeks in the cocoon, then emerge as a moth to mate and lay eggs. The eggs hatch into worms in a few weeks, and then the cycle continues.
Silkworms go through four stages of development, as do most insects: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The adult (imago) stage is the silkworm moth. The larva is the silkworm caterpillar. 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 Latin (scientific) name for the silkworm is bombyx mori, which means "silkworm of the black mulberry tree".
Get eggs from a friend or you can order them from a variety of online sources. Put the eggs in the refrigerator (NOT THE FREEZER!) until you are ready to use them. To find out where to buy eggs, artificial food, and other equipment, check out the Links section.
Silkworms only eat fresh mulberry leaves (or artificial food). In California, trees lose their leaves in October and leaf out around late March. Therefore, you cannot raise silkworms year-round. You will need to locate local mulberry trees (Latin name Morus alba). Make sure to get permission from the owners and verify that they don't spray their tree with insecticide. If possible, just pick leaves (don't break off branches), so leaves will grow back faster. Leaves will keep fresh in Ziplock bags in the refrigerator for about 5 days. Please don't strip a tree. If an owner will allow you to break off a small branch, put it in a vase of water and pick leaves as necessary. A branch will last a week this way. Don't put caterpillars on a branch in water, since they will drown. You might get tired of picking leaves and decide to park the caterpillars on a mulberry tree. Hungry birds may devour your entire brood! Artificial silkworm food (22 pounds minimum!) can be ordered from http://www.mulberryfarms.com. It comes as a powder to which you add water. It works well with certain varieties of silkworm - but they will get bigger faster if they eat leaves. Pictures of mulberry leaves can be found at http://www.suekayton.com/silk/leaves.htm.
Since silkworms don't drink water, they get their moisture from the leaves so they must be fresh, not dried-out. Unless you want to change leaves three times daily, you need a covered container to raise the worms in. It should be almost air-tight to prevent leaves from drying out, but have small air holes for ventilation. Try a transparent plastic cake cover with the handle removed to allow air in through the screw-holes. In California, cheap lids are available from Smart and Final Iris restaurant supply stores. You'll need a tray or plate to put it on, too.
Once you have located a source of leaves, and have a container ready, take your eggs out of the refrigerator. They will hatch in 7-20 days, depending on how far developed they were when they were put into the refrigerator. Placing the eggs in direct sunlight seems to speed up the process. Once you can see a dark ring and clear center in the egg, it is almost ready to hatch. They usually hatch at dawn. Have a few leaves on hand since they must eat within a day of hatching. Newborn silkworms will barely nibble at the leaf. It will dry out long before they could possibly eat it up. Change leaves at least three times a day at this stage, so they will grow quickly. If you have access to a low-power microscope (about 30x), let the kids look at a tiny caterpillar. Instead of a tiny black string, they have incredible detail.
The Japanese call this stage "Kego", which means "hairy baby". If you examine the eggshell under a microscope, you can see the pores that let air inside while the caterpillar is developing. The edges of the hole where the caterpillar emerged are black.
Twice a day (three times a day if you have no lid), give the worms fresh leaves. Newborn silkworms look like small black strings this size __ . They are initially too weak to crawl from the old leaf to the new one. Either place the new leaf directly on top of the old leaf, or carefully hand-pick all of the silkworms onto the new leaf. Throw out the old, dried leaf. Put the new leaf with silkworms into the container and replace the lid. If any newborn worms are on the paper with the eggs, gently move them onto a leaf (or place a leaf directly on top of the paper).
After five days, the worms will have the strength to crawl from the old leaves to new ones by themselves, so you won't have to hand-pick them. Then you can just place new leaves in the container. Every two days, empty the container to prevent mold from forming. You'll need to increase the number of leaves as they get older. Caterpillar poop looks like a small black speck when they are little, and like miniature black corn cobs when larger. Make sure leaves do not have dew or water on the surface when feeding newborn silkworms, since they will drown in any small surface film of water.
