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Oud Living

  • Writer's pictureAnushka Neyol

Life Cycle of a Silkworm: What do you know about it?

Silk is a super versatile fiber to work with. We all have seen Silk Sarees, Suits or Dupattas in our mother's or grandmother's wardrobe. Some of those pieces sometime date back decades. Now, the funny thing is that while we may have seen various kind of Silk Fabrics, we barely know about Sericulture i.e. Silk Farming, which is the cultivation of Silkworms to produce Silk.

This blog is dedicated to take you through multiple stages in the Life Cycle of a Silkworm to understand the delicate art and science of Sericulture in India and across the globe.

Stage 1

Female Silk Moths (Bombyx Mori) lay about 300 to 500 eggs. The eggs hatch within roughly 7 to 14 days at temperatures ranging between 24 to 29 °C (about 75 to 85 °F).

Stage 2

The newly hatched larvae/ mulberry silkworms must be kept at the temperature ranging between 78-85 degree Fahrenheit, for them to grow and survive. They usually become around 2cm long by the age of 10 days. They become around 7.5cm long by the age of 28 days. They only feed on the mulberry leaves, as their jaws are too weak to eat anything else.

Stage 3

The mulberry silkworms enter the cocooning stage around 28-30 days in its life cycle. During this age, they start to change yellowish in color. They non-stop start spinning a cocoon around themselves, which is made of a single unbroken silk thread, and takes just about 2 days to finish.

Stage 4

After forming a cocoon, the mulberry silkworms eventually stops moving. They shed their skin and turn into a pupa. This is the intermediate stage between a caterpillar and a silkmoth.

Some of the cocoons at this stage are taken for processing to make long unbroken silk threads and used for fabrics with weaves like Charmeuse, Organza, Crepe De Chine, Jacquard etc.

Stage 5

Some of the cocoons mature and the adult silk moths emerge from the cocoon.

The broken cocoons are used for fabrics which need short broken silk threads, also called Peace or Ahimsa Silk, with weaves like Matka, Ketya, Tussar, Khadi etc. These fabrics have irregularities in textures with small slubs and resemble the texture of a tweed cloth.

In India, you can get Peace Silk from Muezart or Anuprerna.

Stage 6

The adult silk moths enter the mating stage. After laying the eggs, they usually die within a week. Now, an interesting observation here is that, adult silk moths neither fly nor eat anything after emerging from the cocoon. Their entire purpose is to mate, lay eggs and die. Their eggs are yellow in the color, which turn to purple or gray in a week's time. The same cycle continues from stage 1.

For a brief summary of this blog, check out our post on Instagram. We will be discussing about Spinning of Silk Threads from Silk Cocoons in the upcoming blog!


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