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Moths Emerge

I just wanted to finish up my silk worm saga with a few pictures of the emerging adult moths:

The moths secrete a substance that disolves the silk on one side so they can wiggle out.  You can kill the larvae inside the cocoon to prevent that since you will lose some of the silk, but I wanted to see the process through to the end (and let the poor things have a little fun).  Basically, the emerge, dry their wings and spend a few days mating frantically before expiring.  The female is on the left (and I think in all the top photos) with a heavier egg heavy body and smaller twisted wings.  I don’t think the females can fly even in wild silk moths.  The males are lighter, with larger wings and domestic one are generally flightless although I did have one manage to take a short flight!  Don’t tell my son though.  He was NOT happy with the whole project, lol.

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When I last posted about my silkworms, they were about 6 days old and mostly in their second instar/stage.  About three weeks and three molts later and they were 2-3 inch long, plump and voracious fifth instar wormies.  They finished up their chow soon after that molt.  I made up a second batch.  Thistime they finished it within a few short days!  Since they were due to start spinning at ant time and the commercial chow was getting expensive, I starting asking around to see if anyone I knew has a mulberry or osage orange tree.  Luckily, I found someone with a mulberry.  I figured one good sized trash bag would get me through.

 

 

Wrong!  They loved the fresh food and showed no sign of slowing down.  I drove to my friend’s 3 or 4 times to steal branche prune her tree.  Just a few silkies were showing signs that maybe, just maybe they would start spinning soon, but this was getting old fast.  So I starting looking around the neighborhood.  Just a couple blocks away, in a vacant lot next to a church yard I spied a pair of mulberry trees.  YES!  The silkies seem to like the new leaves well enough, but still most weren’t cocooning up.

 

 

A few did start to change.  Toilette paper tubes make nice places for the worms to settle down for a spin.  They start by anchoring a few threads and then make a comfy hammock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then they keep spinning untill they have a nice safe cocoon.

Unfortunately, most of my silworms did not ever pupate.  Out of my 500+ worms that made it to the fifth instar, maybe 10% spun cocoons and some of those were on the thin side–the worm clearly died before finishing.  The rest just kept eating until they wore out and died.  I suspect my neighborhood trees may have been sprayed.  I’ve seen tent caterpillars in the area and I know some of the sprays they use for that are grow inhibitors that might prevent molting or pupating.  I would like to try this again, but not until I have my own mulberry tree that I know is safe and I might want to hatch out fewer caterpillars!

Next: Mothra emerges

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So my husband ordered 500 silkworm eggs and some worm chow for my anniversary present.  I’m not really sure what this says about me or our relationship, but it was the perfect present.  I’ve been joking about starting a silkworm ranch for a while.  Hey, I live in a city rowhouse.  I don’t think the neighbors (or the zoning department) are keen on my keeping sheep or alpaca, lol.

First hatchlings

You can just barely see the first hatchlings.  The eggs are just little dots.  They lighten up a bit before hatching.  The new worms look like tiny black maggots and are maybe 1/4 inch long. These first ones hatched a week ago, on Friday afternoon.

Only 5 had hatched by the time I should have gone to bed.  I was nervous, having heard that they need to eat within 4 hours, so I got up in the middle of the night to check on them and sure enough, the mass hatching had started.  I put the hatchlings on some food and brushed the rest of the eggs close to the food.  By morning most were hatched

At this stage they are pretty gruesome little things.

These are about 4 days old.  They’ve lightened up and plumped out.  Most have white heads with black faces and tannish bodies.  The skins on a few have started looking kind of stiff and maybe a bit translucent. Almost time to shed their skins, I think!

Day 6 and I think almost all of these have molted.  I only saw one actually shed it’s skin and there don’t seem to be any old skins lying about.  Did they eat them?  All the wormies are plumper now and about a half inch long.  The white heads are more pronounced and the bodies are a soft dove grey color.  Much less gruesome, don’t you think.

So far I have had noticeable fatalities and I think at least 90% hatched.  They are still small enough that I don’t want to try and count them.  Maybe in another molting or two.  Wish me luck!  I want to spin some homegrown silk.

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