Silk and the creatures that create it

The following text is originally lifted from the trivia section of The Jakarta Post dated Saturday, 15 November 2008.

~Compiled from various sources~

  • Male silkworm moths have such a keen sense of smell they can detect a sexy female moth 10.5 km away.
  • Members of the silkworm moth family have been raised in China since 2697 BC, where the methods are silk production had been a closely guarded secret. Anyone caught removing these insects from China was executed. However, in 55 AD two monks hid some silkworm moths in their canes and smuggled them to Constantinople.
  • The careful attention to the rearing of silkworms determines the quantity and quality of the silk. So concerned were the ancient Chinese that any worm out of synchronisation with the rhythm and transformation of the majority of worms would be buried or fed to fish to avoid any variation in the silk produced.
  • One silkworm can spin a thread almost a kilometre long.
  • It takes about 110 domestic silkworm cocoons to make a man’s tie and 630 cocoons to make one silk blouse.
  • More than 25,000 cocoons are needed to make a pound of silk.
  • It takes about 4.5 kilograms of mulberry leaves for silkworms to be able to manufacture 0.45 kilograms of cocoons, which can be spun into a silk thread over 160 kilometres long.
  • Bombyx mori, a silkworm moth, has been cultivated for so long that it can no longer exist without human care. Because it has been domesticated, it has lost the ability to fly and needs to be handfed.
  • Louis Pasteur saved French’s silkworm industry. When the industry in southern France was dealt a staggering blow by a disease that was killing the silkworms, the call for help went out for Pasteur – no one but Pasteur. Pasteur’s solution on locating a tiny parasite infecting silkworms and the mulberry leaves that were fed to them was drastic, but rational: destroy all infested worms and infected food. It was done. It worked. The silk industry was saved.
  • It takes about ten pounds of mulberry leaves to enable silkworm caterpillars to manufacture one pound of cocoons – which can be spun into a silk thread more than 100 miles long.

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