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Silkworms are probably the insects with the highest economic importance. This worm specie is bred and kept because they can produce silk. This valuable protein fiber is used to produce silk fabrics. This fabric offers a smooth, cool, and shiny texture that is incredibly sought after.
Many also keep silkworms as pets because they are quite interesting to watch and if you manage them correctly, you can get your silkworms to spin beautiful silky bookmarks instead of just silk cocoons that are usually harvested on silk farms.
Domesticated silkworms have a faster growth rate, a larger body size, and these worms are known to spin larger cocoons than natural wild silkworms. They all do however have a similar diet.
What Do Silkworms Eat and Drink?
Silkworms are herbivores. They enjoy a strictly vegetarian diet. It is important to offer your silkworms healthy nutritious foods because the type of food you offer them can impact the quality of the silk they spin.
Quality foods also ensure that your worms will grow healthy and strong and fresh leaves will ensure that your silkworms stay hydrated.
Here is a quick look at some of the best foods to offer your silkworms;
Mulberry leaves are the primary food for silkworms. Mulberry trees do grow wild and are also planted to maintain silkworm farms.
There are 200 species of mulberry trees and silkworms do consume the leaves of most of these trees. Mulberry trees are native to South Asia but are now grown across the globe in countries like Europe, South Africa, South America, North America, and Brazil.
Mulberry leaves are silkworms’ favorite food. Silkworms who are used to eating mulberry leaves might not even try to eat alternative foods. It is best to offer your silkworm’s fresh young mulberry leaves. Young silkworms might find it hard to chew rougher leaves and soft young leaves offer them all the moisture they need to stay hydrated.
Older silkworms can eat rougher leaves but they also need plenty of soft leaves or they can become dehydrated.
It is also important to realize that silkworms won’t eat wilted or wet leaves. The leaves need to be fresh yet dry.
Silkworm Chow is a good alternative to offer these worms if you don’t have enough mulberry leaves to maintain your silkworms. Silkworm Chow is made from processed mulberry leaves. This food source is often sold at local pet stores but you can also make your own silkworm chow at home.
How to make silkworm chow?
Silkworm Chow is relatively easy to make. You don’t need a lot of tools to make this food. Here is a quick look at the easiest silkworm chow recipe to make if you want to stock up for future use;
- 29 oz (822.15g) Dried mulberry leaves
- 28 oz (793.8 g) Soy flour
- 6.1oz (172.935g) Maize or cornmeal
- You first need to prepare your mulberry leaves. Dry your mulberry leaves until they have no moisture left in them. You can use a dehydrator to dry out the leaves. All leaves should be flaky and brittle to prevent mold from growing in your silkworm chow.
- Next, you should grind these dried leaves into a fine powder. The best way to do this is by adding your leaves to a blender.
- Combine all ingredients and mix everything properly. You will now have a standard silkworm chow that is much like the chow that is usually sold in pet stores.
Carrots are not an ideal food for silkworms but it can be a good alternative to offer if you are all out of mulberry leaves or silkworm chow. You can grate fresh, unpeeled carrots into small pieces before offering them to your silkworms. This can be a good food alternative to offer for a few days. You might note a color change in your silkworms. Some of them might turn orange. If you offer them carrots near cocooning time, they might even spin orange silk.
Iceberg lettuce leaves
Iceberg lettuce leaves can also be a good emergency food. It is however important to dry out these lettuce leaves completely and to grind the leaves into a fine powder. You can then rehydrate the powder before offering it to your silkworms.
This can be good food for a few days but your silkworms won’t be able to survive on this food for long.
Violet plant leaves can also be dried, ground, rehydrated, and offered to your silkworms if you don’t have any other foods to offer these worms. Once again, this is a good emergency food but it is not an ideal food to offer your silkworms for more than a few days.
Fresh beetroot leaves can also be a good alternative to offer your silkworms. Your worms might get a reddish tinge when they eat these foods for more than two days. Silkworms that are near the pupae stage will also spin pink or reddish silk when they are fed beetroot leaves at this stage.
Silkworms only eat mulberry leaves or silkworm chow that is made from mulberry leaves. All other foods such as carrots, iceberg lettuce, violet leaves and beetroot leaves are diet variations and can only be offered for a few days until you manage to find a proper food source to offer your silkworms.
What Can I Feed My Silkworms?
Your feeding schedule for your silkworms will depend on their age. As young worms, they need to be offered fresh foods more frequently.
Small worms cannot chew hard or rough leaves. You need to pick them soft fresh leaves and remove the leaves as soon as they wilt.
Most silkworm farmers choose to offer fresh leaves three times per day to young worms.
