The silk worm: the giver of fine fabric

With World Animal Day here today (4th October), we’ve decided to dedicate this weeks blog to our favourite animal - the silk worm. Because of the incredible life cycle of this small creature and the admiration we have for its ability to produce one of the most beautiful fabrics on the planet, we’ve decided to take an in depth look into its life and its creation of silk.

Bombyx mori, Latin for ‘silkworm of the mulberry tree’, is more commonly known as the silk worm. These creatures are actually classified as caterpillars from the Bombicidae family and live exclusively off of mulberry leaves. The silk worm feeds incessantly day and night, resulting in incredibly fast growth: they will grow to roughly 10,000 times their original size within their short lifespan! Subsequently, the silkworm will begin to spin a cocoon in order to protect itself while it undergoes metamorphosis. This is made out of a continuous silk thread, which is anywhere between 600m and 900m long.

The silkworm itself has a relatively short lifespan, ranging from between 2 and 3 months. It has three growth stages: larva, pupa and adult. The larva hatches from a small black egg and begins feeding on mulberry leaves, which continues for four to six weeks. When the larva reaches its target length (roughly three inches), the caterpillar pupates and spends three days spinning a silk cocoon. It takes about three weeks for an adult moth to then emerge from this cocoon. However life as an adult silk worm is very short, approximately five days. Many live long enough to simply just reproduce; females lay eggs almost immediately and die, while the males live only a few short days after this.

The beginning of the silkworm cocoons

The beginning of the silkworm cocoons

Nevertheless, in their brief lives silk worms give the world one of its most valuable materials. Silk has long been prized as a luxury fabric for thousands of years and its economic value to humanity is highlighted by the fact that in China alone, the silk industry turnover is close to $2.5 billion per annum. As we’ve discussed before, the silk industry has always been economically important to this region and remains one of the largest global producers, alongside India, Thailand and Brazil.

Modern ‘Mechanized’ silk production

Modern ‘Mechanized’ silk production

Traditionally in the production of silk, also known as sericulture, silk worms have an even shorter life span. Many do not reach adulthood as they are very often killed before hatching to make the silk weaving process easier, reducing labour intensity and therefore costs of production. However, a new method pioneered by Kusuma Rajaiah of Ahimsa Silk, creates an opportunity for silk worms to live their full, natural lives, while also producing beautiful silk. In fact, because the silk worms are allowed to complete metamorphosis in full, ahimsa silk is regarded as a higher quality garment, softer and finer in comparison to regular silk with a more subtle pearl sheen. We’re delighted to have this fantastic company as our supplier and if you’d like to know more about them, read our exclusive blog covering their work here

Kusuma Rajaiah and his silk

Kusuma Rajaiah and his silk

What we do for these amazing animals via Ahimsa Silk is something we’re very proud of and one of the reasons the Ethical Silk Company is, well, ethical! Why not support Ahimsa Silk through an Ethical Silk Co purchase for you or a loved one. Don’t forget to like and share the blog with friends or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Above all though, enjoy World Animal Day by celebrating your favourite animal!

Thanks,

Eva