Speaking of Aliens...

My silkworms are starting to turn into silkmoths! The first moth emerged from his cocoon this weekend, I hope more are close behind so that he can mate before he dies! I didn't expect him to come out so soon so I didn't have my real camera but I wanted to share my blurry phone pictures of the event:

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i-34fa1a3f05837d89fd71a2d8bdf89efe-IMG_0964.jpgIn industrial silk production they can't use the cocoon that gets left behind because the moth uses an enzyme called cocoonase to chew his way out, breaking the otherwise continuous silk thread. I'm starting to explore ways that I can use this silk though--so far I've only made friendship bracelets, but I'm waiting to get more thread to crochet with and learning about ways to dissolve the silk fibers and make flexible sheets of silk. Soon we're going to get a real lab strain of silkworms that are genetically pure so that we can start doing experiments (these guys of indeterminate lineage are from Carolina Biological, a great company that provides scientific materials for science education), with the eventual goal of being able to engineer different kinds of silk. I think right now my first goal is to have fluorescent silk friendship bracelets!

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I've been breeding silkworms on and off for the last few years as feeders for my reptile collection, and have ~200 cocoons or so from my last two generations that I've been meaning to get to and try extracting the silk from. Do you have any tips for gathering the silk from cocoons that have birthed moths?

Also: thanks for these silkworm posts, and... for the swarm!

You have to soften the glue that holds the thread together in boiling water for a few minutes, and then it becomes easier to pull threads off and twist them together into a thicker strand. I basically just yanked on the softened cocoon for a few minutes and got a couple yards of pretty thick and strong silk, although it's not really as pretty as "real" silk thread. You may be able to find more details online, Gandhi made silk from the cocoons left behind so as not to kill any creatures, and there are some people who still do it this way although it is more difficult (here's one article I found about current "peace silk" production http://www.abolitionist-online.com/article-issue02_ahimsa.peace.silk.sh…). If I find a good method I'll post it too!

That is so awesome! Your little guy looks very cute; I hope he finds a mate soon. I am really excited to see fluorescent friendship bracelets, too :)

Wonderful project! Wow!

By Juan Carlos (not verified) on 18 May 2010 #permalink

this kind of silk thred can be produced by using enzyme.

By Dr. J.P. Pandey (not verified) on 06 Jul 2010 #permalink