Interesting Silkworm Facts

When we think of worms, we picture those long, brown, and slimy creatures we find buried in the soil. But not all worms are as gross as we think. Some of them are very much valuable in the clothing industry. I am talking about silkworms. Silkworms are not exactly like earthworms. Silkworms are the babies or the larvae of silk moths. And they are called as such because these creatures produce silk threads. And below are some silkworm facts.

For the taxonomy enthusiasts among us, here is a quick look at the silkworm’s zoological classification. Silkworm belongs to the Kingdom Animalia (animals, multi-cellular eukaryotic organisms), Phylum Arthropoda (invertebrate organisms with exoskeleton and appendages), Class Insecta (insects, three-part body with compound eyes and antennae), Order Lepidoptera (undergoes metamorphosis), Family Bombycidae (moth family), and Genus Bombyx (silk moth).

The scientific name of silkworm is Bombyx mori. The silkworm is actually a young mulberry silk moth. These mulberry silkworms feed on Mulberry leaves, thus the name. They actually prefer white Mulberry tree leaves because of the odor called cis-jamone. But they devour on all types of Mulberry trees.

Silkworm eggs are laid out at around 300 to 400 eggs per batch. Generally, it takes only about 10 days for these eggs to hatch. And once the eggs hatch, the larvae eat and eat and eat until they grow and are ready to enter “cocoon” stage. The larvae shed 4 times before entering “cocoon” stage. After their last shedding, their skin tightens and turns yellowish. Then they enter pupal state, or the “cocoon” stage. Once they enter this state, they become motionless and enclose themselves in an envelope of silk.

This silk comes from their salivary glands. And it is this raw silk that people harvest and turn into those lustrous and fine fabric. A single raw cocoon, if unfolded, contains raw silk thread with length varying from 300 to 900 meters. But these silk threads are so thin and so fine that it takes 3000 cocoons to make one pound of silk. The sad thing about harvesting silk from silkworms is that these creatures die in the process. To get the silk, the cocoons must be boiled.

If the silkworm is lucky enough for its cocoon to be spared, it breaks open from the cocoon and emerges as a young adult silk moth. And these silk moths that manage to survive continue the cycle by giving birth to hundreds and thousands of other silkworms.

Below are some more interesting facts about silkworms:
• Silk moths don’t fly.
• The Chinese were the ones that invented the process of making silk from silkworms thousands of years ago.
• A silkworm multiplies its weight about 10,000 times from the moment it is born up to the time it creates its own cocoon.
• Four to eight silk filaments are twisted together to form one silk thread.
• Silk production is officially called, sericulture.
• Silk from wild silkworms are not as great as those from silkworms bred for their silk.
• Silkworms are eaten in China and North and South Korea.

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