Moth of the Week: The Silkworm Moth, Bombyx Mori
Meet Bombyx mori, the silkworm moth from the family Bombycidae. These are among the most important moths in the world due to their benefits to humans. Although once widely spread throughout southeastern Asia, it is believed that they are no longer present in the wild, but are instead kept in conserved populations in China, Australia, and other places in the sericulture (silk producing) industry.
Silkworm moths have a rich history. Originally cultivated by the Chinese empress Si Ling-chi for their silk, the punishment for divulging the secrets of obtaining it was death. Therefore the secret to silk was kept in secrecy for years, with China having a monopoly on silk products and opening up the trade route which we know as the Silk Road.
Larvae hatch after about ten days, where they feed and feed for six weeks on mulberry leaves, although they also like oranges and lettuce. Due to how long they’ve been kept in captivity, they have lost the ability to cling to leaves and branches from heights and weird angles like most insects, and must be hand-fed by humans. Bombyx mori caterpillars excrete a liquid from their silk glands which, after exiting via the spinnerets on their mouths, harder and become silk. They use this to spin their cocoons, which they stay in for two weeks. Although adults have mouthparts, they are not well adapted to feeding, nor can they fly, again due to the effects of captivity. Females secrete overwhelming pheromones (in fact, silkworm moths led to the discovery of them!) which attract males, who then do a sort of “dance” to entice the ladies.
Not only are silkworm moths essential to the textile industry, but they are important learning animals for both scientists and curious classrooms that want to raise their own. Geneticists have mapped their genome sequence in order to improve the quality of their silk; a caterpillar can produce up to a half mile of it! Larvae are also used as a source of food in some areas, and in traditional Chinese medicine are believed to be able to stop seizures.
Although not an endangered species, the sericulture industry has come under criticism not only for the domestication of the animals, but their practice of boiling the cocoons with the pupae still inside to harvest the silk.
At fyeahcutemoths, I try not to take an opinion on educational posts like these, but I do not see why they can’t cut open the cocoon, take out the pupae, put it safely aside, and then boil it, as pupae are completely safe in a lab (
unless I’m mistaken on an aspect of this speciesI was. Cutting the cocoon supposedly damages the thread, although I believe firmly that there is probably a way around this). Whatever your stance on this is, these are still cool and adorable creatures, and you can probably buy some to rear as your own!
bombyx mori for shannon (◡‿◡✿)
“it’s somewhere in between”