Wild Silkies?

Lady cham

New Member
Hey guys, Hoping you all can help me out. I have Elderberry trees in my back yard and have noticed very large worm cocoons. I was wondering if they could be silkies. I can't see much detail but I believe they are a very pail yellow and about 1/2 long maybe black spots? There are quite a few and would like to know the best way to harvest them and keep the cycle going.
A speedy responce would be awesome. I fear their cycle will be ending soon. Thanks bunches!!
I am not sure what kind of cocoon they are. Best way to find out would be to take one and find out what emerges. If you are looking to breed them, you might want to take a couple dozen.
Sorry, no wild silkworms

Hi - the silkworms we use as feeders for our herps are the same species that are primarily used in the silk industry. Their scientific name is Bombyx mori and they are of the family Bombycidae (I am not doing this to give a lesson in Latin or Greek, ;) but to clarify.)

They have been cultivated for thousands of years for color and strength of the silk they produce. They are no longer able to live in the wild (again, for centuries+) and are strictly raised by humans. We do have wild silk moths in North America and elsewhere in the world; they are in the family Saturniidae. Most people know the luna moth and polyphemus from this family; they are very large (up to 6+" wingspan) and (most) fly at night. They make large cocoons and their silk is used too, but for different markets in the industry. They are not bred on a large scale for this purpose.

OK, now that you know they were definitely not B. mori they might be on of the Saturniidae. The Saturniids do not congregate to spin as you have described. If I am understanding your description you mean there is one large silken structure (usually in the crotch of tree branches or at the tips) with many caterpillars inside? Or are they spinning individual cocoons (one caterpillar per structure)? Also, where do you live? It could help narrow it down. Any chance of a photo? Of the Saturniids, the cecropia and polyphemus are know to feed on elderberry (but there are a lot of other caterpillars that do, too). Unless you can make a positive i.d. I would not feed them to your cham. Many have urticating (stinging) hairs and spines, others are toxic. If they are of the Saturniidae family you will probably not want to raise them as the process from egg to adult can be a full year (species and location) and definitely not practical as a feeder (and again, some may be harmful to your cham).

If they are in the "communal" web then they would likely be fall webworms, gypsy moth or tent caterpillars, again, depending on where you live.

Rather then link you to a bunch of pics, a Google image search it will result in many photos :)

Hope this was helpful and not too boring :D I have been raising the Saturniids for several years and know other moths, too.

Hi lele, welcome to the chameleon forums :)

What a great post; very informative. After seeing your name and reading your post, I assume you are the same lele that authored the 'silkworms!' article at ChameleonNews. That article has been invaluable to me. Thanks!
Yes, 'tis I...

Hi Brad,

thanks for the welcome! I did not know this forum existed, a friend (Chris from ChamNews) emailed the silkworm post to me so here I am. I have been frequenting the KS cham forum for a few years, but will be sure to stop in here, too! ;)

Yes, I did write the article in ChamNews and will lilely be doing another in an upcoming issue so keep your eyes peeled! I am glad the silkie article has been so helpful to you!

See you around!

Welcome Lele,
I have been reading the Kingsnake chameleon forum for several years now but I have never bothered joining (I regularly post on 5 cham forums as it is!!). A friend posted a question on there for me years ago in my hour of need and I was hurt that no-one bothered answering so I decided I didn't want to give others advice on there either.
Just wanted to say sorry to hear about Luna - I was upset to read that she had died. Beautiful name you gave her, I know you named her after a moth.


Yes, Luna was a very special girl with special needs so I was handpicked by her breeder since she did not want her bred. The irony of it all is that she had ongoing reproductive issues which might have contributed to her death. When I first got her, she would climb to the top of her cage, hang upside and go around in circles when I turned out the lights! :eek: She was like a moth to a light - except it was dark! Between that, her luna moth color and raising lunas it came from my mouth and stuck - it truly did fit her. Her first "mom" said she was probably doing her wandering because I turned out the light too early - she was used to staying up until 11:00!! LOL!! I had to re-program her :D

As for the KS forum - give us a try again. I have been there for almost 3 years and have seen many changes among the members but there are a few of us who have stuck it out. Even though I will not get another cham until spring, I will remain active so I can continue to give "back to the community". I'll tell you, the folks on that forum got me through some really tough times with Luna by their knowledge, support, cyber hugs and personal emails. When I lost her so unexpectedly (she had been doing better than ever in those last few weeks) the response was overwhelming! Sorry your post never got a reply - every now and again a post will get missed but a few of use try to catch those if we can. For example, weekends are slow and if there are a bunch of new posts on Monday some get pushed way down. So join the group if you like. I look forward to lurking - and helping where I can - on this forum.

Hey Lele:
Thanks so much for the info. It helps out a lot. to answere your question, they are the big communal webs with a bunch of little caterpillars. I have also worried about the possiblity of stinging hairs and that is why I have been reluctant to give them to Herbie.
Even though it is almost fall here in Virginia I have seen so many different butterflies in the last week. So it is also hard for me to possibly feed herbie a new one. Thanks again for your help and welcome to the forum! I think I will do some looking around on the internet and will let you all know what I find
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Hi Lele,

It is great to see you here! Your article in the Chameleon E-zine was very helpful to me (and probably a lot of people trying to raise silkies). I don't think I could have reproduced my silkies without the help of some of your older posts and the article (still have some eggs stored in my frig...not sure if they are still viable because they were exposed to room temperature for a few hours after my electricity went out a couple of months ago...). I am a "lurker" (lol maybe that is why I chose the name nosferatu) at many cham forums...never post at KS (was discouraged by some of the viscious newbie bashing going on there when I first got into chameleons) but always enjoy reading your posts. I really like how Brad has organized the forums here...I find there is a lot of good knowledge at KS but it is not very user friendly as far as forums go in my opinion...wish they would update the software or something there.
Hi All:
Well I think I have narrowed them down to the Fall Webworms. Thanks to the links Lele posted. I decided not to feed them to Herbie because I can't find much info on them. Thanks again everyone.
Lele, as we are on the subject of moths you may be interested to know that in England we have many Elephant-Hawk moth caterpillars. Bizarre looking caterpillars, brown with large heads and teeth and a bit at the mouth that extends like an elephants trunk!! No I am not considering feeding them to my chameleons but I'd love to see one turn into a moth as I have seen photos of them and they look like the most beautiful moth ever!!
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