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Sericulture, or silk farming, is the rearing of silkworms for the production of raw silk.Although there are several commercial species of silkworms, Bombyx mori is the most widely used and intensively studied. According to Confucian texts, the discovery of silk production by B. mori dates to about 2700 BC, although archaeological records point to silk cultivation as early as the Yangshao period (5000 – 10,000 BC). About the first half of the 1st century AD it had reached ancient Khotanmarker, and by AD 300 the practice had been established in India. Later it was introduced to Europe, the Mediterranean and other Asiatic countries. Sericulture has become one of the most important cottage industries in a number of countries like China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, India, Brazil, Russia, Italy and France. Today, Chinamarker and Indiamarker are the two main producers, together manufacturing more than 60% of the world production each year.


Silkworm larvae are fed mulberry leaves, and, after the fourth molt, climb a twig placed near them and spin their silken cocoon. The silk is a continuous-filament fiber consisting of fibroin protein, secreted from two salivary glands in the head of each larva, and a gum called sericin, which cements the two filaments together.The sericin is removed by placing the cocoons in hot water, which frees the silk filaments and readies them for reeling. The immersion in hot water also kills the silkworm larvae.

Single filaments are combined to form yarn. This yarn is drawn under tension through several guides and wound onto reels. Finally, the yarn is dried, and the now raw silk is packed according to quality.

Stages of production

The stages of production are as follows:

  1. The silk moth lays eggs.
  2. When the eggs hatch, the caterpillars are fed mulberry leaves.
  3. When the silkworms are about 25 days old, they are 10,000 times heavier than when they hatched. They are now ready to spin a silk cocoon.
  4. The silk is produced in two glands in the silkworm's head and then forced out in liquid form through openings called spinnerets.
  5. The silk solidifies when it comes in contact with the air.
  6. The silkworm spins approximately 1 mile of filament and completely encloses itself in a cocoon in about two or three days but due to quality restrictions, the amount of usable silk in each cocoon is small. As a result, 5500 silkworms are required to produce 1 kg of silk.
  7. The silk is obtained from the undamaged cocoons by brushing the cocoon to find the outside ends of the filament.
  8. The silk filaments are then wound on a reel. One cocoon contains approximately 1,000 yards of silk filament. The silk at this stage is known as raw silk. Just one thread consists of 48 individual silk filaments. This could lead to at least 4000 yards in a whole cocoon.
  9. A yarn can now be formed by combining several threads of silk.

Sericulture by country

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Cruelty towards silkworms

Strict Buddhists refrain from wearing or using silk products, as the silkworm pupae are killed in the process of making silk.Animal activists say that the practice of boiling cocoons in hot water for silk is cruel.

See also

The Human League released a song about Sericulture called "Being Boiled"


  1. Patricia Buckley Ebrey. 2005. China: A Cultural, Social and Political History. Wadsworth Publishing. Page 7. ISBN 0618133879.
  2. Hill, John E. 2003. "Annotated Translation of the Chapter on the Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu." 2nd Draft Edition. Appendix A. [1]

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