Ever wondered where the glossy silk you see as an accessory comes from? Here we present exciting details about the Silk worm moth, a caterpillar that produces silk. These Silkworm moths have been in existence for about 5000 years, originating from China. However, now they are got throughout the world by undergoing their complete domestication. Silkworms being a moth, you’d expect it to be in the wild around the bushes, but on the contrary, its survival is solely dependent on humans.
Rearing the Silkworm moth to produce silk fibers is called ‘sericulture’ or ‘Silk worm farming.’ The female Silkworm lays 300 eggs on the mulberry trees, which then change into Silk worm larva followed by Silk worm pupae. What becomes of a silkworm ultimately then? It spins a cocoon for itself, and within the cocoon, the Silkworm starts transforming into an adult moth with enormous wings. Thus, the Silkworm turns into Silkworm moth that is similar looking to butterflies. Silkworms spin themselves into a silk cocoon made of silk threads. These cocoons are spun from threads spewed from the holes of these mulberry munching tiny moths. During this 72-hour production, the Silkworm moth produces about 1200 silk threads. However, the Bombyx mori has a tragic end to its life, where the silkworms are killed to produce silk as it's more straightforward to unwind the threads of the cocoon in boiling water.
A Silkworm is an insect and is a larval version of the silk moth.
Silkworms belong to the class Insects.
More than 500 species of Silkworms are present in the world!
Silkworms are never found in the wild and are cultivated in distinct silkworm farms.
The Silkworm is a highly specialized feeder that survives solely on mulberry leaves, hence the silkworm farms infused with an abundant supply of mulberry leaves are a silk worm's habitat.
The humans entirely monitor the Silkworm moth's survival as it no longer lives in the wild. In fact, the Silkworm has been domesticated by humans to such an extent that it can no longer defend itself in the wild, nor can it fly or move more than a few centimeters to find food for itself.
The Silkworm lifecycle approximately ranges for about six to eight weeks.
A Silkworm moth reproduces once a year. After silkworms mate, the female Silkworm lays about 300-500 eggs on the mulberry leaves. These eggs then hatch within seven days to give tiny silkworm larva. After hatching, Silkworms move to grow to one inch from the stage of being just eggs in 12 days. In this final stage of their lifecycle, they do not eat at all! After laying the eggs, the adult moth dies.
According to the IUCN, Silkworm's conservation status is Not Evaluated.
The Silkworm larvae initially look like tiny black threads but eventually start looking white as and when they start to shed their skin. The shedding of skin is what makes them look soft and white. Each larva sheds its skin four times before entering the cocoon stage.
With their blond light to brown fibrous bands running across their body, silkworms are soft-bodied creatures and can make for cute little animals!
The Silkworm moth has an interesting way of communicating with other Silkworms. The Bombyx mori does so via organic molecules inside its body. In most of the studies, it was observed that the female moth attracts the male adult moth using a carbon molecule during the mating stage.
Silkworms are tiny moths that grow quite fast and reach a length of 3 in as a fully grown adult and are ready to cocoon in 25-80 days. To visualize, the Silkworm can be said to be 10 times bigger than a regular ant.
In ideal conditions, Silkworms can be pretty speedy while spinning their cocoons.
Silkworms weigh merely 5 g! The diet of only chopped mulberry leaves makes the Silkworm of the Bombyx mori species weigh a little under 2 oz.
Both male and female species of Silkworm are called Silkworm moths. In fact, they are also similarly colored. Another fun fact! The female Silkworm is more significant than its male counterpart by 2 cm as their requirement for a cocoon is larger.
A baby Silkworm is ideally a Silkworm larva, but the Japanese identify this stage as 'kego,' which means hairy baby. The newborn Silkworms look like tiny black strings.
Silkworm moths' staple food includes eating lots and lots of mulberry leaves! But while rearing them, you could come across a situation in winters where availability of these leaves may become sparse; hence as an alternative food for commercial sericulture, half a pound of 'silkworm chow' powder is sent to feed the hungry larvae.
The Silkworm moth will not cause any serious damage as they feed only on leaves, but when present in large amounts, they could be a potential cause for harming young trees' health.
The Silkworm moth would absolutely make a good pet for kids, and the reason being, they are clean, don't bite, and most importantly, can be kept in confined spaces. Moreover, since the adult Silkworm lives only for about two months, it would also have no impact on a kid's emotional state after it dies. Above all, having a Silkworm is a great idea to teach children about nature, insects, and their significance in an ecosystem.
Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.
The Silkworm cocoons are made of a single thread of raw silk, which is nothing but the silkworm moth's saliva!
The discovery of the great use of silkworm moths started in China when the queen noticed the Silkworm cocoons soft threads in her tea. It was, in fact, China's invaluable secret that remained within its borders for 1000 years.
Silkworm pupae, after their use, are also used as fertilizers and compost.
People in Korea and China consume the pupae as popular street food items.
Apart from their primary use of producing silk, the Bombyx mori pupae are also widely used for medicinal purposes.
The adult Silkworm butterfly has its wingspan of 2 in and has a bristly body. The silkworm butterfly is blond to light brown colored with dark bands running across its body. Its wings, however, are cream-colored and have dark veins extending out to the margins.
Sadly yes, Silkworms are blind since being raised by humans has made them highly dependent on them for many decades. Thus a silkworm is born blind.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other arthropods including giant African millipede, or green stink bug.
You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our silkworm coloring pages.