Why do silkworms stay in cocoons?

Silkworms are the larva of a moth (Bombyx mori) native to Asia that spins a cocoon of fine, strong, lustrous fiber that is the source of commercial silk. The culture of silkworms is called sericulture. The various species of silkworms raised today are distinguished by the quality of the silk they produce. Silkworms feed on the leaves of the mulberries (genus Morus) and sometimes on the Osage orange (Maclura pomifera).

Bombyx Mori will not bite, making an ideal worm for feeding most reptiles, amphibians and other animals, and they offer great nutritional value.

Mulberry Leaves

Newborns are small enough for most baby reptiles to eat and young silkworms can even be fed so they will grow to a desired size. Silkworms are soft-bodied, slow moving and can grow to 3 inches in length. They are also relatively fast growing, reaching about 3 inches in length and ready to cocoon in as little as 25 - 28 days.

Silkworms go through four stages of development, as do most insects: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The adult (imago) stage is the silkworm moth. The larva is the silkworm caterpillar. The pupa is what the silkworm changes into after spinning its cocoon before emerging as a moth. Since the silkworm grows so much, it must shed its skin four times while it is growing. These stages-within-a-stage are called instars.

Today, the silkworm moth lives only in captivity. Silkworms have been domesticated so that they can no longer survive independently in nature, particularly since they have lost the ability to fly. All wild populations are extinct. Also contributing to their extinction is the extraordinary fact that they only eat mulberry leaves.

Silkworms have been used by researchers to study pheromones or sexual attractant substances. The pheromones are released by female moths and the males detect the chemicals with olfactory hairs on their antennae. This allows the male to find the female for mating. The male antennae are made of many small hairs to increase the chances of picking up small amounts of the pheromones over long distances.

The great thing about silkworms is that they only grow as much as you feed them, and they can go for up to a week without food. Keep in mind, however, that silkworms become dehydrated after a few days without food, and should be feed at least once daily in order to remain healthy. But, in general, if you have too many silkworms you can feed them a few times per week and they'll stay alive until you need them without growing too much larger.
Wash hands thoroughly before handling the worms or the food or they may develop bacterial problems. Using a cheese grater, grate a small amount of food onto the worms and repeat until the worms reach the desired size. For best results, maintain temperatures between 78° and 88° F.

Excessive condensation forming in the container after feeding is the leading cause of failure. If this condensation does form, take the lid off your container and allow the container and old food to completely dry out. In the future, make sure the previous food is dry before feeding again. Old damp food is a breeding ground for mold and other problems, dry food is not.

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