SilkWorms 101

Vegas Chad

Avid Member
A common feeder that needs to have a home for help information… this will be that spot. A beacon a light for all of those who need help, advice and tips for making there silk worm dreams come true!!!

I would like to get this thread going on how to breed and keep silkworms 101. I was hoping that Brad and other bug keepers could pipe in with how they keep them…

What do you keep them in?
What kind of substrate?
Food?
Temp?
Water?
Breeding cycle and duration?
Are they prolific enough for a feeder?

Stuff like that… :rolleyes:
 

dodolah

Retired Moderator
A common feeder that needs to have a home for help information… this will be that spot. A beacon a light for all of those who need help, advice and tips for making there silk worm dreams come true!!!

I would like to get this thread going on how to breed and keep silkworms 101. I was hoping that Brad and other bug keepers could pipe in with how they keep them…

What do you keep them in?
What kind of substrate?
Food?
Temp?
Water?
Breeding cycle and duration?
Are they prolific enough for a feeder?

Stuff like that… :rolleyes:
w/ pictures will be nice.. so far, i manage to breed them from 3rd instar to egg phase.
I'm refrigerating those.. so, i'll definitely chime in.. but, i'm hoping someone more experienced will shed the light first? :)
 

Vegas Chad

Avid Member
My 2 cents on silkworms while I am in the cant sleep, might as well type mood. . .

The best way to ‘do’ silk worms (IMOP) is to but the eggs in bulk and then hatch them out as needed… Silkworms are much more cheap when purchased in egg form, you can get 1000 eggs for the cost of 100 worms usually.

The key for raising small silk worms for me has been consistent warm temperature and an abundance of food. I am working with Jason now to build myself a large 5’x3’x3’ incubator that will be mainly used to raise silk worms from egg. Keeping them at a nice warm temp with lots of food will allow them to grow quickly. Feed them mush when young because that is much more easy then picking small leaves off of a mulberry tree. Then as they get older you can begin to feed washed leaves. After that it is just a matter of feeding them till they get to the size you want to feed them. I don’t deal with the moths or any of that stuff… Just get lots of eggs and hatch them.

Also, a little tip… The leaves of a mulberry tree will keep a LONG time in the fridge… I have had a sack or two in for over a month and they are still fine… A little drop in the turgor pressure, but other than that still green and ready to be eaten. Stocking up before winter can save you a few bucks by saving on chow cost. Heck, you might be able to make money by doing your neighbors the favor of harvesting large amounts of leaves before they drop. :)
 
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Vegas Chad

Avid Member
I do not get them glued down... You can however buy them in bulk and then gule them yourself when you hatch them. The rest keep next to the milk untill you are ready to hatch them.
 

bg77

New Member
Do they have to be glued to hatch? I know this is stupid, but I am easily confused?:D
 

dodolah

Retired Moderator
Silkies 101

All right i'll keep it basic..
I don't have the pictures. To someone who has them you are more than welcome to post it.
Also please correct me if i list wrong facts (After all i am not a silkworm veteran)
I would also like to give the credits to Michael Cook at wormspit.com. His website educates me about the basic care for silkworms.
So most of the knowledge that i have are from his website.

Silkworm 101:
Part A: The Facts
SAFE HUMILITY

I. SAnitize, Sanitize, Sanitize
Always keep your utensils, hands, or food, or anything that come in contact
with silkies clean and bacteria free.
The reason being is the silkies' low immune systems against disease and
mold.

With this, it is imperative for you to check any development of mold and
any signs of sick silkies. It is best for you to get rid of the sick one..

Do not mix one batch with another to avoid cross contaminations.

Wash your hand with antibacterial soap be4 and after handling silkies.
Purell alcohol sanitizer is very handy. Avoid anything scented and the one
that come with moisturizer.

II. FEed, Feed, Feed
Silky only has 3 jobs in its life. Eat, poop, and Mate.
During the worm phase, they will only eat n poop, eat n poop, and eat n
poop .
and during the moth phase, they will only mate mate and mate.
So, always have food readily available for silkies.

III. HUMIdity
Silkies needs their environment humid enough for them and yet not
too humid so that the molds can grow.
Unfortunately, I do not know the exact number (perhaps someone can fill
me in for this). General rule is:
open the enclosure if you see condensation form in the cage.

