When the demand for mulberry
leaves started to outstrip the supply, I not only began
freezing installments for my silkworm
taste test, I also opted to toss a few tender morsels to our
hen’s chicks. The chickens were so receptive that I
gave them a second helping, then a third…then started worrying
that I’d accidentally use up my silkworm breeding stock.
Time to set aside 20 breeders to perpetuate the species.
If I’d been smart, I
would have taken away the
leaf covered in tiny silkworms at the end of the
caterpillars’ first day of life, then kept the silkworms that
hatched the next day in a separate bin. Since silkworms are
on a strict timeline, I don’t want to mix the two (or possibly
three) hatches in my breeding bin since, presumably, those
individuals a few days younger will pop out of their cocoons a few
days later and will miss the mating frenzy.
understanding of silkworm biology helped make up for that
beginner’s oversight. By selecting breeding stock from the
biggest silkworms on day 19, it was relatively easy to pick out
those that had molted for their fourth time from those who hadn’t
yet made the shift. The latter were mostly preparing for
their molt by sitting still with their heads raised, like the
silkworm in the center of the photo above. (This is a subtly
different posture from silkworms reaching up into the air for a
new leaf, distinguished by the “sleeping” caterpillars’
stillness.) I tossed the biggest silkworms onto fresh
mulberry leaves in a smaller bin, waited a few minutes for them to
settle in, then took out all the ones who were sitting still
instead of gnawing on new leaves.
I don’t have to worry about accidentally feeding our best
specimens to the chickens. The next step is to add
structures for them to spin cocoons inside, then all will be
still until the hatch.
solution to a filthy homestead problem.