I read Alessandro Barrico’s Silk yesterday. Yes, the whole thing.* My personal apathy towards the book itself aside**, it sent me on a quest to learn more about silkworms.
A few facts:
1. Silk moths have been domesticated so thoroughly that they are now unable to survive in the wild. In fact, they can’t fly.***
2. The silk industry began in China over 5000 years ago.****
3. Silkworms eat the leaves of mulberry trees.
4. China maintained a monopoly on the silk industry for about 2500 years before silk production spread (okay, was smuggled) to Japan, the Byzantine and Arab empires and finally to western Europe.
5. Silk is cultivated by boiling the cocoons of the silk worm for a few minutes, then finding the end of the thread and slowly unraveling it.
6. The raising of silkworms is called sericulture.
*It’s 104 pages.
**It was far better than the other book I read for fun this week, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, which was the worst book I’ve read since I suffered through Andrew Davidson’s The Gargoyle last March.
***Natural science information on silkworms is here.
****Information on the history of silk can be found here.