Silk moth – Bombyx mori
Silk Moths in History:
Silk moths (Bombyx mori) have been raised in captivity for thousands of years. Their cocoons are used to make silk fabric. At one time, silk was so valuable it was used as trade, much as we use money today.
Silk production originally began in China, where production secrets were successfully hidden for many years. Over time, however, visitors smuggled Silk Moth eggs out of China. Eventually the rest of the world was able to obtain eggs and raise these moths themselves. China and Japan still produce over fifty percent of the world’s silk.
Production of Silk:
This species of moth has been bred specifically to create larger cocoons. Through careful breeding over thousands of years, the size of the Silk Moth continued to grow, resulting in larger moths and cocoons. As the moth’s bodies grew larger, their wings were no longer able to support their weight. Silk moths can fly only a few feet, and only downward. They cannot take off and fly.
Although different lines of silk moths are raised, creating different colored cocoons, when the cocoons are processed, all color is lost and the silk becomes white.
One Silk Moth cocoon can produce one to three thousand feet of silk. If the adult emerges from the cocoon, it will break the silk to emerge from one end of the cocoon. In silk production, the cocoon must remain intact. To prevent the adult moth from emerging and damaging the silk, the cocoons are baked, roasted, or boiled to kill the pupae inside.
Silk Moths Today:
Bombyx mori no longer exists in the wild. They are permitted to be shipped across state lines without permits simply because they cannot escape and become a pest or problem in nature. They cannot live in nature.
Pupae (the third stage of the moths life cycle, which is inside the cocoon) are cooked and eaten as food in several countries.