Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity (sericulture).
1. Mulberry silks
Mulberry silk is the most common among the many kinds of silk. It makes up 90% of the silk supply in the world. This popular kind is produced by the bombyx mori silkworms which are fed from the mulberry bush (thus the name).
2. Non-mulberry silks
Three other commercially important types fall into the category of non-mulberry silks namely: Eri silk, Tasar silk and Muga silk.
- Eri silk belongs to either of two species namely Samia ricini and Philosamia ricini. P.ricini (also called as castor silkworm) is a domesticated one reared on castor oil plant leaves to produce a white or brick-red silk popularly known as Eri silk.
- Tasar silk is the second most produced silk behind mulberry silk. Mulberry silk is created by caterpillars that eat mulberry leaves exclusively.
- Muga silk comes from the cocoons of caterpillars that are only found in Assam, India. Some caterpillars who produce eri silk are raised on the leaves of the castor oil plant.
There are also other types of non-mulberry silk, which are mostly wild and exploited in Africa and Asia, are Anaphe silk, Fagara silk, Coan silk, Mussel silk and Spider silk.
Despite the many kinds of silk fibers, Silks are woven into different weaves/ fabrics. Silk weaves include chiffon, organza, doupioni, pongee and faille.