The first cocoon began yesterday.
There are so many other silkworms writhing over one another I’ve removed this one to a cardboard tube in front of the orange bowl. (I say this by way of explaining the backdrop!)
By breakfast this morning, there were 5 silkworms beginning the journey toward becoming silkmoths. Meanwhile, alpaca dyeing and an indigo vat… more about that later. For now, we need to collect more mulberry leaves. Last night’s substantial harvest is almost consumed.
The sound of munching is getting louder. When we add new leaves, there is an audible crackling, a bit like when you add milk to rice bubbles. I am not sure I have really been showing you the full enormity. But, of course, the enormity is growing all the time. Here, a couple of specimens representative of their general size (some are smaller): about 6 cm or 2 1/2 inches long. And hungry! Hungry all the time!
A friend took ten to share with her students at school, but we still have ohhh… over 100. Here they are after this morning’s tidy up.
I live in hope they will pupate before I have had to introduce myself to complete strangers with mulberry trees. We had two merciful gifts of leaves this week, and offers of more from fellow Guildies who understood the gravity of the situation.. So perhaps we won’t have to strip the neighbourhood trees completely bare! On the other hand, I can hear chewing…
This week’s update is a little late… But the silkworms grew hugely. Many shed their skins and moved on to the next stage of life.
There are so many I took about 50 to the guild yesterday and they went to happy homes!
I have expanded their accommodation and my hunt for mulberry leaves, and between our house guests and my beloved, they are getting an enormous amount of attention and concern for their wellbeing. But they seem to be doing well!
My goodness… they just keep growing!
I don’t mean to sound surprised by this… and I am not sure how to make it interesting viewing, either.
It’s hard to even give a sense of scale… but I think they’re at least double the size they were last week, which isn’t bad going. You can still see tinier silkworms amid the bigger ones in the images above.
And just for the curious, my parents inform me (based on first hand, childhood experience living in a country town with few mulberry trees) that a hungry silkworm will eat a grape vine leaf. I tested this theory and mine definitely chose mulberry leaves over grape leaves–but a few were prepared to nibble on the grape leaves. For today… mulberry leaf again!
One week along, I have at least 100 silkworms and have started trying to find them future homes. The wigglers with pale heads are a week old, but you can see two tiny black ones toward the bottom of this image which have hatched much more recently. I will be needing a lot of mulberry leaves if this keeps up!
Last year, I bought five silk worms at a school fair and raised them into moths. Later, when I was wondering what to expect next, I had quite a conversation with a delightful woman in the Button Bar in the Adelaide Arcade, as you do. I can’t remember how we got from the tea cosy she was knitting to silk worms, but somehow we did. She told me to expect the eggs that resulted from a dalliance between a couple of my moths to hatch in September. I remember thinking about this on 1 September. Then on Friday 13 September I realised I had taken no action and sprinted down the hall to check on them and lo! There were tiny black creatures wiggling around! I made an immediate mercy dash to the nearest mulberry tree. Can you make the hatchlings out?
The hatchlings are the tiny black lines. Those spots on the cardboard are eggs. Today I conservatively estimate I have 50 silkworm hatchlings, and I have started working on finding some of them new homes.
Meanwhile, I have been on a bag jag… sewing loads more bags and taming [some of] my scrap collection. I decided to photograph a lining in progress on the weekend, because what is more thrilling than a lining?
Well, one of our chooks seemed to think so. She could tell whatever was happening on the table was worth looking into, so she flew up immediately to check into it. Regrettably, this was not an edible thrill from her point of view.
Thrills come in very disparate packages, all depending on perspective… or so it seems to me! Audrey finds earwigs a lot more thrilling than I do.
Meanwhile, I have taken the nettle stems back out of the retting bath (which this time certainly did go to the garden–) and set them out in the rain to rinse. Since so much of my crafting takes place in crevices of time and is ordered by whim rather than a linear plan, I hope you’re managing to follow all these emerging themes …
Yesterday I got up to find that two of the cocoons were open and there were two silk moths in our kitchen.
Not only that. In the fullness of time it became clear that we had a female and a male. And silkworm eggs. My goodness! At this rate my five silkworms could result in a large second generation. Given that I stared with only five, I had not assumed that there would be two moths alive at the same time, let alone eggs. Now I have to figure out the next stage…
A while back, I mentionedthat I had acquired some silkworms. Five for a dollar, to be exact! There I was, checking out the primary school community garden during their fete and admiring the plants for sale, when I saw them. So, they went into a strawberry punnet and came home on my bicycle. Then began weeks of raiding local mulberry trees for stray overhanging leaves (and there were some from my friend’s front yard too). Since it is mulberry season, I got some food from the whole adventure too, and some berry-stained fingertips.
Eventually, they began to show signs of wanting to move to the next stage of their life cycles. I’d sought advice from wormspit, so most of them found themseves moved to a cardboard roll (ahem) at this point:
I was quite fascinated by the way that the colour of the silk changed between the early stages of cocoon-making, when it seemed quite white, to the next day:
Now, we are waiting to see when they emerge and what happens them. It may be that with a posse of only 5, there will not be opportunities to reproduce. But we’ll wait and see.
On the weekend, I went to a fete at Black Forest Primary School. They had a sensational community garden, complete with a sale of silkworms, 5 for a dollar! Who could resist? Clearly not me (you guessed), so there are 5 silkworms in the lounge munching through mulberry leaves. More on that later.
While my posse of friends and my house guests from Denmark were hitching up their bikes, I took a sample of the tree right at the dead end of Kertaweeta Ave Black Forest where we entered the school grounds, with the help of a taller friend. Excuse the extra good photo….
This tree had smooth, pale bark in some of the finer upper branches.
I don’t know why, but I do not entirely trust the result that Euclid and I produced: E Corynodes. Poor Euclid, depending on me. There were no mature fruits, buds or flowers to consider, and that makes the result less dependable and the chance of detecting an error smaller. Euclid suggests E Corynodes can be confused with several other species, but look at this account of how to tell them apart!
E. fibrosa subsp. fibrosa, E. fibrosa subsp. nubila, E. melanophloia and E. rhombica … differ in having buds with stamens all fertile and irregularly flexed. E. sideroxylon differs by having buds that hold the outer operculum into maturity and both the inner and outer operculum shed together at anthesis (no operculum scar).
So that would be obvious, then! Based on this I wonder how I can be sure this is not E Sideroxylon, which would give orange too… Because whatever its true name, this is the result I got.