IV. LIght
Avoid direct sunlight. They don't like it period.

V. Temperature
Keep the temp between 78 - 85F for a healthy growth. any place above
72F will suffice. The best way to keep a stable temperature is incubation.
or heat up the whole room until it's 78 F rather than putting a basking
spot lamp. After all, they are not chameleons.. They do not know how to
bask. They only know 3 jobs, remember? eat, poop, and mate..
Basking is not listed in their resume :D. You can use heat pack.. but
beware of mold.


VI. Yummy foods
Silkies only eat 2 kind of foods. They are silkworm chow made by
silkworm farm and Mulberry leaves.
Just so you know, it is easy to change the gutload from chow to the
fresh leaves but not the other way around. So, before introducing the
leaves to them, be sure you will have a constant supply of mulberry
leaves.

Here is what the chow looked like:

(Please be aware.. this is not my image. I took it from a random site i found during google search. I hope it's ok)

"OMG, I ran out of chows and All my mulberry trees are dead! What am I
gonna do?"

Don't panic. Order your chow online and meanwhile supply your silkies
with shredded carrots.
Be aware, your silkies will not survive forever with shredded carrots. It is
only a temporary solution.. After all, they are not rabbits.

"What about water?"

again, they only know how to eat, poop, and mate.
So, giving a water crystal or a drop of water is totally useless.
The only source of water they need comes from the food.
So, the chow needs to be moist. once it dries, it is useless.
and the leaves have to be fresh.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Let's go to part B: The Enclosure
Chances are you have silkworms already in your arsenals of feeders.

"What do you keep them in?"

Get a large cricket keeper (again, you probably already have it)
Get a white plastic canvas at Walmart (not the one Van Gogh or Michelangelo use... but the one that Martha Stewart might use. It look like a net made from plastic) Cut it according to your cricket keeper size and put it inside.
Since cricket keeper's bottom is slightly smaller than the top, putting the canvas there will leave a gap underneath.
i use red to symbolize the canvas
Others use some kind of an L shape carton on the bottom for extra stability.

Untitled-1.jpg
Put your silkies and the chow for the day on the plastic canvas (not the whole pound of chow, ok! it doesn't work that way).

When they poop, the frass (silkies' poop) will fell down to the bottom. making it easy for you to clean everyday. You'll be amazed on how fast it is be4 your
next cleaning.
Thank God that silkies frass are not stinky like crickets nasty poop!

O yea.. No substrate necessary. Unless if you have nothing to do, and you love cleaning after silkies every 15 minutes.

Part C: The growth
there are 5 steps of silkies growth.
The hatchling= "Kego", second, third, fourth, and fifth instar.
They refer to the size.
I don't want to go too scientific in this one.. you are not breeding silkies for research or building a company.. so, I say let's move on.

Kego is quite different with your usual white silkies.. the color is black and they are hairy..
According to Mike, at wormspit.com, Kego in japanese means a hairy baby. hahahaha.. I never thought those words will be put together in a sentence.

So don't be afraid when you see a black tiny caterpillar came out from your eggs..
lol don't throw them away thinking that the store you order the eggs from accidentally sending you wrong feeders. :D

If you want to accidentally squeeze them to death, go ahead and handle them with your bare hands.
My suggestion you should use soft brush.. you know the one you use for your watercolor paintings when you were a kid (brush #2 is good).

During their phase changing, your worm will gets religious and start to pray :D I am serious!

They will go to a prayer mode, where half of their bodies are erect and their tiny legs are folded.
Leave them alone when they pray.
It's rude to bother them :).. They are actually shedding.

This is the important thing of not overcrowding your cage with silkies..
Sometime the others are too busy eating they accidentally bump the praying silkies.

Ok... yada yada yada.. suddenly they are in 5th instar. where they are quite big. Suddenly they stop eating..
And then one day you find a greenish frass or some real wet liquid..
They're dumping their guts in preparation to make cocoon (ewww :p).

Also, for those who have the affinity to look at subtle signs, your silkies will no longer have greenish tint in their bodies anymore (that's the thing they dump).