Silkworms will need to go home with the teacher or a child over the weekend since they need fresh leaves, and leaves dry out very quickly. The silkworms will shed their skin three times while growing. The shed skins are beige and usually roll up into a round wad. Sometimes the tiny silkworms will eat their shed skin. The larger ones don't. Each stage the silkworm goes through is called an "instar". First instar caterpillars are black. The second and third instars are grayish-white with black heads. The fifth and final instar has a white head. In between each instar is a time of resting and molting. The Japanese say the silkworm is "sleeping".
The silkworm does 80% of its eating during the fifth instar. The silk glands now make up 25% of its body weight. The larva has increased its size 10,000 times since birth. If this happened to a six-pound human baby, it would weigh 60,000 pounds when it was grown! The final instar of the larval stage is 2-3/4 inches long.
In each instar, the caterpillar has six real legs (as do all insects). It also has five pairs of false legs on the rear of its body. The body is made up of thirteen segments, each of which has a black dot on the side. These dots are called spiracles, and the silkworm breathes through them.
The caterpillars take about a month to get big enough to spin a cocoon. The caterpillars like to spin cocoons in toilet paper tubes (slice them in half like Life Savers), paper towel tubes (cut into six slices), or in egg carton bottoms. You can tell that they are ready to spin when they stop eating and turn yellowish. When they get finger-sized, put sliced toilet paper tubes or egg cartons in their container. You can make a "cocoon condo" by stacking toilet paper tubes in a pyramid.
The cocoon-spinning process takes about three days. When they are spinning, try not to disturb their threads or they will have to start all over again. Once the cocoons are all spun, remove dried-up leaves to prevent mold from forming.
The silk is actually hardened silkworm saliva. It comes out of the mouth, not out of the rear end like a spider. When the silkworm ate great quantities of mulberry leaves, they were digested and nutrients were sent into the bloodstream. The silk glands absorbed these nutrients. The larva has a small spinneret on its lip, through which the silk emerges. The single strand of silk that forms the cocoon is about one mile long!
The silkworm moves its head in figure 8 patterns as it spins the cocoon. When the cocoon is partially made, you can see the head moving around inside if you hold it up to the light.
Inside the cocoon, the silkworm sheds its skin and turns into a brown-shelled pupa. Inside this shell, the pupa turns into a moth. This process takes three weeks, and then the moth emerges from the cocoon. They usually emerge at dawn. The adult moth has a special spit which is used to dissolve the silk so it can push its way out of the cocoon. Silkworm farmers kill the moths before they emerge and make holes in the silk thread. When they emerge, the wings are crumpled, but they get pumped full of fluid and harden it about an hour.
Moths cannot fly, and neither eat nor drink. They mate, lay eggs, and then die within five days. After the moths emerge from the cocoon, they look for an opposite-sex moth to mate with. Females are significantly larger than males. Females periodically extrude a scent gland through the hole in their abdomen. Males have a flap of skin at the end of their abdomen and flutter their wings a lot. Each moth will "urinate" a reddish-brown fluid shortly after emerging from the cocoon. It dries to look like blood. Explain to the kids that this is the moth's "pee" that it saved up since it couldn't "go" while it was in the cocoon.
The moths stay mated for about a day. After separation, the female lays eggs and the male looks for another female. Sometimes another male grabs the female before she can lay eggs. Each female will lay between 200 - 500 eggs! Put paper on the bottom of the container and remove empty cocoons as the moths emerge. The moths will lay eggs on the paper. When the moths are dead, please DO NOT throw out the dead moths or cocoons, since I use them to make display cases.
It is interesting to note that one ounce of silkworm eggs contains 40,000 eggs (1,500 eggs per gram). These worms will eat 3,500 pounds (1500 kilograms) of mulberry leaves, and will spin cocoons which will produce 18 pounds (8 kilograms) of silk thread. It takes 1700 to 2000 cocoons to make one silk dress!
