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Paired male (above) and female (below)
Fifth instar silkworm larvae

Video: Metamorphosis/Life cycle of the Silkworm

Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera
Family: Bombycidae
Genus: Bombyx
Binomial name
Bombyx mori
Linnaeus, 1758

The silkworm (Bombyx mori) is the larva or caterpillar of a moth. Silk has been made for at least 5000 years in China. The moth is important because it makes the silk, and no longer lives in the wild. It is entirely dependent on humans. Silkworms eat mulberry leaves, and were native to northern China.

The domesticated B. mori and the wild Bombyx mandarina can still breed and sometimes produce hybrids.[1]:342

Egg[change | change source]

Female silkworm lays about 300 eggs at a time. It 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 it does not eat anything. The eggs are kept in a cool place so that it can be stored for a long time. In a favourable condition,they hatch into larva. larva are produced in about 2 weeks from eggs in a temperature of 18 to 25 degree Celsius.

Silk[change | change source]

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 are about two to three times bigger than the males, but similarly colored. Adult silkworms have small mouths and do not eat.

Silkworm legends[change | change source]

In China, there is a legend that the discovery of the silkworm's silk was by an ancient queen called Leizu. She was drinking tea under a tree when a cocoon fell into her tea. She picked it out and as it started to wrap around her finger, she slowly felt something warm. When the silk ran out, she saw a small cocoon. In an instant, she realized that this cocoon was the source of the silk. She taught this to the people and it became common. There are many more legends about the silkworm.

The Chinese guarded their knowledge of silk. It is said that a Chinese princess smuggled eggs to Japan, hidden in her hair.[2] The Japanese also love silk. It takes 5000 silkworms to make a single kimono.

Food[change | change source]

In Korea, silkworm pupae are boiled and seasoned, then eaten as a popular snack food known as beondegi.

In China, street vendors sell roasted silkworm pupae. The pupae are a delicacy in the Northern Area of China. They are baked with Satay sauces and rice to add extra flavour. In Japan, Silkworm Pupae is used in many dishes, including some types of sushi and even salads.

References[change | change source]

  1. Brian K. Hall (2010). Evolution: principles and processes. Topics in biology. Jones & Bartlett Learning. p. 400. ISBN 978-0-7637-6039-7.
  2. Wisseman, Sarah Underhill & Williams, Wendell S. 1994. Ancient technologies and archaeological materials . Routledge, p131. ISBN 2-88124-632-X
  • Scoble, MJ, 1995. The Lepidoptera: Form, function and diversity. Princeton Univ. Press.
  • Goldsmith, M, Toru Shimada, and ­Hiroaki Abe. 2004. The genetics and genomics of the silkworm, Bombyx mori. Annual Review of Entomology 50:71-100.
  • Grimaldi and Engel, 2005. Evolution of the Insects. Cambridge University Press.

Other websites[change | change source]