silkworm deaths


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I have a couple hundred silkwoms. When I went to feed them just now I opened the container to a horrible stink and liquified bodies everywhere. Does anyone have any idea what I did wrong? I hatched them a month ago and have only had a couple deaths and cannt figure out anything I did different this time.
Sounds as if they got hot, only reason i can think of as to why they are liquid form hahah nasty:(:eek:
how are you keeping them? Couple hundred - all in one container? how big is their home? When you said "opened the container" I am picturing a closed lid (as opposed to screen).

They are quite prone to viral, bacterial and fungal diseases and should always have adequate ventilation once they are about 1/2-3/4" long (3rd - 4th instar). The food should be prepared properly and it can cause moisture buildup quickly and when they are still small it is important to open the container a few times a day for air exchange and to dry up any condensation. I know everyone says they have to stay warm, but like an cat(erpillar)s reared in captivity this can be more of a problem than anything. I only rear them in the winter because I cannot risk disease transmission b/t them and my Saturniid cats and I keep my home cool. The silkies live in average 70 degrees or less.

You should also remove any at the slightest possibility of disease (usually darkening). Silkies should not be handled much and always with clean hands (the food, too.). If you post a pic/or describe your setup it'd give us a better idea of what may have gone wrong.

That said, most viruses in cats can be harbored and only show when the environment is prime for the pathogen, so it is possible (but unlikely) that your supplier is having or on the brink of NPV outbreak - but don't go blaming them unless they have had any other complaints or outbreak in their own broods. Believe me, something I am all too familiar with - lost over 100 cecropia moth cats last year to NPV. :(
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Im keeping them in a plastic recycling container that has the lid that folds closed. When I close it I dont clasp the lid sections together I lay one on top of the other so there is still air coming in. I cleaned out all the dead ones and only took the ones that looked healthy into a new container. I left it opened and went into town for the rest of the day. When I came home there was one dead and two that didnt look right. They looked kinda wet so I decided to take them out just in case and as I picked them up they kinda fell apart. Im going to hold off on feeding them to the chams and watch them a bit more. Oh and every time I feed or clean up after them I wash my hands, the shredder and the feeding tongs before I go near them.
I know exactly the type of container and even though a certain silkie dealer (no names and not a negative comment as I order from him, too ;)) sells them to use I personally don't recommend them. I use closed containers in the beginning and then use glass aquariums (or other) with either a fitted screen top, plastic canvas cut to fit or muslin (fabric) held with string or rubber band.

Have you read my article on silkies? Might answer some questions for you.

I tend to use a little less water when I make the chow so it is a bit drier. If the food is too moist it can add to the whole moisture factor.

I personally don't see why you use a "container" at all. I use a peice of window screen with frame. If you are worried about escapes (hasnt happened) then place it in an even larger shallow bucket. They dont walk much, unless you you put new food out, to which they "run" to and stay there till its consumed.

Yeah I read your article. I use the plastic stuff from the hobby store so the poop goes through the holes. (great idea by the way) Im hatching out more eggs right now so Im going to try a few different ways with this batch. I had a few more deaths, but the ones alive seem to be doing well. Thanks for all the help.
Hmmmm... It just looks like 300 bites of pure wholesome chameleon food to me. :)

no offense Lele. :p
none taken - what do you do when they are ready to pupate and begin wandering? I let mine spin up in the containers/tanks using egg crates, tp rolls and/or small paper cups, so using one just works best for me. ;)
They hardly last that long Lele! There are many many mouthes to feed here :)

However When I did that the few times I did, I took a sheet of egg carton, and cut it one section wide. Put one of these lengths on either of the sides of the screen. They cocooned on these without issue.
Feeding moths is fun sometimes, but feeding the worm is surefire, there can be complications with the metamorphosis.

yup, the more you let pupate the more chance of a problem - true in nature in general. Lep life cycle is one of the more extraordinary though most people take it for granted. It is a very tricky and delicate process. I have performed "surgery" to release feeder silkmoths as well as my wild ones many, many times - sometimes with success, other times not. But since Lep rearing is one of my longtime passions and I have a full (scientific) understanding of the entire biological process I tend to be "in tune" with them and watch out for problems. Besides freeing them from being trapped in the cocoons unable to eclose (emerge) I have also cut stuck shed from the segments of the larvae so it would not strangle them. Same sort of thing with cham shed on ankles, etc. but when you are working on something small and fragile it can be pretty darn tricky! I currently have about 150 WSM larvae (with more hatching daily!) - those are the mouths I have to feed! :eek:

You had asked about some insect process when I was up to eyeballs with moth mating (now I am just up to my eyeballs with feeding) but I can't find the thread and don't recall what it was. remind me and I'll get on it ;)
The thread was about how insects breath. It should still be in your PM inbox.



The wild silkworms you are working with are what species? latin? They are green correct?
I envy your work, it puts a purpose to the little diddling i do with feeders.
hey, nice to see you do surgery, too!!:D

I work with the Family Saturniidae and at one time or another all three subfamilies:
Subfamily Ceratocampinae - Royal Moths
Subfamily Hemileucinae - Buck and Io Moths
Subfamily Saturniinae - Silkmoths

Although Saturniinae is designated (taxonomically) as the Silkmoths all three are commonly called silk moths. The Superfamily is Bombycoidea and I am sure you notice the "Bomby..." Yes, the huge Actias luna, Hyalophora cecropia (largest in NA with a 6+" wingspan), Antheraea polyphemus, Citheronia regalis and others are all related to our little Bombyx mori. None feed as adults and have short life spans (compared to the feeding sphinxes, though some of that family do not feed, either. I just recently found that out as I took on two new Sphingid species this season).

Some are green, some are spiny, some have stinging barbs and others have bells and whistles ;) If you want to see some here are my two web hosting sites: 13lele at flickr and 13lele at webshots

an "eye" spot on the luna's forewing

a cecropia cat that has just molted from 4th to 5th instar (see shed skin just behind it). This is the one with bells, whistles, baubles and bows! :D
I'm having trouble finding silk worms for my Chams locally...From what I'm reading in this post, raising silkworms isn't that hard and economically wiser from the pocket-book stance? From your article, I take it I can buy in bulk and hatch them as I need to feed my Cham...I just need to make sure my time frames are on or hatch in mass quantities? Where do you recommend buying the eggs from? I've seen many on the internet, but would rather use a recommended source...
Thanks for the info...For a silkworm newbie...What is the recommended starting stuff I need? I take it a container, something to strain the dookie, powder food and worms or eggs?
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