Sunday, June 29, 2008


My largest worm has begun to spin. Here is how he (or she) looks next to the smallest worm.

And here is a short movie of the big one munching away a few days ago.


Finally, here is the video of how I found the spinning worm last night. He had just dumped his gut and was beginning to spin. I decided to move him to another container in a paper towel roll even though I was afraid that if I disturbed him he might stop spinning. However this morning he's spinning inside the tube so I think I'm okay.


Hopefully the other two will start in a few days, even though I really think the little one needs some more time to grow before he spins.

I'm anxious to get my new batch of cocoons. The guy sending them said he might be able to send ten instead of just seven, which would be awesome! I'm still waiting to hear form him though.


Friday, June 27, 2008

New additions on the way

My worms are getting quite big now, but nobody is looking like they want to spin yet. I was starting to think that this project was never going to get off the ground, since I only had three worms (one is not looking that great at the moment), all of them from the same female. However, I was lucky enough to find seven A. pernyi cocoons on eBay, and I won the auction. I consulted with USDA and found that my permit would allow me to import another ten cocoons. Yay!

The seller of the cocoons said that he collected the parental generation in the wild, so the genetic diversity should be great (the USDA entomologist confirmed that my problems were likely due to excessive inbreeding). He also said that he might be able to sell me ten cocoons, and that he expects the cocoons to go into diapause. I found this odd because this moth should have two generations a year. When I spoke to the UDSA entomologist he agreed, and suggested that when I get the cocoons I should keep them at 55 degrees for two weeks. This will induce diapause for certain, and then I can break the diapause by bringing them back out into the 80 degree insectary.

I now also have concerns that the cocoons from brood #1 were not handled properly. The USDA entomologist also said that refrigerator temperatures (usually around 40 degrees F) are too cold for this species, because they are subtropical. The seller of the first cocoons told me that he had them in the fridge prior to shipping them to me, and told me that I could put them back in the fridge until I needed them. Which I did. Well, that could be part of the problem right there.

I'm trying to decide if I want to try and breed the worms that I have now, or if I just want to go with the new ones. I feel like I don't want to waste the old ones, but with all the problems that I've had with brood #1 I might just want to start fresh and go with the new ones. Although my issues might have been from the temperature issue and not inbreeding. I'll never know for sure.

Either way, this project just might be in business again.


Friday, June 13, 2008

And then there were three

On June 5th I noticed that the smallest worm had a very dark face. Usually their faces are tan with cute little brown freckles. This little guys face was almost black, so I decided that I'd isolate him in a small container. The next day, he was dead in a small puddle of goo.

I was glad that I isolated him. The other three are still going strong and look great. Nobody looks close to spinning yet. They're really starting to power through the leaves!


Monday, June 2, 2008

The survivors

Well, I still have four bugs left - one small, two medium, and a large. They all look very healthy and happy. Here, take a look!





This is my 3 year-old daughter holding the large worm.

I have to say that these worms seem very shy compared to B. mori. When I walk in the room and take the lid off of my rearing containers they all immediately freeze. The only way I've gotten them to move is to pry them off of the leaves that they're on. And they are tenacious little ones. B. mori are much easier to move around than these are. It took me a long time to carefully pry each little foot of the large worm off of the leaf it was on. I was really afraid that I was going to rip a foot off. Thankfully, I did not.

It's now been 24 days since these worms have hatched. They should still have a bit to go until they spin. I'm thinking at least two more weeks.