The Adventures of Science Mom: Raising Silkworms

It’s SPRING and in our house that means it is SILKWORM time. There is still time for you and your family to embark on this fun adventure for less than $10 (that includes shipping!) You can order yourself 50-eggs at this website

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Raising silkworms is fun and easy, especially if you have a mulberry tree in your neighborhood. I live in Southern California and they are abundant in our area. If you are unsure what a mulberry tree looks like, here is a Google images search. The only thing that is challenging about raising silkworms is that you need a CONSTANT supply of fresh leaves because the worms get their water from the leaves. The link above where you can buy your eggs also has something called Mulberry Chow that you can feed your silkworms in case you don’t have trees in your area. Here are the steps to raising your silkworms.

  1. Hatch eggs: When you get your eggs if you live somewhere warm you can sprinkle them onto a piece of tissue paper, if  you live somewhere cold you should allow them to hatch in the plastic bag or petri dish that they arrive in. It is important that worms be in warm room temperature conditions (77-85-degrees-Fahrenheit) for them to hatch and for the first week of life.
  2. Grow worms: When they hatch they are TEENY, about the size of a small eyelash. What is amazing to watch is that they will grow to be about the  size of an adult finger!!!    Once they hatch move them into a cardboard box (the lid of a large pair of shoes or from a ream of printer paper is perfect). You want something that is flat at the bottom so that the worms don’t get lost crawling under flaps. I used a small wooden tray with a lip of about an inch. If you have 5-worms that make it to full adulthood, they will need all of the space available in a shoebox. It takes them about 4-weeks to get to the stage where you spin cocoons. As they are growing, you need to give them new leaves once or twice a day.
  3. Cocoon: I try not to move my silkworm box at all, but ESPECIALLY when they are cocooning and inside their chrysalis it is VERY IMPORTANT to not disturb the worms. They will be malformed moths or they will die if you jostle them during this period. It is FASCINATING to watch the silkworms during this phase. Their cocoon is made from a SINGLE THREAD that they wind around themselves in a very trance-inducing neck movement. I can watch them for a long time. They will emerge out of their cocoon after about 10-days
  1. Moth: When they emerge from their cocoon they are now silk moths. They have been bred to be too large to fly, so you don’t have to worry about them taking off. If you are lucky and more than one hatches around the same time, then you will end up with more eggs that you can refrigerate and use next year!

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More care information is available here.

Here are a bunch of awesome silkworm life-cycle diagrams for kids of all ages to describe the process. For pre-schoolers I use the one that allows them to color the different stages.