Bombyx mori

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Silkworm

The silkworm is the larva or caterpillar of the domesticated silkmoth, Bombyx mori (Latin: "silkworm of the mulberry tree"). It is an important economic insect since it is the producer of silk. A silkworm's preferred food is white mulberry leaves, but it may also eat the leaves of any other mulberry tree (i.e., Morus rubra or Morus negra) as well as the Osage Orange. It is entirely dependent on humans for its reproduction and does not occur naturally in the wild. Sericulture, the practice of breeding silkworms for the production of raw silk, has been underway for at least 5,000 years in China,[1] from where it spread to Korea and Japan, and later to India and the West.

The silkworm was domesticated from the wild silkmoth Bombyx mandarina which has a range from northern India to northern China, Korea, Japan and far the eastern regions of Russia. The domesticated silkworm derives from Chinese rather than Japanese or Korean stock.[2][3] It is unlikely that silkworms were domestically bred before the Neolithic age. It wasn't until then that the tools required to facilitate the manufacturing process of larger quantities of silk thread, had been developed. The domesticated B. mori and the wild B. mandarina can still breed and sometimes produce hybrids.[4]:342

The full genome of the silkworm was published in 2008 by the International Silkworm Genome Consortium.[5]

Contents

Development

Eggs take about fourteen days to hatch into larvae, which eat continuously. They have a preference for white mulberry, having an attraction to the mulberry oderant cis-jasmone. They are not monophagous since they can eat other species of Morus as well as some other Moraceae. Hatchlings and second-instar larvae are called kego and chawki in India. They are covered with tiny black hairs. When the color of their heads turns darker, it indicates that they are about to molt. After molting, the instar phase of the silkworm emerges white, naked, and with little horns on the backs.

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