Pet Spotlight: Silk WormsDisclaimer: As with the Wintermelon post, I do not claim to be an expert in insects, breeding, feeders, or pets. All opinions expressed and experiences shared are my own and from what I read on the internet.
I bought three silkworms from a pet store on about Thursday 29th May. Normally silkworms are used as feeders for reptiles and, although I'm the owner of a considerable menagerie, these little ones were not for that purpose. I wanted to see them spin their cocoons and become moths.
Plus, they're really cute.
So aside from (lightly) squeezing them (they're sooo squishy!) and petting them, I got a plastic see-through box for them and threw in a bunch of washed white mulberry leaves, and let them get on with it. Silkworms eat voraciously, hence my new nickname for my trio: "Om nom noms". Just keep throwing mulberry leaves at them, but make sure they're fresh, because silkworms don't drink. They get all their hydration from the water in the leaves, and face it, dry leaves aren't exactly the most delectable. Clean out the faeces -- these guys poop as fast as they eat -- every so often.
I had them for two to three days before they just stopped eating altogether. Then they started spinning silk. Initially they were pretty lethargic, nibbling on the mulberry leaf a little, before just lying there again. I began to worry, as I'd never had silkworms before and was thinking, "Oh God, I can't even keep three worms alive?!"
The interwebs say they take about three weeks to become moths, but it may be because it's horrendously hot where I am right now (35C on a normal day), they came out of their cocoons on June 10th -- well, two of them did. One was still inside its cocoon. As they (apparently) come out at dawn, I figured the remaining one wouldn't arrive until the next day, and I was right. I cleared out most of the faeces from before they became cocoons and the dried leaf that stayed with them for the 11-day-long cocoon period.
As I was also told by the internet, they sprayed a red liquid when they came out of the cocoon. So I cleared that out too. The first two that emerged look like females -- pretty big and wide, white, looks like the females on the internet. I hoped the third would be a male, otherwise these three will die within a week without laying eggs and I'll have to get new silkwormies.
Although considering they took a third of the time to become moths, perhaps they'll take a third of the time to die...
So it turned out the third one was, indeed, a male. Admittedly I couldn't tell the difference. He was the same size as the other two and more or less the same colour, perhaps with darker antennae. But when I came down the next morning, he had his butt jammed into a female's butt, so I guess he's a male?
I think the male is the left one in the left picture. You can also see the cocoon from which one of them emerged.
And although I'm rather quizzical about the timing of the event and its duration, it seems like the other female is already laying eggs -- considering adult moths neither urinate nor defecate, what else could these yellow things be? Our male could be more promiscuous and quick than I took him for...
They managed to mate about three times in total (so one female participated twice) and there was a shedload of eggs.
On about 16th June, some of the eggs did indeed turn grey/black (L), contrast with those that were unfertilised (R). Because my silk moths laid their eggs in two different places, I took half of the eggs -- still attached to the paper towel they were laid on -- and put it in a plastic tub, much like those takeaway microwaveable containers. Then I stuck the plastic container in a plastic bag, tied it, and refrigerated it. These should theoretically stay "fresh" for up to five years. They're my back-up silkworms. I don't fancy hatching hundreds of silkworms just yet -- can you imagine how much mulberry leaves they'll go through in a day!?
A couple of days later, the ones that were not refrigerated hatched.
Notice the little wriggly black things -- those are the baby silkworms. The hatched remnants of the eggs are grey and on close inspection, they have a hole in each of the sides.
I let the silk worm babies migrate of their own accord. Using small mulberry leaves -- as new as I can get, because their digestive tracts are still delicate and may not be able to digest larger leaves -- I placed new leaves on top and let them climb on. Eventually, after about two days, I'd moved most of them to a new container, cleaned the pink one, and replaced them.
|Empty silkworm eggs|
If I feed them daily, they'll reach full cocoon-able state within a month, so let's see where we go from there. I hope they survive this baby stage and start to shed. If all things go well, some will be kept behind for breeding but most of the rest will end up as feeders for my lizards and amphibians.
I'll update with a later post. Until then, the silkworm babies say bye!