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Overcome Critter Phobia By Raising Insects at Home (page 2)

By — Nature Deficit Disorder Special Edition Contributor
Updated on May 17, 2010

How to Raise Silkworms

 
My favorite organism for observing metamorphosis is Bombyx mori, or silkworms.
  • Eggs can be purchased from a biological supply company and articles below give some details about raising them that will be helpful.
  • Silkworm larvae are only 1-2 millimeters long when they hatch from their eggs, barely visible.
  • They must have a supply of young, tender mulberry leaves from the day they hatch or they can be fed a nutrient that can be purchased with the eggs.  
  • Over a period of approximately 6 weeks they do nothing but eat and grow, increasing their mass 10,000 times!
  • Never fear, they still are only about 6 centimeters long and about a centimeter in diameter (about the size of an adult ring finger) when they begin the job of spinning their cocoon (an absolutely fascinating stage of their life cycle). This fairly quick, dramatic growth makes them ideal for study by children.

 Raising silkworms can also lead into a great multicultural lesson.

  • The earliest cultivation of silkworms began in China almost 5000 years ago. Older children (and their parents) can research the history of the silk trade in ancient times and learn about the opportunity silkworms present for families to become self-supporting in third world countries even today (sericulture). 
  • Silkworms only eat leaves from the mulberry tree. When the eggs were smuggled out of China centuries ago, mulberry tree seeds had to come with them!
  • In an effort to find an insect that would produce silk but not be such a picky eater, an American naturalist brought an insect called the gypsy moth to America. It was accidentally released in Massachusetts in 1869 and the rest is another lesson we have learned about introducing exotic plants and animals to a non-native habitat. 
Whether you decide to raise mealworms, butterflies or silkworms to combat “critter phobia”, consider another area of research for older children. I have mentioned that both mealworms and silkworms are raised in the U.S. as pet food. The next step is to suggest that your child find out which cultures use insects as human food!
 

Resources

Carolina Biological Supply http://www.carolina.com
Connecticut Valley Biological Supply Company http://www.ctvalleybio.com
Ward’s Natural Science http://wardsci.com
University of Nebraska Department of Entomology http://entomology.unl.edu/images/silkworm/silkw_cocoons2.jpg
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2004/51409/index.html
 
Teresa Auldridge, a mother of two young adults, ages 22 and 25, currently teaches middle school in the Salem, Virginia public schools. She earned a B.S. degree in elementary education from Miami University (Ohio) and a Master’s degree in Environmental Education from The Ohio State University and has been a public school classroom teacher for 25 years in Ohio and Virginia. She is a former Supervisor of Science with the Virginia Department of Education and has served as adjunct faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Virginia, Longwood University and Radford University in Virginia, teaching elementary science and elementary mathematics methods courses.
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