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Friday, 13 April 2012

63 and Counting

Silkworms that is, in case you hadn't already guessed.  The eggs have carried on hatching over the last three days but are now slowing down.  Some of the remaining eggs will definitely not hatch - either they're infertile (yellow) or they're just not the right colour or shape.  There are still some which look like they might hatch though so I'm keeping them warm and hoping.

The older caterpillars are starting to lighten in colour now.  They will go through a few changes before they finally become stripy.  They're still very small and are very easy to miss amongst the leaves.  Yesterday I cleaned them out and I have to be really careful not to "throw the baby out with the bathwater".  I only do this every couple of days, so hopefully by the next time they'll be a bit bigger and more visible.  I just lay fresh leaves on top of the old ones, and as the worms climb onto the new ones, I transfer them into a clean box, and count them at the same time so I don't miss any.  The old leaves and droppings go onto the compost heap.

One important lesson I've learned from last year's silkworm raising is patience.  Last year, when it came to cleaning them (which I did every day - I now realise that's a bit too much disturbance) I was anxious to get them all moved over to their new quarters as quickly as I could, and helped them onto the new leaves. The problem with this method comes when they are shedding their old skins.  They exude a bit of silk from their back ends which effectively glues the old skin down to a leaf or the paper they are kept on.  Then they just wriggle and walk out of them.  If they're lifted up or knocked, the old skin becomes unstuck and they can't escape from it.  I think I probably lost several that way last year.  So this year I just have to wait for them to climb up themselves before moving them.

Still a lot to learn.  There can be lots of difficulties along the way as they progress towards making those cocoons, but hopefully this year one of them won't be me!

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