Monday, November 10, 2008

Cleaning up

I have to admit, I was really relieved when I was done feeding all those bugs. It was a lot of work! So when the last worm had spun I never cleaned up my insectary, or did anything with the cocoons other than put the selected few for next year in the chiller, and shove the others in the freezer. Today was the day that I finally cleaned everything up and started to prepare the cocoons for use.

First I took the cocoons out the the freezer and put them in the oven at 170 degrees for one hour. It ended up being over and hour because I didn't hear the timer. Oops. It doesn't look like the cocoons are damaged at all, so no worries. My goal here is to dry the pupae inside the cocoon so that the silk won't mold or smell bad. The cocoons have a definate smell, and I wish I could describe it. It's kind of musty and a little sweet at the same time. It's not really gross, but I'm not sure if I'd call it pleasant either. But if the pupae rots on the inside of the cocoon I'm sure it would smell much worse, so dried they will be.

The cocoons that I'm saving for next year went into my wine chiller set at 52 degrees. Since A. pernyi is a tropical species they could possibly end up sterile if they get too cold overwintering in the fridge. So I have this wine chiller that I can set at 52 degrees which should induce diapause and keep them safe until next spring. I didn't want to seal them in a container, but I also wanted to keep them from drying out, so I put them in plastic jars with cotton stuffed in the top. I've been keeping the cotton damp so that there is some humidity but hopefully not enough to mold the cocoons.

The next order of business was to pull everything out of the insectary and give it a thorough cleaning. All the equipment had to be bleached and set out to dry. It will be nice to have everything ready to go in the spring when I pull the cocoons out of the chiller.

While I wait out the long winter I will be reading books and getting more documentation on wild silkmoths if I can find any. I will also be attempting to reel some silk for the first time on my own. I took one class on it, but wasn't very successful. I now have much better information on how reeling should be accomplished, so I'll give it a try at some point over this winter.

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