Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Silkworms Are Hatching!

The silkworms are hatching! That little bitty caterpillar in the photo (as you see, despite the name they are not worms)  is shown with the point of a toothpick. Silkworms are a spring time tradition with my child care kids. We observe one cycle of life each spring, culminating with the moths laying incredible numbers of eggs. The eggs are then saved in the fridge ( a long winter) to be brought out again on the following St. Patrick's Day.  The eggs are able to survive the cold due to a phenomenon called diapause, by which they enter a state of suspended development and diminished physiological activity. When the eggs come out of the refrigerator they think it is finally spring and, within about two weeks, they start hatching. Initially they are black but after a day or two this variety turns creamy white. They come out ready to eat; at first a mulberry leaf or two, their preferred food, can feed a multitude of these babies. Pretty soon the daily trip to a local mulberry tree requires large handfuls of leaves. The silkworm breeder who was softhearted last summer and kept every egg layed by the moths will soon find they need to sneak a few caterpillar extras out to the grateful scrub jays. Otherwise it gets kind of gross...large numbers of caterpillars produce large quantities of frass. And even if my friend Carol thinks frass is a great word, it is not great to have to clean it up every day. 
Today they are tiny and cute...check back for an update in a week or so. Things change quickly in the caterpillar world!



Gail said...

Leslie, This is so cool and you get a bit of frass for some of those garden containers you have! gail

Kathy said...

Wow, they are really tiny when they first hatch! I applaud you once again for the efforts you go to with your child care charges. You are definitely not just babysitting.

Fairegarden said...

Those are lucky childcare kids you watch, Leslie. I would like to know if you ever get silk, or how that works?