When your worms mature, they can be fed on rougher mulberry leaves and you can leave the leaves in for longer. Many farmers choose to offer their silkworms foods only once or twice per day when they are matured.
If you are offering a silkworm chow, you will need to prepare it before you give it to your worms.
You will first need to mix your chow with water. One part powder to two parts water is a general rule of thumb for making a proper silkworm chow. It is also best to use hot water because it will mix better when the water is warm compared to cold water. You can blend or mix the water and chow for five minutes to ensure that it mixes well.
Many breeders also mix the mixture in a microwave to create a more solid food and to kill bacteria that might be living in the chow. The ideal microwave time is 3 – 8 minutes depending on your microwave’s strength. The chow should then be left in the refrigerator to harden until it becomes a cream cheese consistency. Once your chow has settled, you can cut it into slices and serve it to your silkworms. Some farmers prefer to grate their chow before offering it to their silkworms because this allows them to distribute the feed evenly.
A great way to feed your worms without picking them up one by one every time you offer fresh food is by laying a grid over the box with fresh leaves on top. The worms will climb through the grid and you will be able to separate them and the fresh leaves from old leaves with ease.
How Much Does a Silkworm Eat Daily?
Silkworms do have quite a healthy appetite. Your earthworms will reach 10,000 times their original weight before they will start cocooning. It is hard to establish how much your silkworms will eat because they grow so rapidly. Every day they grow bigger, they will eat more food.
Ideally, you should offer small amounts of food more frequently during the day. Offering small amounts gives your worms plenty of time to consume all the leaves before they wilt and can make it much easier to feed your worms since you won’t have to pick old leaves out of the box. Offer them a handful of leaves. If they consumed everything within minutes, you can offer more. It is better to feed your worms more than 3 times per day rather than offer lots of food once per day that will only wilt.
The same rule applies for silkworm chow. You can make a large batch early in the morning and store it in the fridge.
Offer small amounts of food several times during the day. With this method, you can avoid wasting valuable foods.
What do Baby Silkworms Eat?
Baby silkworms are quite fragile. They cannot eat hard mulberry leaves just yet and very few of them will give silkworm chow a go at first. The best food to offer your baby silkworms is fresh, young mulberry leaves that are 0.5 – 1” in size. These leaves are quite soft and ideal for your tiny silkworms.
They do grow fast.
In 20 – 35 days, your silkworms will be ready to start cocooning. Fresh baby mulberry leaves are essential during the first week but from that point on, you can start to offer harder and larger leaves.
What Do Wild Silkworms Eat?
Silkworms no longer exist in the wild. It is only the domesticated version of silkworms that do still exist today.
This is mainly because of their distinct diet. Mulberry trees are not available in all regions and since this is their only food, they are not able to survive on their own in the wild.
Is Silkworms Safe to Eat?
Silkworms are mainly kept for the silky cocoons they spin when it is time for them to metamorphose into moths. These valuable cocoons are developed into silk fabric that is used to make fine garments and linen. Silkworm farmers go to great lengths to breed and maintain these worms just so they can harvest the cocoons when the moth’s hatch.
These worms are however consumed in certain countries like Korea. These worms can be boiled and are then served. Silkworms are however an acquired taste for most. Silkworms do offer a bitter smell and taste and aren’t loved by too many people. It is also very important to prepare these foods properly or you could get bacterial infections from consuming this exotic food.
Which Animals Eat Silkworms?
Silkworms can be a good food source for many animals. They can be offered to reptiles, amphibians, salamanders, frogs, toads, turtles, lizards, and snakes. Some of these predatory species can eat up to 30 silkworms a day.
Silkworms are also prey to other insects such as ants, spiders, mosquitoes, and wasps.
Offering these worms as food to your pet can offer quite a few benefits. Silkworms are fairly clean food to offer since they only eat mulberry leaves. Their strict diet does however mean that they are not the most nutritious meal to offer your pets.
Silkworm farming is an exciting industry and these worms can be terrific pets since they are pretty easy to keep. Many children love to breed silkworms for reselling and others love to keep these worms as pets because they can be used to spin bookmarks. When you place a silkworm on top of a given shape, it will spin a flat silk sheet for you in the same shape or size. By cutting out a heart, for example, and placing your silkworm on the heart cardboard cutout, the worm will produce a heart sheet.
It can be great fun to see these worms eat their way through hands full of leaves. It is also quite fascinating to see them spin into cocoons or metamorphosis into moths. The most important thing to remember if you want to keep silkworms is that they require frequent care. You need to offer them lots of food throughout the day and their enclosures will need frequent cleaning to keep these worms healthy and happy.
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