Silk moth


August 14, 2022

The silk moth (Bombyx mori) is a species belonging to the order Lepidoptera of the class Insecta, including the family Bombycidae.


They are bred in the largest numbers in Japan and China, but there are also farms breeding silkworms in the territory of the former Soviet Union, India, Pakistan, Turkey, France and Italy. The silk moth's wild ancestor is no longer found in the wild. Huge flocks of them have been bred for centuries for the quantity and quality of their silk.


Adult silkworms have two pairs of wings. Their wingspan is 10 centimeters. The length of the caterpillar is 8.5 centimeters. The domesticated Bombyx mori is much smaller than this: its wingspan is 3-4 centimeters, its caterpillar is 7-8 centimeters, and it has a varied pattern depending on the variety. The caterpillar has a chewing mouthpart, but the adult butterfly has a stunted mouthpart. The butterfly is white or beige, patterned with very faint lines.

His way of life

The silk moth exists only as a domesticated species. Its food consists of the leaves of the mulberry tree. The adult animal lives for 3-5 days, and the caterpillars live for 4-6 weeks.


Adult butterflies must mate immediately after emerging from the cocoon. The female lures the male with strong scent signals, which detects the message with its fan-like enlarged tentacles. The female lays a maximum of 500 eggs on one leaf, after which she soon dies. Larvae are black and hairy when they hatch; the time of their emergence depends on the temperature of the environment. During the development of the caterpillar, it molts several times, and finally it becomes white and has a naked body. The caterpillar feeds for six weeks, then weaves a silk cocoon around itself on the stem of the plant, in which it pupates. It takes 2-3 weeks between pupation and the emergence of the butterfly.

Points of interest

Silkworms were first bred in China more than 4,000 years ago. The cocoon consists of a single silk thread, the length of which can reach 3 kilometers. The quality of silk is determined by its fineness, which is measured in denier (pronounced: dönié, abbreviated: den). This measure gives the weight in grams of a 9,000 meter long silk thread. The silkworm pupa is also eaten as a snack in several Asian countries, for example in Korea it is called pondegi (번데기), it is available from street vendors, restaurants and in canned form.

Related species

Two other silk moth species: Antherea mylitta and Attacus atlas.



Amazing animal world, (Wildlife Fact-File). Budapest: Master Publishing House (2000). ISBN 963-86092-0-6

More information

Seidenraupen, Entwicklungsländerstudien. Grundgegebenheiten: Tierische Produktion, Update, Lehrveranstaltung "Einführung in Entwicklungsländerstudien". HBI Stuttgart, 1998/99 (in German), Stuttgart: Margarete Payer (21 February 2001). Access date: February 12, 2009. Teile: 1. 2. 3. High-level description of silkworm breeding, with many illustrations. Count István Széchenyi: Silk Henrik Henking: Seidenbau und Seide-Gewerbe in Ungarn. Oedenburg, 1844. Online (recommended to István Gróf Széchenyi) - Professional settled in Hungary. Levels

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