The Silkworm Diaries


Begining Cocoons

I am way behind with this diary; I was away for a week and a half. I expected all my caterpillars to be safely tucked away in their silky comforters by the time I left, on April 24. But, more than 40 days after hatching, few of them had gone to sleep.

One possibility suggested by my correspondent Prabhakar is that it wasn’t warm enough for them. In any case, they had a lot of trouble with their spinning. Eventually, all but four of them cocooned. A couple of the cocoons look like they worm didn’t fully pupate. There’s also a lot of variation in the size and shape of the cocoons.

I plan to post more pictures soon.

the silkworm is closing itself off prior to spinning the actual cocoon.

They spent a long time wandering around before they picked a spot.

early stage cocoon

Note the puddle of purged stomach contents in the section of the carton below the cocoon.

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Looking for a Good Spot

I made my last leaf run today — it’s so easy now, the leaves are way bigger than the worms. I picked a couple that were the size of my hand.

finding-a-spot.jpg

I feel like the silkworms don’t like the egg cartons. They seem to be wandering around an awful lot. One worm, that had walled himself in and started to spin around yesterday, abandoned his spot last night.

I don’t remember this happening last time — but maybe I wasn’t watching them so obsessively. Last year, for example, I didn’t notice the little pools of stuff purged from their stomachs.

the purge

Here’s the stuff they vomit up to clean out their stomachs. Their final poops are different, too, greener and less digested.

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The First Spinner

Searching for “silkworms don’t spin,” I found one site that said they take from 27 to 40 days to cocoon. Well, today is the 40th day — and my first worm decided to go to sleep.

The leaves on the trees are really big now, so I have to pick fewer leaves, but they still eat a lot.

beginning the cocoon

This worm is spinning his cocoon inside the bottom half of a cardboard egg carton; I’ve lined two sides of their box with these.


Spinning Collagen

Genetically altered silkworms may provide collagen for medical uses, according to this article. Researchers at Japan Science and Technology Corporation in Hiroshima succeeded in placing a human gene for collagen production into silkworms.

Collagen is widely used in plastic surgery for filling in wrinkles and plumping up lips, but also for filling in scar tissue.

Collagen now comes from cows — and, I think, human cadavers.


34 Days and Eating

The big silkworms — the ones I’m keeping for breeding — still show no sign of spinning. They eat and eat, faster and faster.

Should I stop feeding them? Do they think about spinning, then see the new leaves and change their minds?

Big Hungry Worms Eat


Still waiting for those spinners!

This blog will probably be composed of quick notes, because this year, my silkworms have just about gone through their cycle. My first batch, hatched March 12, is going into their 33rd day, with no sign that they’re ready to stop eating and go to sleep. I understood they usually began to cocoon in 27 days. But the eating never stops.