For those who doesn't have the affinity to look at subtle signs or obvious signs such as wet cages and light greenish poop, they even go further by lifting their body and start moving their head making an "8" figuration.
Also, wherever they went, they start oozing silk.

now, a warning for everybody, if any of your silkies start dumping their gut, oozing some milky liquid, or have greenish frass be4 their 5th instar phase, don't think it's an early puberty for your silkies.. It's a disease! (put "Psycho" soundtrack here) :eek:

Gently pick up the silkies (i do mean gently. If your silkies got a disease called "grasserie," they will die and turn black (a black kego is fine.. but a black silky is not). Any slight force will burst them open and expelled milky liquid. ewww)
You want to separate sick silkies from the healthy one. and seriously, clean the cage. Those milky substance is very infectious! if you don't do anything about it, you'll get an epidemic (pretty soon, your silkworm colony will die).


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Part C: The Cocoon

So, here comes the day when you can proudly say that your silkies have all grown up (tears tears)..
They no longer bother you screaming "food food food food!!!"

and they are busy preparing looking for a place to create their home sweet home for the next 2 weeks.
Here's what you gotta do:
Separate them from the rest of the silkies that are not ready to spin.
and put them in a new container (or cricket keeper).

and then put some thing for them to latch their cocoon to.
Some people use corrugated cardboard, some people get fancy and make a cool looking thing like this:
(again, NOT my picture.. Please tell me if I break some kind of copyright things.. I'll erase the pic. I did this just for educating purpose)



To be honest, i really don't have time to get fancy.
I just use toilet paper rolls.
This is where my experience tells me something different than the one that i read from wormspit.com (it might just be a coincidence).
Mike is a pro in rearing this feeder, so i say go with him first.

Mike basically use paper clips and clip the toilet paper rolls together for stability and put it vertically (so, when you look down to the cricket keeper from above, you'll see circles).
I tried to do that, but they end up making their cocoon outside of the rolls and i try putting the silkies inside the rolls.. they all climb out, and again start spinning outside of the rolls.

So here is what i did differently: I put the rolls horizontal and tape the sides with masking tape for extra stability so the roll won't rolling around when your silky spinning the cocoon. So far, with the exception of one naughty silky, all of them have manage to spin the cocoon inside the roll.
Ideally you want one cocoon inside the paper roll.. but if you have 2 or 3, i say it will be fine too.

Took them about 2 days more or less to spin the cocoons.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------to be continued to silkworm 102-----------------------------
 
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JimNPHX

New Member
Great idea for this thread!

Thanks Chad/Dodolah for the info. I know there is a part II on its way, but I do have some questions if they can be addressed.

I have 3 chams (2 Veiled, 1 Jack) so I am just interested in raising from eggs. (I can buy locally for $12.99 a cup which has 1-2 dozen worms. I can't remember which . . .)
How long will the eggs last in the fridge?

What quantity of worms should (2) 7 month Veileds and (1) year old + Jackson eat per serving?

Based on the above answer, if I wanted to feed the silkies every 3rd day, how many should I be hatching at a time?

Based on that answer, what is the "window of opportunity" time-frame that I have for being able to use the worms as feeders? Then how often will I be hatching the eggs? What is time-frame from pulling eggs out of fridge to being a feeder size worm?

Is there any nutritional difference when feeding different size worms? Should I just let them grow to full size and then feed less worms?

I understand the concept of hanging the mesh to keep the container clean. Do you hang it from the lid, or just from the sides of the container at the top.
I am unfamiliar with the chow. How does it attach to the mesh?

Finally, does it matter if I use the leaves instead of just the chow? I am not sure where I can get leaves here in AZ.

I think that is it. Sorry if the questions are lame . . .

Thanks for the help!

Jim
 

Brad Ramsey

Retired Moderator
I was hoping that Brad and other bug keepers could pipe in with how they keep them...
HA!
It seems like things have pretty much been covered. I would just mess it all up with my bad worm husbandry:rolleyes: (seriously!)
You need lele to chime in here.
Ask me about mantids and roaches:D

-Brad
 

dodolah

Retired Moderator
HA!
It seems like things have pretty much been covered. I would just mess it all up with my bad worm husbandry:rolleyes: (seriously!)
You need lele to chime in here.
Ask me about mantids and roaches:D

-Brad
heyy that's not a bad idea.
I would love to read on Mantids 101, please :D
 

Vegas Chad

Avid Member
Do they have to be glued to hatch? I know this is stupid, but I am easily confused?:D
They do not... The only reason for the glue is to keep them from rolling around. Whenever I have used the gule I add it around the sides that way when they hatch they are around the edge and you dont kill them my laying chow in the middle and on top of them. Or you can use a grader apply over the top of them. I like that way myself. I feel bad if I kill them any way other than by feeding them to the animals :p
 

Vegas Chad

Avid Member
Great idea for this thread!