When first laid, all eggs are lemon-yellow. After three days, they will turn white if they are infertile, or turn black if they are fertile. Fertile eggs might hatch a week or two after being laid in the middle of the summer, but they usually won't hatch unless subjected to "winter" in your refrigerator for at least several weeks. Wait until the eggs turn black before putting them in the Ziplock bag in the refrigerator. Once you take eggs out of the fridge, they will hatch in 7-20 days, or maybe not at all. Direct sunlight in the morning for a few hours hastens hatching. Eggs will remain viable in the refrigerator for about five years. To find out where to buy eggs, artificial food, and other equipment, check out the Links section.
Silk thread and cloth
If the moths were allowed to emerge from the cocoons, they would make holes in the silk thread. The silkworm farmers kill the pupas inside the cocoons by baking them in a hot oven. Then they soak the cocoons in boiling water to loosen the threads. A person finds the end of the thread and places it on a winding bobbin. Then a machine unrolls the cocoon, winding the silk from five cocoons together to make one silk thread. Then the thread is woven into cloth.
Try these teacher-tested ideas:
Silkworm math. Have the kids measure the length of the silkworms and graph them as they grow.
Rainfall: When the silkworms are large, take the lid off the container and have the children be extremely quiet. They will be able to hear the sound of the silkworms moving around! It sounds like a gentle rainfall. The sound is not chewing, but their little suction-cup feet lifting off the leaves and plopping back down again.
Silkworm pet. Give each kid a silkworm in a cut-down milk carton on their desk. Have them put in a fresh leaf twice a day, and empty the poop out. Put in a stick and they can see it crawl around. Wait until the caterpillars are two weeks old since there is a high mortality rate for the first few weeks.
Heartbeat. With a full-grown caterpillar, you can easily see the heart pumping blood through the translucent skin. The heart is located at the rear end of the caterpillar on the top. You can see it pulse. The main artery carrying the blood is where the backbone would be if it had one.
Egg laying. If a female moth happens to be laying eggs, have the children watch. You can actually see the yellow eggs emerge one at a time from her rear end! She feels around with her ovipositor ("egg-layer" in Latin) until she feels an empty place to put the egg.
Coarse thread . You can make silk thread without killing any of the pupas. When the cocoons are spun, there is a fair amount of loose silk on them. Have the children gently pull it off the cocoon, making sure not to crush it. They can then roll it between their fingers to make a coarse silk thread.
Fine thread. In order to unwind the cocoon, you must kill the pupa inside. Place the cocoons on a cookie sheet in 200 degree oven for 30 minutes. Then drop the cocoons in boiling water. After five minutes, you can reach in (wearing rubber dishwashing gloves), and begin to unwind the cocoon. Unwinding five at a time will make a fine, strong, thread.
Silk bookmarks. You can cut out shapes from cardboard and stick it on a bottle. Then place the spinning worm on the top. The worm, not having a corner to spin it's cocoon, will criss cross over the top of the card, and around the edges. Once the worm became a pupa, take it off the card, take the silk off the card and have a silk woven shape like a heart or cross or star. Of course the worms don't care much for corners on shapes, so there will be rounded corners instead of sharp ones. You can put more than one worm on a shape to make it thicker. These silk shapes made great bookmarks!
The history of the silkworm, which is also the story of silk, goes back to ancient times in China. Some of the stories have been handed down through the generations and are probably based party on fact and partly on legend and myth. The tale which persists is that about 2,640 B.C. a Chinese empress, Si-Ling-Chi, was watching the glistening amber cocoons that little worms were spinning in the mulberry trees in the palace gardens. She unwound one of the threads on a cocoon and found that it was one, very long strand of shiny material. Fascinated, she pulled strands from several cocoons through her ring to form a thicker thread. Eventually, with the help of her ladies of the court, she spun the threads into a beautiful piece of cloth to make a robe for the emperor, Huang-Ti. This magnificent material, silk, became known at the "cloth of kings".
