How to Take Care of Your First Pet Silkworms

Updated on June 24, 2019
Jana Louise Smit profile image

Jana worked in animal welfare with abused and unwanted pets. She loves sharing her hands-on experience regarding domestic and wild critters.

Source

Silkworms as Pets

This article covers the following topics in its discussion of silkworms as potential pets for children and adults.

  • Is the silkworm a good pet for you or your child?
  • Where to get silkworms
  • The life cycle of the silkworm
  • Silkworm care
  • Dealing with dangers to your pet

Is The Domesticated Silkworm a Good Pet for You or Your Child?

During ancient times, the East became renowned for its silk and the skillful farming of the creatures that produced the commodity—silkworms. Today, thanks to millennia of human handling, even kids can take care of them. However, since they aren't very amusing or interactive, kids can get bored with them after a while. The different life phases can renew interest, but parents should be aware that supervision is required and that they may have to step in with care taking duties should the child no longer adequately care for the silkworms.

Where to Get Silkworms

This is not the type of pet one normally finds at pet stores. The majority are ordered from online stores. Silkworms are sold mostly as eggs or young caterpillars. Be sure to order your specimens from a reputable web dealer with plenty of reviews.


Try to Purchase Silkworms as Eggs!

One should be wary of being offered silkworms in the cocoon or moth stages. Cocooned specimens may already be dead, and moths might not survive the stress of sales handling, especially when mailed.

The Silkworm's Life Cycle

The life phases of this creature is pretty simple. They start out as tiny, dark eggs. When they hatch, the newborns are black and very small. Eventually, they grow into recognizable silkworms. They remain in this state and feed voraciously until they spin themselves away inside a cocoon. After some time, a moth emerges. Moths mate, deposits eggs, and then die. Once in the moth stage, feeding no longer occurs.

What Should You Feed Your Silkworms?

Make sure you have a good source to provide you with a fresh supply of mulberry leaves every day. If you already have a tree, that's perfect.
Make sure you have a good source to provide you with a fresh supply of mulberry leaves every day. If you already have a tree, that's perfect. | Source

Caring for Eggs and Newborns

Keep eggs at a suitable room temperature and away from direct sunlight. If this is your first clutch, it's important to find out (from the seller) when they were laid. It can take up to two weeks for eggs to hatch and one must be ready to take care of the new babies when they arrive.

When you notice the arrival of newborns—they resemble tiny black ants—carefully remove them to a container that is escape-proof. Generally, silkworms are happy to stay inside any container, even a shoe box, as long as they have fresh food. Hungry silkworms tend to wander. Make sure that you have plenty of mulberry leaves available for the duration of keeping these creatures—they eat a lot.

  • For the newborns, put down a carpet of small leaves, cut up or grated.
  • Check on them regularly; some don't immediately grasp the feeding thing and might wander off into a corner and starve.
  • Make sure the leaves are fresh but dry; any amount of drops or water film can drown the minuscule worms at this stage.
  • Change the leaves when they show signs of withering, but be careful not to accidentally throw out a tiny silkworm!

Caring for Growing Silkworms

As they grow, silkworms need to shed their skins about four times. The old skin should never be ripped off. Allow it to happen naturally unless there seem to be an infection or problem, then remove it gently. Silkworms are physically also very vulnerable and here's where adult supervision is a must. Kids like to handle them but unfortunately, silkworms bruise quickly and then often die. When picked up for whatever reason, it must be done with exceptional gentleness and ideally, moved while it's on a leaf and not handled directly.

  • The leaves can be lightly sprayed for water intake. Don't make it too wet or do it too often. Silkworms get enough moisture from eating the mulberry leaves but a tentative spray on the leaves (not the worms) here and there won't hurt.
  • Give fresh leaves every day.
  • Watch out for dangers such as direct sunlight, cold temperatures and ants. Silkworms are exceptionally hardy but can still fall prey to predators and bacterial infections; be sure to wash your hands before handling them.

Striped Worms

Zebra silkworms have dark stripes over their bodies.
Zebra silkworms have dark stripes over their bodies. | Source

The Cocoon and Moth Stage

When silkworms are about a month old, they wrap themselves in an oval ball of silk. This process takes a few days and can be fascinating for kids to watch.

Technically, silkworms are not worms, but caterpillars. This means that the “worms” are actually the larval stage of the real creatures—the moths. After three weeks, they emerge from their cocoons, looking fluffy and plump. The moths do not eat and they cannot fly. After hatching, they have about a week left to live and all they want to do is find a mate. If you want to continue keeping silkworms, just place the moths together in a box. Chances are that both males and females are present, and they'll soon romance. The females will deposit yellow eggs, which eventually turn dark and the entire cycle starts over.

Did You Know?

  • This species of moth, Bombyx mori, is entirely dependent on humans for survival. The silkworm has been domesticated for so long, all wild populations are extinct
  • Silkworms come in different colours. Apart from the pure whites, some also have stripes. These so-called “zebras” are white with bands that are either black or chocolate
  • Mulberry leaves produce mostly yellow silk and to a lesser degree, also white. Some people have reported reddish cocoons after feeding their pets beetroot leaves.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Jana Louise Smit

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • Jana Louise Smit profile imageAUTHOR

        Jana Louise Smit 

        4 months ago from South Africa

        Hi Maryka. Unfortunately, mulberry leaves are the healthiest option, especially when they are meant to provide a long life for pets. There are owners who feed them things like lettuce, spinach, and beetroot leaves but this shortens their lifespan. Sometimes, it makes them outright sick. If you can, stick to mulberry leaves.

        The good news is that the leaves store well in the fridge (not freezer). When you find a tree, get a few bags, drench the leaves slightly with water and put the bags in the fridge. When feeding time comes, take out a few leaves and dry them before serving them to your son's pets. Good luck.

      • profile image

        maryka 

        4 months ago

        is there anything else than mulberry leaves that i can give to the silkworm it is my first time having them for my son

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, pethelpful.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://pethelpful.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)