Thursday, 19 July 2012

Beautiful White Cocoons

These silkworms are the koishimaru ancient breed. There are hundreds of varieties but this one is the most famous. Famous because  Michiko sama raises the same variety at the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo as her duty as the Empress. The silk thread itself has a specific white luster and it is said to be a waste to dye all the thread but leave the base white with light colored accents. Precious stuff this Imperially connected silk.

(The photos are extra large today so click on them to see the full size.)

You can see that the worms are no longer white but translucent when they start to spin. They are smaller than they were the previous day as the silk liquid inside them has changed. When they start to spit thread they arch upwards. After having raised hundreds of thousands of silkworms over many years you absorb so much information about  the very subtle behavior of the worms and the process as itself and ones own reaction to it all. Impossible to put it into words.

The images of silkworms spinning are otherworldly and spooky. I remember the first time I had 10 000 spinning upstairs with naked light bulbs hanging from the ceiling it was so surreal. The scale is small this time as these are just for breeding. The silkworms finished spinning a week ago and the chrysalis is now hard enough to move onto the next step. Removing the outside fuzz on the cocoons and then cutting open the cocoons and separating the females and males.

Inside each cocoon there is a chrysalis and the discarded skin of the silkworm itself. You check the behind of each chrysalis and separate the females and males. Depending on the weather you have a week to ten days before the moths emerge and you start the next step in getting eggs.  The facial features are not yet clear on the chrysalis so I have at least five days before these ones are moths.


  1. I am thoroughly enjoying reading your posts on silk and appreciate all the detail you are including. I don't think it is something I will ever do, raise my own worms and spin my own silk, but to know the processes is to enjoy the finished product greatly (except when it's like chain-mail to hand sew!)

  2. onesmallstitch20 July 2012 at 02:54

    thank you for the photos and explanation - the natural world is so perfectly exquisite - if only we would stop destroying it!! what do you do with the outside fuzz? what is the proportion of males to females? I could go on and on, maybe a workshop on silk rearing and reeling?

  3. lovely fuzz. can it also be spinned into thread?
    another question do worms make any kind of noise while spinning?

  4. Just amazing this silkworms series, dear Bryan, I never stopped to consider that there are males and females also among the silkworms.

  5. Simply amazing. Photos are fantastic