For thousand of years on the royal family of China had silk. The Chinese kept the secret of how silk was made for 2500 years. The material was sold to the rulers of the West, but the source of the shiny thread that made the material was not revealed. The penalty in China for telling that the silk came from the cocoons of the little silkworms was death! Some very strange ideas were formulated as to the origin of silk. Here are a few: Silk came from the colored petals of flowers in the Chinese desert, silk was made of wondrously soft soil, silk came from a spider-like animal that ate until it burst open and the silk threads were found inside its body, and silk came from the silky fuzz on special leaves. These ideas seem far-fetched today -- but in ancient times they were serious theories.
Legend has it that the Japanese carries off four Chinese maidens, who knew the secret of silk, along with mulberry shoots and silk moth eggs. Today Japan is the leading producer of silk! Another story is that a Chinese princess married an Indian prince. She carries silkworm eggs and mulberry shoots in her elaborate headdress and the secret of raising silkworms in her head. Now silk was grown and produced in India. Finally, two poor monks told Emperor Justinian of Constantinople that they had learned the secret of silk. Justinian send them back to China to get some eggs and mulberry shoots for him. They returned many years later with the eggs and shoots hidden inside their hollowed-out walking sticks. Since Justinian was the emperor of Constantinople, a crossroads city, the secret soon spread throughout Europe. There are many more interesting stories about the history of silk. Have older children do some research in the library and report to the class.
Today silk can be worn by anyone -- not just emperors and noblemen and their families. Silk is made into many lovely fabrics, such as satin, velvet, chiffon, crepe, brocade, taffeta, faille, and shantung. A good class project would be to see how many different kinds of silk cloth could be collected and put them on a chart for the kids to see and feel. The beautiful colors of silk would also make a nice chart.
Modern silkworm moths have been bred to have white silk instead of the amber-colored silk of their wild ancestors. They also have large, fat bodies and tiny wings, so they cannot fly. This makes it easier for silkworm farmers to raise them (and easier for teachers, too!). If you were to release a domesticated silkworm moth into the wild, it would not be able to survive or reproduce.
In the wild, silkworms are eaten by ants, spiders, birds and mosquitos. If you have to spray insecticide near the silkworms, move them away for a few days.
You can make a display case showing the kids each stage in the silkworm cycle. Buy a clear plastic box frame 11"x14". A box frame is about 1-1/4" deep so you can put three-dimensional things in it. It comes filled with a tagboard box. Cut out one of the 11"x14" sides of the tagboard box, making a frame.
Put captions on an 11"x14" piece of paper and glue it onto the inside of the tagboard frame. Now glue dead moths, cocoons, silk thread and silk cloth in the appropriate places. Cut out leaves from green construction paper and glue them in, too. Make newborn "silkworms" from pieces of black buttonhole thread. Make older "silkworms" of various sizes from Play-dough. Let them dry before gluing them down. Eggs can be Play-dough, beads, sesame seeds, or dots of yellow dimensional fabric paint. Tape the cardboard frame inside the plastic box and admire your work! Use clear silicone glue for best results (it comes in small tubes like toothpaste).
Silkworms are insects. All insects have six legs in the adult stage. Silkworm caterpillars have six real legs, plus five pairs of pseudopods (false legs) on the rear of the body. The very rear is split and used for grasping twigs and leaves. All insects have no backbone or skeleton, but instead have an exoskeleton (exterior shell). Some insects like cockroaches have a hard, crunchy shell. Silkworms and silkworm moths have a soft skin. Silkworms shed their skins several times while growing.
The only warm-blooded animals are mammals and birds. All animals without backbones are cold-blooded, which includes silkworms and all other insects. However, while moving around, all animals' muscles generate heat. If you have a covered container with lots of big silkworms, when you take the lid off, you can feel the heat that was trapped in the container.
The difference between warm-blooded and cold-blooded:
A warm-blooded animal always has the interior of its body at the same temperature (98.6 degrees for a human) unless it is sick. If their interior temperature gets too high or too low, it will die. A cold-blooded animal's interior temperature varies widely and is usually within a few degrees of the air around it. On a cold winter day, a cold-blooded animal's temperature may be around 40 degrees F, and on a hot day it may soar to 90 degrees F. It doesn't bother the cold-blooded animal a bit.