Thanks Chad/Dodolah for the info. I know there is a part II on its way, but I do have some questions if they can be addressed.
Welcome :)

I have 3 chams (2 Veiled, 1 Jack) so I am just interested in raising from eggs. (I can buy locally for $12.99 a cup which has 1-2 dozen worms. I can't remember which . . .)
How long will the eggs last in the fridge?
The eggs will last a long time in the fridge... The sooner you use them the better. The first month/two figure on a high 80-90 hatch rate... From then on it will drop, 6months is about 50% I have been told. But even with this you are better off than 13.00+gas to get em, a dozen. That is more than a doller PER WORM! OUCH!!!

What quantity of worms should (2) 7 month Veileds and (1) year old + Jackson eat per serving?!
Really, that is up to you... Figure out the size of the worm as compaired to your main feed... Do you want to feed only worms? Every other day, just a few at a time? Stuff like that... Its all up to you...


Based on the above answer, if I wanted to feed the silkies every 3rd day, how many should I be hatching at a time?!
ummmmmmmmmm 500 at a time would probably be ok... Enough to feed all of the chams and not to many so that they will get to large... However if your Veilds are full size they will eat any size worm... Then baised on how long they take to grow hatch out another batch when you start to get low. 2 weeks after perhaps.?.

Based on that answer, what is the "window of opportunity" time-frame that I have for being able to use the worms as feeders? Then how often will I be hatching the eggs? What is time-frame from pulling eggs out of fridge to being a feeder size worm?!
In 10-ish days they can grow to about an inch, in a months time they will grow to about 3". Again, this is which ideal care, to cold it will take longer.


Is there any nutritional difference when feeding different size worms? Should I just let them grow to full size and then feed less worms?!
Nope, all the same. Truth be told I usually add a little cal into my chow to bump up the nutritional value of them, so if nothing else I know my chams are getting some Cal from undusted worms.


I understand the concept of hanging the mesh to keep the container clean. Do you hang it from the lid, or just from the sides of the container at the top.
I am unfamiliar with the chow. How does it attach to the mesh?
Think of chow as jello, orrrrrr like an oatmeal blob... you cut it of grade it into whatever shape you want. It wont drip down or anything.


Finally, does it matter if I use the leaves instead of just the chow? I am not sure where I can get leaves here in AZ.
You can use both... They will switch from chow to leaves, but usually not from leaves to chow. They like the real deal more, and often wont eat anything but that if you try to change. Mulberry trees are everywhere. I am 100% sure that you have them in your city... Lots of parks use them for shade trees.

I think that is it. Sorry if the questions are lame . . .
Thanks for the help!
No lame questions... Tiz the point of the thread.
 

dodolah

Retired Moderator
Silkworm 102:
-continuation of Part C: cocoon phase:

After they finished making cocoon, you can gently put the roll back to vertical position, although there has been saying that bothering or moving the cocoons can cause your silkies not being able to hatch into moths.

I did it.. so far all of them hatch (only 4 needs my help)

Here is the thing you should know:
During the cocoon making, silkies cannot be bothered. If you suddenly have the urge to poke at something, i suggest poke something else.
Once they're bothered, they will cease the production and start looking for a new location to build their cocoons.

The problem with that lays in your silkies' silk ammo.
They do not have infinite supplies of silk. If you bothered them enough, at the end they will simply die halfway with an unfinished cocoon.
The only time they can be bothered (which i do not find the reason why would you) is when they are about finish making their cocoon structures.

Here is the thing you might be interested to know to impress your girlfriend :D..lol probably not gonna work, but heyy what do i know?

