Friday, September 5, 2008

Count update

Last night I counted colony B. Out of 273 eggs I have 194 worms. That makes a total of 553 worms from 800 eggs, which is 69%. I lose maybe one worm every other day, but they aren't sick. The dead ones that I find always seem to have had some sort of growth or molting issue. They are small and far behind the others in the colony, or have old shed skins stuck to them that they can't seem to get rid of.

Overall I'm really happy with how they look right now. They are fat, green, and very happy. Since the rearing containers have very good ventilation and I'm cleaning the containers and the room carefully and vigilantly, I seem to have eliminated the sickness issues.

I am concerned about what I'm going to do when they start to spin. When B. mori are ready to spin they turn kind of a translucent color and get sort of bloated and sluggish, so it was easy to watch the colony and separate the spinners from the eaters. These A. pernyi don't seem to change much in appearance. With my last batch the only reason I was able to tell which ones were going to spin is because I could tell that they had done a "gut dump". This is exactly how it sounds - the worm evacuates it's bowels before it spins so that it doesn't have to poop inside the cocoon. Makes sense, huh?

Anyway, it's important not to disturb the spinning worms. They can take a few days to complete the cocoon and if disturbed during the process they can stop spinning and never resume. They will still pupate and develop, just without spinning a complete cocoon. Since I'm after the silk I really don't want incomplete cocoons. Once some of the worms start to spin in one colony I'm going to have to figure out how I can clean the container without bothering the spinners. With my last few worms it was easy to separate them. This time it's going to be impossible.

If I can't clean as thoroughly as I'd like I'll need to lower the temperature and increase the airflow to try and lower my chances for disease. That's the best plan I have so far. I guess I'll have to just see how it goes. In ancient China these worms were raised outside on trees. I can see how that would be much easier to deal with. All the poop just falls to the ground, they find their own food, and they can spin in the leaves when they are ready. Of course they would also have to hope birds don't come by and have a snack. I'm sure those nice fat green worms would make a nice meal.

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