Silk Moth Species

Bombyx Mori Silkworms

Bombyx Mori silk moth

Silk Moth, Bombyx Mor

Silk moths have a very short lived life as adults. Their time is solely devoted to reproduction. Their lifespan is only up to 10 days and they die shortly after laying eggs in the case of the female or mating in the case of the male.

Both sexes possess only rudimentary mouth parts. They do not feed throughout their ephemeral adult life.  Their life is so short that they survive purely on the energy resources stored from the larvae stage of life. Silk moths are unsteady flyers and the females rarely stray from their silk cocoons. They perch in a position where there is an air current which will carry her pheromones for the males to smell out using their feathery antennae.

The life cycle of silk moths is to simply hatch, eat, pupate, emerge, mate, lay eggs, die; all in the span of one year or less. The shortest part of the silk moth life is in the adult stage which is purely devoted to mating just before laying the eggs and dying.

These flightless moths derived from their ancestor/cousin’s- the beautiful and majestic giant silk moths-

examples are:

Atlas Moth



Note the way in which they have evolved- the beautiful patterns on their wings emulate that of a snake (see photo above- the side looks like an upright snake!!)

African Moon Moth:

photo by Derrick Wess 1 ed size

Chinese Oak Silk Moth

Photo by Derrick Wess 2 ed size

… and many more!

The Giant silk moth variety also spin a silk cocoon- however their cocoons are much larger and made of fragmented silk which is often used to make silk papers- and in indonesia- change purses- unlike the bombyx mori which is a continuous strand of silk!

Mulberry silkworms are divided into 3 different (yet related) groups- all to do with their breeding patterns…

The Univoltine breed is usually associated with Europe. As a reaction to the cold climate, the eggs are dormant in winter and hatched and cross fertilize only by spring. Because of this, they generate silkworms only once a year.

The second type of breed is called Bivoltine and is normally found in regions such as Japan, China and Korea. The breeding process varies from the first group and is done twice a year. This is because of the warmer climate that makes it possible for two life cycles to take place in one year.

The Polyvoltine breed is only found in tropical climates. After eggs are laid by female moths, the eggs are hatched within nine to twelve days, making it possible to have up to 8 separate life cycles throughout a single year.

The major groups of silkworms fall under the univoltine and bivoltine categories.

There are also through research many strain’s of silkworms being breed- Lady silkworm has a variety to buy here: this is an American seller of worms and has a lot of information there also:

White Seductress 白姬


White Seductress
“Bai Ji”, a direct Chinese translation. The character “Ji” refers to a beautiful, poised lady who is a bit of a socialite and often demurely flirtatious.  She is a high society courtesan.  She has beautiful, smooth skin, is highly educated and well trained in music, poetry and the fine arts.  Her beauty is unsurpassed by any of her peers. She spins lustrous white and sometimes gold silk, or even salmon colored; a treasured rarity amongst the children’s collection of cocoons. The “Bai Ji” silkworm is just all that: beautiful, fair, and pristine. There is not a mark on her. She reminds me rather of a beautiful princess, a symbol of pureness.  The White Seductress has lost its place amongst the domestic mask face silkworms. She is the predecessor used for the exotic colors.

Tiger Silks  虎蚕


Tiger Silk
“Hu Tsan”-a direct Chinese translation.  The Tiger Silk obtained its name from its resemblance to a tiger’s head. His pseudo head is tri-colored, with black stripes and brown markings, much like a real tiger’s head. He is fierce and ferocious, with his impenetrable blackness. The blackness gets more and more intense as he grows. His skin is like black velvet, soft and smooth.  A militia of Tiger Silks is quite a sight to behold! The Tiger Silk spins gold cocoon. Tiger silks are a bit smaller than the regular white ones and lay smaller eggs as well.

Mask Face 花脸


Mask Face
These are your everyday, regular, domestic Bombyx Mori . They wear what I call a mask on the pseudo head. The purpose of that bump, which often times gets mistaken for the silkworm’s head, is to deter predators. It bears much resemblance to the jester’s mask in the famed Peking Opera. That which the jester wears in white, this silkworm wears it in brown.  He also spins luscious white or gold silk.

Zebra Silkworms 斑蚕


Zebra Silkworm
Named for it’s banded segments, these are the most popular silkworms available in the United States.  They are hardy because of their bivoltine qualities and possess a sex linked gene that gives banding to the females only. This strain was developed in Europe and are a cross breed between a Japanese original and a cross of B. Mori that were specifically bred for high tolerance to poor rearing conditions.  These silkworms are perfect for breeding purposes with their discriminating sex markings and their high egg productivity.  Depending on their parent generation, cocoons may or may not be colored and may be oval or peanut shaped. These are the largest silkworms in my collection.

Hardy silkworms from South Africa


South African “school child’ strain. These are native SA silkworms handled by school age kids in South Africa. They are larger, hardier and throws different color variations and color cocoons.