During the cocoon phase, your silky literally dies from the inside out.
They endure the process of histolysis where literally all of their organic tissues breakdown and destroyed leaving only one cell intact called imaginal bud.
This imaginal bud will dictate the new cells to reproduce into moth cells.
So, the moth and the caterpillar are literally an entirely different being.. cool, huh?

Took them about 2 weeks more or less before they start to hatch.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Part D: Moth Phase

Moth phase is pretty easy. They basically care for themselves. They do not have proboscis (mouth). So they cannot eat or drink.
This is the mating phase. Their last jobs on earth.

After 2 weeks more or less, the cocoon will be wet.
That is the moth's cocoonase.
Get ready for the moth to hatch! it's showdown time.

It generally take a few hours for them to hatch.
If it take a day, chances are the cocoon is too hard for its cocoonase to digest.
You can gently help the moth by cutting it open with an exacto knife. Careful not to stab the moth.
However, don't get your hope high. Chances are they probably already dead from not being able to get out.

If you are into knitting, you can use the cocoons and turn it into a scarf or socks or something.
You cannot turn it into a sweater though :D. You need the intact cocoons to do that. (you have to kill the silkies be4 they start to expel cocoonase to soften the silk).
But, I don't think you are interested in that since, after all, this is a chameleon forum.. not arts and crafts forum.

During this stage, lay some carton board or piece of paper on the bottom of the container. This is where the moth will attach their eggs on.
Take out the toilet paper rolls. you don't want your female moth to lay eggs there (i got one female that cover the top part of the paper roll with her fertile eggs :().

The moth will then hang out to dry their wings (o they also ooze some brown liquids when they get excited or surprised).
The female has tiny wings and larger abdomen (due to the eggs).
The male has normal looking wings.

They cannot fly, don't worry. The wings are completely vestigial.

Within seconds the female hatch, they will flutter their wings releasing pheromones driving the male crazy:rolleyes:
The male will start flapping his wings around and frantically looking for her :D They also squirt the brown liquid (I told you be4 that they do that when they get excited, right?)
Some dummy males will even start mating with anything in the size of a moth hahaha.

If they successfully found each other, the male will position its end on the females' end.
They will stay 'locked' together for 24 hours.
If for some reason you don't want them to mate, you can gently separate them by turning them like turning a key to open a door.
I emphasis the word gently cause there's a chance for you to ruin the female's ovipositor (??- i don't know if that's the correct scientific name for it).

After 24 hours, they will separate from each other and the males will continue to mate with another female (2 or 3 times more)
The females, however, will start laying tiny eggs.
You can use a plastic cup and (with holes on the top) to make your female moth lays the eggs in a nice circle formation on top of the paper or the cardboard that you put on the bottom of the container. No need for glue because your silk moth attach the eggs themselves to the paper.
You don't need to ask them whether they need a UHU stick or a heat gun :D jk
But, if you order loose eggs from the farms, you do need to glue it on a petridish.

Unfortunately, this is where they are going to die whether you like it or not. After they are done with their job, they have nothing else to do.
With one exception! Mwahahahahaha! You can feed them to your chameleon! Hey, i say better to do that than letting them go to waste.
As far as nutrition wise for your cham, I think it's about the same as silkies, yes? I don't know.. somebody will chime in for this fact.
My cham absolutely adores silkmoth. Also be aware, sometimes your cham's poop will have yellowish eggs (kinda like chili seeds). That's not parasite eggs. Most parasite eggs are so tiny that you cannot see them. That's the undigested eggs from feeding a female moth to your cham.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Part E: The eggs

After couple of days, the yellow whitish egg will start to turn to golden orange and then slowly turn to brown and finally become black.
That is a good sign! That means the egg is fertilized.
If the eggs stay yellow white, those are the sterile eggs. Do whatever you want with them. You can poke them, throw them away, make them into a necklace.. whatever :D
A good egg will be dark in coloration and it will looked like red blood cell from profile.

Cut the paper. put it in ziplock or freezer bag and put it in the refrigerator to induce diapause.
Don't freeze them, ok..
Put it in the bottom refrigerator.. wormspit.com says 30F-40F is the good temp.

Let them stay there for at least a month.
Like VegasChad said be4, the eggs will last for 6 months (I heard some even last for a year) in the fridge.
and feel free to hatch as many as you want.

