Breeding and Raising Silkworms
How to Raise Silkworms
Silkworms are a great staple feeder for your reptile. Here are some of the reasons they are one of the better feeders for your pet:
- They are packed with nutrients
- They have no smell
- They can't jump or run away
- They cannot bite
- They are slow-moving
Silkworms can be a great feeder, but of all the feeder insects, they are hardest to breed—although it's not impossible to accomplish.
Materials Needed for Breeding
- Plastic containers
- Wire or toilet paper roll for worms to cocoon
- Petri dishes
- Silkworm chow
- Mulberry leaves if available
How to Set Up Their Habitat
Since silkworms do not drink water, they get their needed moisture from the food they eat. You will need a covered container to raise them in. The container should be almost air-tight to prevent the food from drying out but have small holes to allow air exchange.
- Add the toilet paper roll for the silkworms to climb and cocoon on.
- Add food, either a commercial-made silkworm chow or mulberry leaves. Silkworms eat 24/7, so food must be constantly provided in the container.
- A good temperature to keep silkworms at would range from 78-88 degrees F.
How to Breed Silkworms
Raising and keeping silkworms alive is one thing, but breeding is another story. Silkworms will spin a cocoon about 28 days from the time they hatched if they are raised at approximately 85 degrees, fed, and maintained regularly. Place a piece of paper or a paper towel on the bottom of the container, so that when the moths emerge and are ready to lay eggs, the paper can be removed with the eggs, easily.
Once the moths emerge, they will mate. (Females are significantly larger than male moths.) They stay mated for about a day, and after separation, the female lays eggs, while the male looks for another female to mate with. Sometimes another male will grab the female before she can lay eggs.
How many eggs does a female lay?
Each female will lay between 200–500 golden yellow eggs! Put paper on the bottom of the container and remove empty cocoons as the moths emerge. The moths will lay eggs on the paper.
How can I tell if they are fertile?
When first laid, all eggs are lemon-yellow. After three days, they will turn white if they are infertile, or turn black if they are fertile. Fertile eggs usually hatch about two weeks after being laid in the middle of the summer, but they usually won't hatch unless subjected to "winter" in your refrigerator for at least several weeks.
How do I store the eggs?
Wait until the eggs turn black before putting them in the Ziplock bag in the refrigerator. Once you take eggs out of the fridge, they will hatch in about 7-20 days. Direct sunlight in the morning for a few hours quickens the hatching process.
How do I hatch the eggs?
To incubate the eggs, place about 200 of them on a petri dish. Keep the eggs between 78 and 88 degrees F. An incubator works best at keeping the temperatures stable. The eggs can hatch at room temperature but will take longer.
Place a damp paper towel next to the petri dish to keep the humidity levels high. Once the eggs have turned from a purplish color to a light bluish/gray, shows signs that they should hatch within a couple of days.
How do I feed the hatchlings?
When the eggs begin to hatch, prepare silkworm chow, and place it in the refrigerator to it will be ready. Once they start to hatch, place small bits of chow in the petri dish, so the emerging worms will have something to munch on. Remember silkworms eat constantly, so always provide food. Try not to let the chow touch the unhatched eggs.
It is better to keep the young silkworms in the incubator to better assure their survival rates. After about 8 to 12 days, you can remove the worms from the petri dish, and place them into a small plastic container.
How do I prevent mold from developing?
Remember to clean the container to prevent mold. Mold develops from high temperatures and high humidity. If the worms are covered too long, mold can develop and may kill the worms. If mold develops, grate about 1/2 inch of chow all over the worms with a cheese grater. Several hours later, as the worms crawl to the top of the new chow pile you can peal and lift them off the moldy chow and place them into a new container.
General Care Tips
Remember to always provide the silkworms, of all ages, with food, either chow or mulberry leaves. Remember that young silkworms have weak jaws, so if you are using Mulberry leaves, provide only the smallest, newly grown leaves.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.