On warm days, a cold-blooded animal's muscles will be warm, so it can move easily. On a cold day, when its muscles are very cold, it will become lethargic and sluggish. Rattlesnakes in cold areas actually hibernate during the winter since they become too sluggish to move. Bees cannot fly when their muscles are too cold. Bees in cold areas warm up their flight muscles by shivering until they are warm enough to sustain flight.
Scientists are still arguing about whether dinosaurs were warm- or cold-blooded.
How can you tell if a silkworm is male or female?
I don't know how to tell the caterpillars apart, but the moths are easy once you know what to look for. The smallest caterpillars, which make the smallest cocoons, turn into males. The big caterpillars turn into females. The in-between ones can go either way. Male moths are smaller, and have a flap of skin at the rear. Females periodically extrude a scent gland out the rear. Look at the pictures in Sylvia Johnson's book for close-up photos to help you tell them apart.
It takes more energy to make eggs than to make sperm since the eggs are so much larger. The larger caterpillars have more energy, so they become females. The small caterpillars, in order to maximize their contribution to the gene pool, become males so they can (hopefully) impregnate lots of females.
What is the Latin (scientific name) for the silkworm?
Bombyx mori. I suspect that Mori means mulberry.
Why are some cocoons yellow while others are white?
It's genetic. Some people have blue eyes and others have brown eyes. Almost all commercial varieties of silkworms make white silk. There are also silkworm varieties that make yellow, orange and pale-green silk. When you cross-breed a "white-silk" silkworm moth with a "yellow-silk" silkworm moth, you get some yellow offspring and some white offspring. When you have a mom with blue eyes and a dad with brown eyes, some of their kids will have brown eyes and others will be blue-eyed. Same idea. WIth people, brown eyes are dominant. With silkworms, the colored silk is dominant over white.
Wild silkworms all make yellow silk, to blend in with dead leaves. Over the centuries, silkworm farmers selectively bred for whiter and whiter silk until they achieved the pure white we see today. They like the pure white because it can be dyed any color without having to bleach it first. Nowadays, with natural and organic products gaining in popularity, people are selectively breeding for colored silks. I propagate eggs for white, yellow, orange and green silk. Cotton farmers have recently begun to breed for colored cottons and have a wide variety of naturally-colored cottons, including yellow, pink, pale-green and orange.
Why are some silkworms striped and others solid white?
They are all the same species. These minor color variations are like people having different color hair and eyes - but we're still people.
What do silkworm moths eat?
They don't eat (or drink) anything. They mate, the female lays eggs, and then they die within 3-6 days. Many different types of insects follow this pattern. The mayfly is another example. Almost all adult butterflies and moths have digestive tracts adapted for sipping nectar from flowers. However, silkworm moths do not feed. They still have a rudimentary gut, since they're descended from an ancestor that fed in adulthood.
How far can silkworms smell?
Silkworms and female silkworm moths have no sense of smell. Wild adult male silkmoths have an acute sense of smell, but I don't know how far they can smell. I've never seen it in a book or tested it. From personal experience I know that a domestic silkworm male can notice a female silkworm at the opposite end of a large gymnasium, but never have tested a larger distance. I suspect that 1/4 mile would be the limit for a wild silkworm moth (downwind), but I bet that domesticated silkworms have lost much of that sensitivity since they were bred for silk, and natural selection no longer requires them to have any sense of smell whatsoever.
I saw a tiny silkworm.
It had a funny name.
My teacher called it larva,
But it wiggled all the same.
One day it changed from hairy to smooth --
From black to very white.
Its body was much bigger, too,
And it did it overnight.
It changed like this
Just three more times
And always in between
It Ate and ate and ate and ATE
Mulberry leaves so green.
One day it stopped,
And started to spin
A shiny silken thread.
Around and round in figure eights
It moved its little head.
It made a cocoon so snowy white,
Its neighbors made theirs yellow and bright.
And then inside where none could see,
A pupa formed, my teacher told me.
One day it pushed from its cocoon --
How different it looked now.
