Wednesday, May 13, 2009

When one door closes...

I was very bummed about the failure of my A. pernyi colony. However, I got a nice surprise on Sunday when I realized that I have a mulberry tree in my yard that I didn't know about. There is an area in our side yard that we hadn't trimmed in about five years. Sunday I was doing yard work and I discovered this little tree. I'm sure that the people who owned the house before us had been cutting it down, but since mulberry trees grow like weeds it has come back to life. It only has one trunk, and it's still a very immature tree with the trunk being about 3 inches in diameter, but it's leafing nicely and looks very healthy. I think it's about 6 feet tall.

Since it's in the middle of a bunch of other trees I'm going to trim all the other trees back so that my little mulberry can get more sun and have more room to grow. It's also very close to our neighbor's property, and he's very good about trimming his trees so I have to tell him not to touch the mulberry even if it hang over into his yard. I need all the leaves I can get from it.

I hope it fruits!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Oh deer! We're spinning.

I've been meaning to write about this for awhile, but I just haven't had the chance. Here is a picture of my weeping mulberry.

A few weeks ago it was beautiful, completely leafed and full. Then one night the deer came by our yard and almost stripped it. I'm very glad that I didn't have any B. mori that I had to feed, or I'd have been in trouble, Next year I'm going to get netting on it early to protect the buds from the squirrels, and then I'll leave it on to keep the deer off of the leaves. Honestly, they could have eaten ANY of the other crappy shrubs that we have in our yard. Why pick on my mulberry!!??

In bug news, this morning I saw that I had two spinners. They had just started the beginnings of the cocoons, and by this evening they had completely enclosed themselves in silk.

I have one spinner each in colony A and B, and I think I have one starting in Colony C. I think I may have figured out a spinning structure for them. I took short sections of used oak twigs and tied them together in the middle to form bundles of twigs. I'm hoping the silkworms will crawl upwards out of the leaves to spin in the twigs. It would be much easier to raise these outside!

Something that I haven't mentioned is that the worms seem to prefer leaves from certain trees. I'm not great with identifying oak trees, but I'm pretty sure that the oak leaves I collect out at the farm are pin oaks. The worms will eat the pin oak, but they seem to far prefer the leaves from our church's oak tree out back, and the oak leaves from our neighbor's oak tree which I think are the same species. Compared to the pin oak the leaves are a much darker green and the leaves are not as skinny and spiky as pin oak leaves. I'll have to see if I can figure out what species the preferred trees are, because I think it's interesting that they have favorites within a species.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Weeping Mulberry problems

Last year my mulberry sapling didn't get any leaves, so we dug it out of the ground and bought a more mature weeping mulberry. Since we saved the stump of the sapling in the container that the weeping mulberry came in, I was able to inspect the remains of the sapling. The whole top looked dead, so I snapped the top off, and here is what the trunk looked like on the inside -

Certainly I had insect damage. I broke off a small piece and took it to the tree farm that I bought the sapling from. The man there confirmed that it was wood borer damage, but which kind of beetle he couldn't say. He said it looked like the tree died first and then the beetle ate the wood, and not the other way around. He said I could treat the weeping mulberry tree if I was worried that it might get infested too, and suggested an insecticide that was systemic and would get absorbed into the whole tree. I was all set to buy it when I suddenly remembered what I had the tree for - to FEED BUGS. Luckily I didn't buy anything or treat the tree at all, and I seem to have buds on it.

Unfortunately, the squirrels find these buds delicious! The little buggers have been up in the tree munching on the buds. I chased them out of the tree numerous times just by yelling out the back door, but when that stopped working I had to actually go out to the tree and holler at them. One time the squirrel jumped over to the next tree, and, hanging about three feet away from me at eye level, had the gall to chatter angrily at me!

I asked for helpful suggestions about keeping the squirrels out of my tree on the silkworm rearing Yahoo group that I belong to (Catherders) and some smart soul told me that I could put bird netting on the tree. I netted up the tree and I haven't seen a squirrel in the tree since, but they could just be getting up there when I'm not looking. However, it looks like the buds are getting bigger and not getting eaten, so I'll order some Bombyx mori eggs soon!

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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sad tree

Yet another setback in my plans to have a silkworm colony this summer. This is a picture of my mulberry sapling that we planted last spring.

If you look at the trees in the background, you'll notice that they all have leaves. My mulberry does not. I confirmed last night that other mulberries in our area not only have leaves but are also ripening fruit at the moment. So something is sorely amiss with my little tree. It appears to be alive, but I can't really be sure. It's not all dry and brittle, so I'm assuming it's not completely dead. Why didn't it leaf? A mystery.

Since we don't have a lot of room in our yard to just keep planting trees, I've decided that I'm going to dig up this sapling and plant an already established weeping mulberry tree (Morus alba 'chaparral').

(Great photo from - not my tree!)

The weeping mulberries are non-fruiting, which is kind of a bummer since mulberries can be very tasty. However, the weeping mulberries, well, they "weep" and the branches hang down instead of growing up, which is really convenient when trying to harvest leaves for bugs. Regular fruiting mulberry trees can be 30 feet high or more, making it a chore to reach the high branches for leaves or fruit. We had two weeping mulberries at our old house and it was very easy for me to get plenty of leaves for even my biggest colony of B. mori because the M. alba can get really bushy and still stay short. Another bonus is that the M. alba leaves (also known as white mulberry) are supposed to produce the highest quality silk.

Since I'm not sure if my little mulberry is dead, and I feel bad just throwing it away, I've arranged for a new home for it. A kind soul in the Barony with lots of land has agreed to take it and see if he can save it. He said he's always wanted a fruiting mulberry. I hope it grows for him.

Good thing I'm better at raising bugs than I am at growing trees.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

No progress

We are still working on putting the basement back together after our water problems, so there has been no more progress made on the insectary. The things that need doing are -

Install floor - We bought vinyl flooring to lay down in that room. It will make it easy to clean and disinfect. I need to make sure I keep things as clean as possbile in there, because mold or a virus outbreak can wipe yout your colony.

Paint the walls - Just because the walls need it, not for any functional reason. Also because it will look nice.

Install countertop - This will be nice when I'm cleaning out cages or feeding the bugs.

Make emergance chamber - As noted here, I need an emergence chanber for A. pernyi if I get them shipped in. While I don't think it will be hard to make, it still takes time to make it, and I need help to assemble it (since I've never put together a plexiglass box before).

Get leaves - At this point my mulberry tree still doesn't have leaves. It does have some buds, which is a good sign. I'm thinking I'll have a late summer B. mori brood by the time I have leaves and get this insectary finished!

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