11.07.2009

Don't Fear The Reaper or A Funny Thing happened on the silk road

011 As you know I have been raising silkworms, or trying to. It started with the idea of raising them for their cocoons, and eggs and then dyeing them to spin. Along the way I became charmed by these little hairy babies. Lifting their heads up,every time I opened the container to feed or check on them. Little piggy fellows, peaceful and sweet.

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My tale is one of many mishaps. I was so excited when my 1000 little eggs hatched, right on schedule. I had my mulberry leaf supply and fed them, hungry little squiggles. I checked and fed them , removed old leaves and then……one evening a cold snap came, I didn’t have the heat light set up. In the morning I had 1000 dead silkworms. Damn..

Discouraged but determined I set out with 500 more eggs. I had a thermometer in the shoe box, and a heat lamp. The eggs hatched out in 3 days. But by this time the mulberry leaves are browning, so I bought the mulberry mush. I carefully cut and place little clumps around for the little cuties to eat. They quickly covered the mush lumps.

All was going well until I had to work overtime one day. I came home and there was condensation in the plastic shoe box, when had run down and made little puddles, where the worms were sitting, they can not crawl out, being so domesticated, and drowned. Hummmm..

puddles

OK, so now I was trying to monitor the humidity level closer in the box. It was vented, but maybe not enough, I put dry paper towels in to soak up the excess humidity. Meanwhile, the night time temps are getting lower. Everything is going ok, and the worms have progressed into a molt. I had to move the heat a little closer, to keep the worms warm enough.

I’m now regulating the humidity and temp with the light and paper towels, wet or dry.  And on the look out for those killer puddles. I line the box with several sheets of regular typing paper to soak up the excess moisture, this seems to work well.

I read that you can “grate” the mulberry mush on the top of the worms. So I put some nylon netting down and grated some on top. This is much quicker than removing the old food and placing the new mush down in little cut pieces. The worms are suppose to crawl up to the new food. Then  I went to work, when I came home I found out I had smothered some of them under the mush. Sigh…

Onward, I returned to cutting and placing the mush. At this point I think I can name each silkworm. My husband says “Don’t do that!” Is he laughing as he turns away?

It’s going to be close to freezing tonight, I monitor the heat lamp and moisture and go to bed. In the morning, I look and it appears that I have “roasted or toasted” the worms closest to the light. They look brown and crunchy, Ugh

I adjust the remaining worms further away, feed them and nervously go to work.

Upon returning from work, I open the box and it is filled with ants, no worms!! Did they “smell” the roasted worms and come for a feast? I haven’t even seen any ants in the house!

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Now I feel like a terrible worm mommy.

Worms left=zeroskull

Time spent=about an hour a day

Experience=Priceless, well for me, and especially the worms.

Things I have learned:

1. Silkworms, like goldilocks like to be “just right”

2. Temperatures under 72 seem to kill them.

3. Watch your condensation, the little guys can’t crawl out of a puddle and will drowned.

4. Optimal temps are stated to be between 80-95. I tried to keep mine around 80 and them seemed happy.

5. Humidity is very important. Too humid=too much condensation=not good. Not enough humidity=dried out silkworms. I tried to regulate the humidity by placing either dry or wet paper towels.

5a. If using silkworm “mush” that is reconstituted in the microwave, this increases the humidity. I had to convert to this due to the time of the year.

6. Too much heat results in “roasted silkworm” which then….

7. Must attract ants for the bar-b-que.

So I’ll try again in the spring. With fresh mulberry leaves and warmer temps.

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All our times have come

Here, but now there, gone

Seasons don’t fear the reaper

Nor do the wind or the sun or the rain

(We can be like they are)

La, la, la, la, la

La, la, la, la, la

Come on baby

Don’t fear the reaper

             ---Blue Oyster Cult (1976)

Upon the success of the single, "(Don't Fear) The Reaper", Blue Öyster Cult became the center of a controversy surrounding the supposed pro-suicide lyrics of the song, which is actually a love ballad concerning love that lasts beyond death, and a call to seize the day.

Grab your spinning and get going…

5 comments:

  1. What a thoroughly delightful story Vicki! I sure hope you have better luck in the spring. You've really gone hog wild in knitting, now creating the silk! I'm totally impressed. So glad I ran into your blog today in the reader!

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  2. I can't believe it! That is so disappointing. I bet you are right - the ants stole your worms. Shocking.

    Well, never mind. These things happen and ~ as you say ~ you can start afresh in the Spring ;)

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  3. Vicki,
    I'm so sorry that you lost all your little "silkies" I really enjoyed reading about them on your blog.
    I wish you success next spring.
    Don't think of yourself as a bad worm mommy. You did better than I would have done. Mine probably would have died right after hatching.

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  4. Sorry it didn't work out. At least you learned a lot. I can't wait to see your adventures in the Spring and wish you much better luck!

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  5. Oh gosh, Vicki, as I read your saga of the silkworms I alternated between helpless laughter and sympathy for the poor little silk babies terrible fate! It reminded me of the "Darwin Awards"! Oh, dear.... !!

    Think I'll stick to buying silk blend yarn at my LYS.

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