Return of the Silkmoth

Well, not really a return exactly.

Today I needed to use my iron, that I haven’t used in a few months. Yes, really. It sits on top of a bookshelf above where I kept the silkworms when they were spinning their cocoons. Inside of and attached to the wrapped up iron cord I found a cocoon. So that means a caterpillar climbed up out of its box, and to the top of this (admittedly kind of short) bookcase.

It has a hole in it, telling me that somewhere, maybe behind the bookcase, is a dead moth too. It never ends, I tell you.

P.S. The photo is a reenactment, as I unwound the cord before I realized a cocoon was attached to it.


Silkmoths – Year 2

We enjoyed raising our silkworms last year so much that we’re doing it again this year. Even better, we are using the eggs that our very own moths laid last fall!

Or, at least I thought it was better. Now it looks like I may not have stored them in the ideal way. While our moths laid way more than the 250 eggs we ordered last year, it looks like, at best, only a couple dozen caterpillars have hatched. I guess that ain’t nothing, but I’m still kinda disappointed. Looks like it’s time for even more research, so I know how to handle our eggs even better for next time.

I’ve kept the rest of the eggs so far, but they look very dried and sunken, so I’m not hopeful that any more will hatch this year. Almost all of them were the good, black color of fertile silkmoth eggs, but just having fertile eggs appears not to be enough.

Unfortunately, my camera seems to be in it’s twilight of life, and I can’t get a focused picture of the new silkworms or the non-hatched eggs to share, but maybe I can sweet talk my husband into taking some photos for me with his snazzy camera later on to show off.

As a refresher, for anyone who cares, here are my posts from last years silkworm adventures (so far our silkworms look like the ones from the second link:

Silkworms, Day 1
Silkworms, Day 8
Silkworms, Day 15
Silkworms, Day36
Silkworms, Day38
And Then There Were Two – Silkworms, Day 51
Silkworms, Day56 – Silkmoths!


What I’m Up To

So I keep thinking about ideas for blog posts that I never actually write. Trying to remedy that little problem and get into a better schedule. To begin with I’m just going to do a little roundup of where I’m at on my various projects I’ve talked about on the bog so far.

* I haven’t done anything more with the remaining silk from our silkworms. I didn’t have enough of it done in time for the county fair, and I’m still undecided about what exactly I want to do with it. I ended up with maybe half a dozen or so cocoons that never hatched, so I want to try reeling those in the more traditional way, but probably not right away. Have a lot of other stuff on my plate right now.

* I finished an approximately 7000 word short story, and am in the process of editing it. I’m excited because it’s the first fiction project I’ve finished that’s more than 100 words in a really, REALLY long time. Yea!

* After our trip earlier in the summer, I never got back into working on The Artist’s Way. I’ve done a little journaling, but really, I should try to do that more regularly too. Or maybe not since I used what used to be journaling time for working on my story. Humm. . .

* I’m inspired by my the blog of my favorite amigurumi designer (If you either don’t know what that is or don’t have a favorite, go look – all kinds of cuteness and fun.) I’m going to start sharing a little of my fitness journey. Don’t worry, I’m thinking just once a month saying a little something about how my exercise and weight are doing. Hopefully this will keep me paying attention (I’m distractable if you couldn’t tell.) Also by keeping it to only once a month I want to avoid obsessively weighing several times a day and the kind of OCD crap I’m prone to. Generally I have a tendency to all sorts of unhealthy habits on both ends of the dieting/exercising spectrum when I think no one will notice. Maybe if I pretend people are watching, I can keep myself more moderate and honest.

* The self-led writing class is plodding along. Mostly reading so far, although I did join the Internet Writing Workshop; I haven’t really participated yet. The format isn’t instinctual to me, and there’s a lot of messages to get through, so that’s a learning curve. I need to give myself an assignment I think.

* I’ve gotten the nicest and most encouraging rejections for two flash fiction pieces I sent out awhile back and I was torn about reworking them (as the editors encouraged me to do) or just send to other markets. So they’ve just been sitting here. I think I’ve decided on sending them out for another round. I just can’t think of anything more to do with them. They say all I’m really interested in saying, and I think if I try to expand they’ll just ramble. If they don’t find a home soon, you’ll see them here!

* I’m making an I-spy quilt for my littlest. Seems kinda a shame to make a simple square quilt with my snazy new machine, but I have a plan for a little wall hanging that maybe I can get fancy on next.

Now, time to do dishes.


Silkworms, Day 56 – Silkmoths!

There she is! (At least I think it’s a she from the books. . .) I woke up this morning and found this little moth sitting in the cocoon box. So cute! But a lot smaller than I thought she’d be. Most of the photos are so zoomed in and blown up, I thought she’d be bigger.

I looked up about that red liquid you can see in the foreground. Silkmoth pee. She also squirted some sort of tan liquid on me when I picked her up to move her off the cocoon and onto a paper roll. Don’t know if that was more pee, or the pheromones I’ve read about, but it sure came out in a violent jet!

I’ve decided this these are the biggest and smallest cocoons in our set. I’m still amazed with how different they are in size, but almost all the others are just a little smaller than the big one. These are really the unusual ones.

As I was searching for the big and small cocoons, a second moth emerged. Here you can compare how they look fresh out of the cocoon, with their little smooshed, wet wings, compared to the one that had been out for hours already.

As a sort of sad follow up to the last silkworm post, one of those two straggler caterpillars died later that day. The other finally started spinning his cocoon, but didn’t complete it. I suspect he’s dead inside the partial cocoon he started, but I haven’t been motivated to investigate inside it to make sure.


