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Silkworms are really not worms at all. They are caterpillars of the silkworm moth. These caterpillars have a very special job. Their job is to make silk threads. The silk threads are harvested by farmers and eventually wound into threads to make beautiful woven fabric. Most of the silk found in the world today is cultivated on farms in Japan, China, and other Far East countries where an abundance of mulberry trees grow -- mulberry leaves being the main food source of the silkworm.
Getting Silk From the Silkworm
Place carefully collected silkworm moth eggs on strips of special paper or cloth. Place the eggs in an incubator for 20 days. The warmth will make the eggs hatch. Once the eggs hatch, feed the tiny caterpillars an abundance of mulberry leaves. Feed them day and night for about 5 weeks, making sure the mulberry leaves are fresh. The silkworm will be fully grown by this time and will stop eating.
Place small twigs or straw in the tray with the caterpillars. They are ready to spin their cocoon. Allow the silkworm to attach itself to the twig and begin spinning its silk thread. Be patient as it takes about 3 days for the caterpillar to complete its cocoon, winding the silk thread around and around its own body until completely enclosed. Each cocoon can have between 600 and 1200 threads.
Place the cocoons into an oven. This kills the worm before it has a chance to change into a moth and burst free of the cocoon, damaging the silk threads. Place the cocoons into warm water to soften the gummy residue emitted by the caterpillar during production. Once the residue is softened, begin unwinding the threads carefully.
Don't kill all your caterpillar chrysalises. Let some go ahead and turn into adult moths and emerge from their cocoons to ensure more eggs in the future.
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