It fluttered about on week, little wings --
A silkworm moth --but how??
It laid so many golden eggs
Near its empty white cocoon.
I wondered when the larva would hatch.
Would it be very soon?
Egg to larva to pupa to adult --
Is a strange, strange way
To change from being born
Into a grown-up moth, I'd say!
by Elaine Wade
(tune: "I am a pizza")
I am a silk worm (x2)
brown and white (x2 etc. )
I like to eat leaves
day and night.
I spin a silk thread
into a cocoon.
I am a silk worm
Please feed me soon!
I am a silkworm
I wiggle and squirm.
Cocoons don't take long
as you will learn.
Now I make a hole
and climb right out
I was a silkworm
Now I'm a moth!
I am a moth
brown and white
I lay tiny eggs
their colors are bright.
I like to fly (flap) around.
Happiness I bring.
I am a silkworm.
See you next spring!
School teachers can ask questions via email: [email protected]
The book The Empress and the Silkworm by Lily Toy Hong tells the story of how silk was first discovered in China - part fact, part fable. $16.95 ISBN# 0-8075-2009-8 hardback.
Raising silkworms is not like raising domesticated pets or livestock animals. You need to consider a lot of factors to succeed. Take heed of the tips and recommendations mentioned above to set your track right in sericulture.
At Everything Silkworms, our silkworms are spawned and fed on the freshest mulberry diet, guaranteeing they have all the nutrition they need to thrive and become nutritious foods.
As the leading silkworm provider in Australia, we live up to our mission of breeding and producing the highest grade silkworms for our clients through the most humane rearing practice that we employ. Connect with us to know more about this raising silkworms!
5 Best Insects to Raise for Profit (Insect Farming)
Do you want to start an insect farming business and you need ideas on the most profitable insects? If YES, here are 5 best insects you can raise for profits. Insect farming is simply the agricultural process of breeding insects intentionally for a large purpose. This might include human consumption, pet food, or even textile production (as with silkworms).
According to reports, the demand for farm-raised insects has grown massively in the past two years, partly because an increase in the popularity of bug-eating reptiles as pets, and because it’s becoming increasingly acceptable to add edible insects to our diets.
Insect farming is growing in popularity, and the benefits are impressive even for casual cultivators. It doesn’t take much money to establish a bug-based farm, and when managed correctly, you can transform it into a steady source of side income.
To start, one of the first things to do is estimate how many insects you could breed in your spare shed, garage or room. It might surprise you to realize you can fit 12 containers (70L or 18.5 gallon) in a 13.12 square foot or 1.2 m2 area. The next thing to do is work out which species you want to breed and consider your markets efficiently.
5 Tips to Ensure Profit from Raising Insects
Although breeding insects as livestock is quite straightforward compared to other animal varieties, there are still some tips to help you get started.
Start Small and Grow
These insects are tiny by nature, so there’s no reason to scale up your operation before you’re ready. Master the basics and get bigger over time.
Watch out for Diseases
Have it in mind that bugs often attack other bugs, and the wrong infestation can wipe out your operation. Watch out for fruit flies, and keep your operation undercover (literally) to prevent outside species from contaminating them.
Research your Market
Don’t forget to pay attention to the insect needs in your area, and you can choose the variety that makes sense for you. After all, the last thing you want if you’re the owner of thousands of crickets is to hear that your local pet store is turning down suppliers and that your region’s gardeners are desperate for more ladybugs.
Be Innovative and Experiment
Note that one advantage that insects have over other livestock is their short life spans, which means that you can try something new with each generation and continuously hone your technique. This will help you achieve better results over time.
Leverage Your Local Market
Have it in mind that if people don’t know about your bug supply, they won’t think to purchase them from you. Advertise as much as you can: on Facebook, in pet stores, Craigslist, and your local newspaper. The more you get the word out, the faster you’ll move your stock along.
Raising insects can benefit your diet, your wallet, and the environment. Take your time to understand the world of invertebrates, and you might be surprised at how easy the breeding process can be.