Silkworms are various species of moths come from the larvae. Bombyx mori, the most common type of silkworms, has been severely domesticated. They depend on humans for their reproduction, and eat only the leaves of mulberry trees.
Silk is made of silk cocoons which consist of a single wire line and the line can reach 1,000 to 3,000 feet in length when unraveled. The world’s silk manufacturers produce about 70 million pounds of raw silk each year.
People domesticate silkworms and raise them in manual settings to control how silk is harvested. To keep the continuous lines of silk, they will kill the larvae during the harvest process. If the larvae themselves are removed from the cocoon, the thread will break. Thus, the filaments cannot be used to produce the fabric. In general, the cocoon is boiled to kill larvae and make the cocoon easier to unwind. Keeping the larvae with needles also kills them, but cocoon will be left.
Scientists study silkworms on pheromones, hormones, brain structure and physiology. Besides, silkworms are used in the study of genetics and genetic engineering. Some of these studies were aimed at producing silkworms that can feed on materials other than mulberry leaves. Others are aimed at seeking engineering silkworm produce protein which can be used in a variety of human drugs. In these studies, scientists sequenced the worm’s genome to know more about genes that produce certain traits in silkworms.
Food and Medicine
Some people eat the silkworm pupae. For instance, Koreans cook them by boiling them in water and then seasoning them to create a snack from the pupa. Chinese street vendors roasted pupa, and Chinese people also use the dried silkworm to create a medicine for relieving flatulence and body cramps and dissolving sputum.