Phylum, Arthropoda; Class, Insecta; Order, Lepidoptera
Larvae are worm-like with a short anal horn.
Three distinct body parts: head, thorax, abdomen
Adult has four wings covered with scales
Adult Males and Females
Adult moths have creamy white wings with brownish patterns across the front wings. The body is very hairy and the wingspan is about 50 mm. Adult females are larger and less active than males. Male moths actively crawl around looking for females. They will copulate for several hours.
Immatures (different stages)
Lepidoptera are holometabolous, therefore they have three distinct morphological stages; larva, pupa and adult. After hatching from the egg, larvae go through four molts as they grow. During each molt, the old skin is cast off and a new, larger one is produced. The silk worm larval life is divided into five instars, separated by four molts. Three pair of short, jointed legs with a single claw at the tip are located on the three body segments immediately behind the head. Five pair of fleshy protuberances (prolegs) ending in a series of hooks called crockets are located posteriorly and ventrally on the abdomen and aid the larva’s clinging a climbing abilities on plants.
Silkworms natural food plant is the mulberry tree (Morus sp.). An artificial diet has been developed to facilitate cultivation of silkworms. If you do not have a mulberry tree available, you must purchase the artificial diet.
Today, the silkworm moth lives only in captivity. Silkworms have been domesticated so that they can no longer survive independently in nature, particularly since they have lost the ability to fly. All wild populations are extinct, although presumably old relatives exist in Asia.
Silkworms have been used by researchers to study pheromones or sexual attractant substances. The pheromones are released by female moths and the males detect the chemicals with olfactory hairs on their antennae. This allows the male to find the female for mating. The male antennae are made of many small hairs to increase the chances of picking up small amounts of the pheromones over long distances.