Sunday, May 30, 2010

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.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

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?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Artist's Way, week 7

I promised an update on how my journey with "The Artist's Way" has been going. I'm only in week 7 right now because while I was away on vacation, I just stayed in week 6 instead of bringing my book along. I did continue with my journaling however.


The journal writing is what I think I'm now enjoying the most. For several years now I've tried to keep a journal, and I always let it slide. I never felt like I had anything important enough to write about. I saw it as a way for later generations to know something about me. In retrospect, I think that idea is what crippled my ability to actually write anything. If it didn't feel big enough to tell all of my future descendants, it didn't feel worth writing in my journal. So I just didn't write anything at all.

With the assignment from the book to just fill up 3 pages every day no matter what I wrote about, that pressure to be important was lifted. Now I babble in my journal. Navel-gazing gibberish or dull details about what errands I ran that day. 3 pages of it. Every day. Heaven help anyone who tries to read it, they'll be put to sleep in seconds.

But for me, it's been a sort of therapy. I guess that's the idea. Somehow it's easier to let things go once they're written down. I remember my favorite class that I took in college also required daily free writing. I think we only had to do one or two pages though, or maybe it was just 15 minutes of writing. . . anyway, as I'm rediscovering the fun of stupid writings I think that assignment might be part of what I liked so much about that class.

So what have I really gained so far? Well, I'm starting to think that I'm having so much trouble finishing a story for the same reason I was having trouble keeping a journal. I worry WAY too early in the process about what others might think about it. About where I might try to submit it. Then anything I'm working on instantly doesn't seem good enough and I stop. No one needs (or would want) to read my rambling journal, and no one needs to read my first drafts. After editing and rewrites, I can decided if I ever want anyone to see a story. Until then, they don't. I can just have fun.

This is what I think I need to learn.

Friday, May 14, 2010

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.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm it.

Amanda over at A Fortnight of Mustard tagged me. So looks like I'm supposed to answer the following questions five times each.

Where were you five years ago?

1. Bouncing around the California Bay Area. Just like now.
2. Much thinner.
3. At the same job I'm at now.
4. Mothering the cutest little toddler around.
5. Full of dreams.

Where would you like to be in five years?

1. In a house with a backyard.
2. Working from home.
3. Much thinner.
4. Much calmer in mind.
5. Having written at least one complete novel.

What is on your To-Do list today?

1. 2 workshops
2. A fund raising dinner.
3. Writing.
4. Dishes and laundry
5. A little Wii Fit.

What snacks do you enjoy?

It's late, I'm tired and I'm not going to open my evening snacking can of worms by thinking too hard about crap I don't need to eat.

What would you do with a billion dollars?

1. Move to a house with a backyard.
2. Give up my job.
3. See if the Russians would let me go to the International Space Station.
4. Help any family who needs money.
5. Buy one of those big looms and learn how to weave.

I'm supposed to tag other bloggers, but I'm a party pooper about doing that. Sorry. If you haven't done this yet and want to, consider yourself tagged.