And Then There Were Two: Silkworms, Day 51

When the silkworm eggs started hatching, they all hatched together. Within 24 hours of each other anyway. I’d made the mistaken assumption that they would all spin their cocoons at about the same time as well. The first spinners started on May 12th, at 38 days old. Four started spinning that morning, by the time I went to bed, about 12 or so were working away at their cocoons. And now, 13 days later, 2 are sill hanging around. Kinda eating, kinda sitting. I’m a little worried about them really. I don’t know if they’re not eating much because there s something wrong with them, or if it’s because there are only 2 of them, so it just seems like they aren’t eating much (compared to trying to feed 180 caterpillars a few weeks ago.) Either way, I think they’re in trouble. They’re either unwell, or just fine, but still going to spin and thus emerge from their cocoons two weeks after most of their buddies. Not good for their mating prospects methinks. Then again, if the emerge the way they spun, then a few new ones should come along each day. Maybe it won’t be so bad for them after all. Time will tell.

I worry I may have made another mistake as well. To make more spinning space, I removed some cocoons as they looked finished and put them into a box. I’d seen pictures of cocoons collected like this, so thought it was fine to do. Then as I thought about it, most of these places also kill the larva inside. I’m not going to do that. I hope disturbing and moving the cocoons won’t have any ill affects to their metamorphosis and ability to emerge. Again, I suppose time will tell.

I’d also read that if the caterpillars were too small they would be unable to spin at all, and would just turn brown and die. Thankfully, our smaller silkworms just spun smaller cocoons. Cute, huh?


Silkworms – Day 38

Early this morning (the morning of this photo that is) a few of the silkworm caterpillars started spinning their cocoons. When I got up in the morning, 4 of our 180 silkworms were working on their cocoons, by the evening, about 12 were working at it. The rest are still eating up a storm.

As you can see, we gave them some egg cartons and toilet paper rolls to use to attach their cocoons to. They seemed to go for the toilet paper rolls first, but one used the egg carton. I’ll have to come up with more space for the others when they start spinning because there aren’t enough compartments for them all right now. I plan to build a grid out of cardboard strips for them.

Since I’m getting close to being finished with the feeding phase of silkworm rearing, I started to do some research tonight about what to do with the silk. I found a really fabulous website about silkworm care and how to harvest the silk. Wormspit.com . It’s the only source I’ve found so far that gives great detailed explanations of how to harvest and use silk without killing the pupae. I do my best to avoid killing things, so I’m excited to have found this reference.


Silkworms – Day 36

Here are the silkworms (aka silk caterpillars) at 36 days old. The information that came with our eggs said that they would start spinning at around 30 days old. I’m happy that they waited for us to get home from our trip though.

At this point they are eating like crazy. I just read that in the last phase as a caterpillar (called the fifth instar) they eat 90% of the food they’ll eat in their entire lives. Wow. And I believe it from the way they were putting food away here! (Sorry Amanda for leaving you with them when they were the most hungry ever. Big thanks!)


Silkworms – Day 15

Sorry for the delay in silkworm updates. We were away for awhile. So I’ve got 3 silkworm posts all at once here now. They’ve been busy little caterpillars!

So here they are at about 15 days after hatching. They are about an inch or so long, but several are much smaller. Still just eating and pooping.
The one book I read that mentioned how to handle them said that at around this big it’s okay to pick them up by hand (when they’re smaller it recommended using a paint brush to move then if needed) but when I tried picking them up, they still felt awful small and fragile. I didn’t want to let my 3 year old handle them yet, because I’m sure she could have easily hurt them without meaning to.


Silkworms, Day 8

From my very zoomed in photos, I don’t how well you can tell how much they have grown so far, but they look like real little caterpillars now. From my observations, and my research, I think I’ve been feeding them too much. I’d heard that they can really eat a lot, so I was afraid of underfeeding, but I guess I could have waited until they were out of the microscopic phase before I worried about leaving their tiny tummies too empty.

I wanted to keep giving fresh, pretty leaves to them, but was surprised that many of them wouldn’t leave the old, pitiful looking leaves. Then I read that you shouldn’t give them new leaves until the ones they have are totally dry. And this matches what I’m seeing in their behavior so far. The only leaves with no caterpillars on them that I can remove, are the super dry leaves. The ones that are still flexible, no matter how sad in other respects, all have some silkworms still clinging to them (and they are super hard to scoot off onto a better leaf. I’ve given up trying.)

But I also think that these stubborn silkworms that won’t move onto the better leaves are making bad decisions. Guess that’s why “As clever as a silkworm” isn’t a phrase you hear much. There is a growing variance in the size of the caterpillars. I’m assuming the big, beefy ones are the ones that hop onto the new food right away. Does the size difference show here? Pretty dramatic, I think.

I also found this little pocket of silk today. That’s one other thing I didn’t really expect – that they would make a little silk so early. I first discovered they could when I tried scooting them onto the good leaves, I could see them tethered to their crappy leaf by some invisible line. One even fell off and appeared to dangle in the air, like a spider that hangs by a bit of silk you can’t really see, but can watch them climb on it. Cool, huh?

A few online resources I’ve found helpful so far:
(but still no book. I may take Amanda’s suggestion and write my own mini guide at the end of this, ’cause there’s still a lot of info I want but am having trouble finding. Like how to harvest the silk – without killing the larva of course – and cleaning the silk, and all that good stuff.) I may be forced into – *shudder* – asking someone about it, and if I go to all that work, I’d like to share what I learn.


http://www.silkwormshop.com/silkworm_info.html (This is also where I bought our eggs. Thumbs up to their service.)