Monday, April 12, 2010

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://lawrencehallofscience.org/foss/fossweb/teachers/materials/plantanimal/silkwormmoths.html

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

http://www.permaculturevisions.com/silkworms.htm

http://www.insectlore.com/xinsectucational_stuff/instructions/silkworm_city.html

Friday, April 9, 2010

SIlkworms, Day 1



Our silkworms started hatching Easter evening, and by Monday morning, almost all of them had hatched. Aren't they cute! They were about 1/2 a centimeter long when they first hatched.

I really want to call them silk caterpillars, because they aren't really "worms", but since most folks know them as silkworms, I guess I'll stick with it. Or should I try to start a movement to change the terminology?

I'm on the hunt for a good book about silkworms (aka silk caterpillars) and silk moths to learn more about these little guys and gals that we now have. I was very disappointed when I was unable to find a good book in our local children's library (or any book at all for that matter) Raising silkworms is popular enough that I would have thought finding reading materials about them would have been a cinch. I found a few decent websites, but books are just so much easier to look together as a family. So, I'm open to suggestions.

I'll have new pictures tomorrow to show off their growth for the week!