When I wanted to buy silkworms to feed my Panther chameleon, I was unable to find any in stock. That is when I started to hatch my own eggs.
When word spread that I had silkworms, I started selling them.
The rest is history...
When Susan started hatching silkworms, I sent a lot of people her way to buy them. Also, since I have mulberry trees, I can provide leaves as an alternate food source for the silkworms.
The rest is history...
My passion for keeping chameleons got me connected with Lee and Susan and I am now excited to have the opportunity to work with them. I work mostly in the background operations of the business but you might catch me out in chameleon Facebook groups.
Originally native to Asia, silkworms are the larva of a moth (Bombyx Mori) that spins a cocoon of fine, strong, lustrous fiber that is the source of commercial silk. The culturing of silkworms is called sericulture. The various species raised today are distinguished by the quality of the silk they produce. Silkworms feed on the leaves of the mulberry tree (genus Morus) and sometimes on the Osage orange (Maclura Pomifera).
Bombyx Mori will not bite, making it an ideal worm for feeding most reptiles, amphibians and other animals. And they offer great nutritional value as a live feeder.
Hatchling worms are small enough for most baby reptiles to eat. Young silkworms can be fed until they grow to the desired size. Silkworms are soft-bodied, slow moving and can grow to 3 inches in length. They are also relatively fast growing, reaching about 3 inches in length and ready to cocoon in as little as 25 - 28 days.
Like most insects, silkworms go through four stages of development: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The adult (imago) stage is the silkworm moth. The larva is the caterpillar (not really a "worm" at all). The pupa is what the silkworm changes into after spinning its cocoon before emerging as a moth. Since the silkworm grows so much, it must shed its skin four times while it is growing. This stages-within-a-stage are called instars.
Today, the silkworm moth lives only in captivity. Silkworms have been domesticated to the point they can no longer survive independently in nature,
particularly since they have lost the ability to fly. All wild populations are extinct. Also contributing to their extinction is an extraordinary fact that they only eat mulberry leaves.
Silkworms have been used by researchers to study pheromones or sexual attractant substances. The pheromones are released by female moths and the males detect the chemicals with olfactory hairs on their antennae. This allows the male to find the female for mating. The male antennae are made of many small hairs to increase the chances of picking up small amounts of the pheromones over long distances.
How to grow
The great thing about silkworms is that they only grow as much as you feed them, and they can go for up to a week without food. Keep in mind, however, that they will become dehydrated and begin to die off after a few days without food, and should be fed at least once daily in order to remain healthy. But, in general, if you have too many you can feed them a few times per week and they'll stay alive until you need them without growing too much larger.
Wash hands thoroughly before handling the worms or the food or they may develop bacterial problems. Using a cheese grater, grate a small amount of food onto them and repeat until the caterpillars reach the desired size. For best results, maintain temperatures between 78° and 88° F.
Excessive condensation forming in the container after feeding is the leading cause of failure. If this condensation does form, take the lid off your container and allow the container and old food to completely dry out. In the future, make sure the previous food is dry before feeding again. Old damp food is a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, dry food is not. A fan can help for quicker dry outs.
Newly hatched silkworms are tiny
As the silkworms grow, you may need to transfer your worms to a larger plastic container. The lid needs to have ventilation holes. If not, you need to vent the lid so the silkworms won't suffocate and to allow condensation to dissipate. You can also use a shoebox. The old food and waste matter can be removed but does not have to be if it remains thoroughly dry.
Under ideal conditions, (78° to 88° F and allowed to feed nearly continuously) silkworms can go from egg to 1 inch in length in about 12 days, and 3 inches in under 30 days. The worms will begin to spin cocoons at about 28 - 30 days old or when they are between 2 1/2 and 3 inches long.