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11

It has been cold and rainy here this week, but we still have plenty of insects. You see, they are all indoors.

Here is the story of our silkworms in photographs:

We bought our caterpillars over the Internet. They arrived in a plastic cup. Look at all the colors!

The caterpillars ate a commercial food made up of dried mulberry leaves and thickeners. We bought some extra food from the supplier, because we weren't sure we could find mulberry leaves. We made it in the microwave by mixing the powder with water and cooking it.

After a few weeks, we did find some mulberry leaves.

The caterpillars ate a lot of mulberry leaves.

The caterpillar makes silk with a gland that exits in its mouth.

When they are ready to pupate, the caterpillars start to make a silk bag around themselves, which is the cocoon. The cocoon is what is used to make the fabric silk.

When we did this before, all the cocoons were white. This time they were white, pale yellow and deep golden yellow. (The colors have to do with the mix of varieties we got.)

After about two weeks (depends on the temperature), the first moths emerged.

This is a male. Isn't he cute?

The females laid eggs on other cocoons and on some cardboard egg cartons we provided.

silkworm-eggs2

The eggs are the size of pinheads or slightly larger. They are light to dark gray in color.

The best part of this project has been sharing the caterpillars and the stories with our friends.

For more information about silkworms, see Silkworms: A Thread through History, and also the link at the end of that post.

Related books (with Affiliate links to Amazon)

Silkworm (Life Cycle of a . . .) by Ron Fridell and Patricia Walsh

Age Range: 6 - 8 years
Publisher: Heinemann; 2nd Edition edition (August 15, 2009)
ISBN-10: 1432925458
ISBN-13: 978-1432925451

The Story of Silk: From Worm Spit to Woven Scarves (Traveling Photographer) by Richard Sobol

Age Range: 6 - 9 years
Publisher: Candlewick (September 25, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0763641650
ISBN-13: 978-0763641658

Did you wonder what kind of moth was in the cocoon in the “another lacewing larva” post? I did and so I kept an eye on it. This week a brown moth emerged.

cabbage looper moth

It is a cabbage looper moth, Trichoplusia ni. Check out the punk look. Isn't that wild?

cabbage looper moth

I didn't muss this moth up, those are naturally arranged scales. It also has some white markings on it's wing.

The cabbage looper pupa is pale green with some brown marks on the back and it is hidden under a shield of white silk.

The cabbage looper caterpillar was bug of the week in an earlier post. It is a pale green caterpillar that loops when it walks.

Moths are often ignored because they are small, drab and are most active at night. But as you can see, if you look at them close up, they can be quite fascinating.

If you are interested in finding out more about moths, try:

Discovering Moths: Nighttime Jewels in Your Own Backyard by John Himmelman

2

It’s cabbage looper season here again. In some places cabbage loopers might be considered to be pests, but in our yard they are considered to be pets. They are hardy, will eat a wide range of foods, and they show up every year.

cabbage looper

The looper gets its name from the fact it “loops up” in the middle while walking. The caterpillar has two sets of appendages. Its six true legs are right behind the head. Towards the rear is another set of fleshy, wider appendages called “prolegs.” Scientists don't count the prolegs, so the caterpillar still has the six legs characteristic of insects.

cabbage looper

The caterpillar holds on with the true legs and brings its back end forward. The prolegs meet the true legs, and the back forms a loop. Then it releases the true legs. The head and front spring forward. The looper holds on with its true legs and the process repeats.

This one was nibbling my mint, but I'm not too concerned. The mint is prolific and the caterpillar has a lot of enemies. It is eaten by birds, wasps and parasitic flies. So, loop on little buddy.

Edit: The cabbage looper moth is featured in a later post.