Silkworms are the larva of a moth (Bombyx mori) indigenous to Asia that spins a cocoon of fine, strong, lustrous fiber which is the source of commercial silk. The culture of silkworms is known as sericulture. The many types of silkworms raised today are distinguished by the caliber of the silk they produce. Silkworms feed on the leaves of the mulberries (genus Morus) and often on the Osage orange (Maclura pomifera).
Bombyx Mori will not bite, making an excellent worm for feeding most reptiles, amphibians as well as other animals, plus they offer great nutrients and vitamins.
Newborn are sufficiently small for most baby reptiles to enjoy and young silkworms can even be fed so that they will grow to some desired size. Silkworms are soft-bodied, slow moving and can grow to 3 inches long. Also, they are relatively fast growing, reaching about 3 inches in length and ready to cocoon after as little as 25 – 28 days.
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. The pupa is exactly what the silkworm changes into after spinning its cocoon before emerging being a moth. Because the silkworm grows a lot, it should shed its skin 4x though it may be growing. These stages-within-a-stage are called instars.
Today, the silkworm moth lives only in captivity. Silkworms have already been domesticated so they can no longer survive independently in general, particularly because they have lost the opportunity to fly. All wild populations are extinct. Also adding to their extinction is the extraordinary fact that they only eat mulberry leaves.
Silkworms happen to be employed by researchers to study pheromones or sexual attractant substances. The pheromones are released by female moths as well as the males detect the chemicals with olfactory hairs on the antennae. This allows the male to find the female for mating. The male antennae are created from many small hairs to improve the chances of getting small quantities of the pheromones over long distances.
How to Improve Your Worms to the Perfect Size
The positive aspect of silkworms is they only grow as much as you feed them, plus they can go for a week or two without food. Say you do have a couple hundred small silkworms, but there is a big bull frog or iguana. All you want do is feed the worms around they’ll eat, have them warm and dry, and in a few days, you’ll possess some good sized worms. Have a lot of silkworms? Not a problem, feed them once or twice every week and they’ll stay alive before you need them without growing much bigger.
Wash hands thoroughly before handling the worms or the food or they may develop bacterial problems. Using a cheese grater, grate a small amount of food onto the worms and repeat until the worms make it to the desired size. For best results, maintain temperatures between 78° and 88° F.
Excessive condensation forming in the container after feeding is definitely the leading reason for failure. If the condensation does form, go ahead and take lid off your container and allow the container and old food to fully dry. Later on, make sure the previous food is dry before feeding again. Old damp food is really a breeding ground for mold as well as other problems, dry food is not really.
As the silkworms grow, you may need to transfer your worms to a larger plastic container. The lid needs to have ventilation holes. Or even, you need to vent the lid so the silkworms won’t suffocate and to allow condensation to dissipate. You can also have a shoebox. The previous food and waste matter can be removed, but does not have to get if it remains thoroughly dry.
Under ideal conditions (78° to 88° F and allowed to feed nearly continuously) silkworms can go from egg to 1 inch in length within 12 days, and 3 inches in less than thirty days. The worms will quickly spin cocoons at about 28 – 1 month old or when they are between 2 1/2 and 3 inches long.
From Cocoon to Moth
Silkworm moths emerge off their cocoons after spending about two to three weeks metamorphosing. As moths, they are doing not eat or fly. They will usually mate, lay eggs and die in a week. Fertile eggs turn from yellow to gray or purple in a week or so. In the event the eggs don’t hatch within 3 weeks, they generally is not going to hatch until the following year (see above–from egg to larva).
Proper Handling Procedures
Again, in order for your worms to stay healthy for many weeks, you’ll have to keep your silkworms as dry as possible. If condensation builds up during feeding, vent the container lid to avoid excess humidity.
Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before handling the worms or their food. Silkworms can be prone to bacteria if you don’t properly handle them. As long because the container environment remains dry, your worms will be fine.
Mold develops from high temperatures and humidity. In the event the worms are engrossed in droppings, silk and old food for too long, mold may develop and eliminate the worms. If mold does develop, grate about 1/4 inch of food (sold separately) all around the worms with a cheese grater. Since the worms crawl towards the top of the new food pile you can transfer them off of the moldy food ejckoc put them in to a new container.
Silkworms are vunerable to bruising and dying otherwise handled properly, especially because they grow larger. When handling and transferring the worms, be very gentle.