Just buy a deli cup with lid. you know.. the tray that Albertson use for their Roast chicken.
Put some moist paper towel (not wet, ok).. and then incubate the eggs 78 to 85 F.
Brandaleon brings up a good point that i forgot to mention.
Avoid the moist paper towel from touching the eggs or any possibility of water to wet the eggs.
(Don't use the damp paper towel as substrate)

If condensation appears, remove the heatsource or carefully open the lid for a while.
Too much humidity will make the egg moldy.. that's a big NO NO.

2 weeks later more or less, Kego will start to hatch and the cycle repeats.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------End of Silkworm 101&102-----------------------------------------------------------------

Any questions?
 
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brandaleon

New Member
Just buy a deli cup with lid. you know.. the tray that Albertson use for their Roast chicken.
Put some moist paper towel (not wet, ok).. and then incubate the eggs 78 to 85 F.
If condensation appears, remove the heatsource or open the lid for a while.
Too much humidity will make the egg moldy.. that's a big NO NO.

2 weeks later more or less, Kego will start to hatch and the cycle repeats.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------End of Silkworm 101-----------------------------------------------------------------

Any questions?
Every where I have read says that when water touches the eggs they go bad. To me that would mean that the damp paper towel in the enclosure would kill the eggs. Pleas tell us if you have used this method successfully.
 

dodolah

Retired Moderator
Every where I have read says that when water touches the eggs they go bad. To me that would mean that the damp paper towel in the enclosure would kill the eggs. Pleas tell us if you have used this method successfully.
http://www.wormspit.com/bombyxsilkworms.htm

The operative word is if it "touches" the eggs.
Check the link, there is a picture where he put the small tissue paper into the deli tray (but it is not touching the eggs. and also the paper towel is not wet.
just damp enough to maintain humidity but not accidentally wet the eggs).

my silk egg is now in diapause phase.
I will try it out soon enough and report the result to you guys
Thanks for the Q, I'll add this concern in the lesson.
 
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Vivi

New Member
well i just wanted to say that this i very helpful. im thinking of getting a cham one day in the near future and if i am going to have worms, now i know how to care for them.
 

dodolah

Retired Moderator
lol thanks Chad. I've learn something new too. :)

Welcome :)



The eggs will last a long time in the fridge... The sooner you use them the better. The first month/two figure on a high 80-90 hatch rate... From then on it will drop, 6months is about 50% I have been told. But even with this you are better off than 13.00+gas to get em, a dozen. That is more than a doller PER WORM! OUCH!!!



Really, that is up to you... Figure out the size of the worm as compaired to your main feed... Do you want to feed only worms? Every other day, just a few at a time? Stuff like that... Its all up to you...




ummmmmmmmmm 500 at a time would probably be ok... Enough to feed all of the chams and not to many so that they will get to large... However if your Veilds are full size they will eat any size worm... Then baised on how long they take to grow hatch out another batch when you start to get low. 2 weeks after perhaps.?.



In 10-ish days they can grow to about an inch, in a months time they will grow to about 3". Again, this is which ideal care, to cold it will take longer.




Nope, all the same. Truth be told I usually add a little cal into my chow to bump up the nutritional value of them, so if nothing else I know my chams are getting some Cal from undusted worms.




Think of chow as jello, orrrrrr like an oatmeal blob... you cut it of grade it into whatever shape you want. It wont drip down or anything.




You can use both... They will switch from chow to leaves, but usually not from leaves to chow. They like the real deal more, and often wont eat anything but that if you try to change. Mulberry trees are everywhere. I am 100% sure that you have them in your city... Lots of parks use them for shade trees.



No lame questions... Tiz the point of the thread.
 

brandaleon

New Member
http://www.wormspit.com/bombyxsilkworms.htm

The operative word is if it "touches" the eggs.
Check the link, there is a picture where he put the small tissue paper into the deli tray (but it is not touching the eggs. and also the paper towel is not wet.
just damp enough to maintain humidity but not accidentally wet the eggs).

my silk egg is now in diapause phase.
I will try it out soon enough and report the result to you guys
Thanks for the Q, I'll add this concern in the lesson.
I thought you were suggesting that the paper towel was a substrate. But you cleared that up. It makes sense now.
 
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