After six weeks of silkworm rearing, I have about 400 cocoons. I started off with an order of 500 eggs, so here and there, lost a few. There were no noticeable die-offs of any great number- a good thing that tells me I avoided any major disease issues by keeping the silkworms clean, well fed as well as in good temperature and humidity. It can be a real disappointment when something starts to kill them off. I can only imagine what can happen to large scale sericulturists.
I stifled these today in the oven at about 180 degrees. This will allow these cocoons to be reeled or used in ways where I want a whole uncut cocoon. With about 400 cocoons, if I let them all emerge I would end up with 10,000 or so eggs. I can’t imagine having to feed that many here. In fact, if I did allow the silkmoths to all emerge, mate, and lay eggs they would end up dying by starvation unless I put the eggs into cold storage. I would never be raising that many here anyway. I do have a few folks who wanted to get some eggs from me so I will save some for them. I will store the cocoons in the freezer in a net bag until needed. These cocoons will be used in Houston for my mawata class there along with some I purchased from Nobue Higashi who raises silkworms in Japan.
I should not let you leave this post without paying homage to the life of the silkworm. Yes, I have killed them and have feelings about that. In Japan, there are temples and shrines devoted to the silkworm or sericulture in general. Giving thanks for a good harvest and for the protection of the silkworm until cocooning are common among sericulturists in Japan even today. Shouldn’t we remember to be grateful for everything? There are many shrines devoted to sericulture scattered throughout Japan.
It was perhaps not a coincidence that today I was catching up with Nobue on her blog that I read this post where she talks about just this thing…the google translate is very rough but you can get the jist of it. I am looking forward to seeing Nobue san again next year!
You can read about the silkworm deities at Kaiko no yashiro (蚕ノ社) – the Silkworm Shrine here. It’s an interesting story.
Next year on the Silk Study Tour to Japan we will add a short visit to this Shinto shrine. It is about 20 minutes by car from our Kyoto hotel I am told. If there is not time to add it to the whole group itinerary, I will make time for those interested in a visit here in an early morning trip by taxi.
Following this down a bit further, I found an excellent couple of blog posts on this shrine.
-about the Kaiko no Yashiro (Silkworm Shrine)
-speculation about the triangular torii
-fascinating history of the Hata clan
I made another little video that covers the cocoon harvesting.