The unbearable sadness of the silkworm moth.

Image result for Silkworm moth

As I was ironing my Ralph Lauren shirt for the second time, after patching the inside of the torn sleeve as well as the outside, it occurred to me, that the softness of this shirt could meant it might have been woven from silk. Can one imagine wearing a silk shirt? I checked on the back of the collar but it tells me curtly; 100% cotton, Made in China! At least it was made in a country where the silk industry preceded that in the west by more than two thousands years before the Christian calendar, under the rule of emperor Huangh Ti. who assigned his wife, His-ling-shi, to devise a scheme whereby she take the silkworms into her own garden in which the necessary Mulberry trees were growing in great numbers.

This then marked the beginning of an industry that propelled China to be synonymous with an inexhaustible wealth of silk. Merchants in silk would travel the heights and widths of Asia selling the products of that small mulberry leaf eating insect as if their lives depended on it. Well, of course the insects did and it was by no little efforts of the many following empresses who took the task of manually feeding the worms knowing full well that they in a very short time turn they would perform the metamorphosis needed to become the cocoon where within another short period it became a moth. Each cocoon holds a mile long thread of silk. Can you imagine the joy of the moth when it finally breaks free to conquer the world and able to fly and get away from those bloody mulberry trees and empresses?

That’s what I thought too…but it has a sad ending. When the moths leave it seems that all they are interested in is mating. They have special antenna which tells them who is male or female. They just live long enough to mate. The male after mating sinks into a deep and very melancholic mood and no amount of counsel helps. He dies deeply depressed almost within the post coitus languor. The female still scurries along a bit with just enough time to lay her,  hopefully fertilised eggs, several hundreds of them. She then passes as well.

As a passing note, I seem to remember that the silk industry was guarded by China for thousands of years and it was on punishment of death if anyone informed other empires of the secrets of this amazing silk worm moth, known today as the Bombyx mori.  Legends have it that the secrets of the silk worm was introduced by two Persian friars during the Byzantine Emperor Justinian reign. The cocoons were smuggled inside the hollows of their walking canes. Both friars had worked and lived in China for a long time and knew where the magic of silk came from.

So, there you have it, friends. It seems the sole purpose of the silkworm moth is to propagate and nothing more. One keeps wondering if a male Silk worm moth decides to stay celibate. Would that choice prolong his life? It might be prudent to investigate. The same of course for the female, except she might still be burdened by her eggs, infertile as they may well be.

So much to discover.



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33 Responses to “The unbearable sadness of the silkworm moth.”

  1. Big M Says:

    Every Australian child used to have to raise a silkworm in a shoebox. This meant that every garden with a mulberry tree was inundated by small children picking leaves for fear that the worm would die of starvation. I think it was meant as an exercise to help understand the birds and the bees, but like most sex education at the time, it didn’t explain how to tell if one’s advances along those lines were welcome, or not. At least the silkworms have antennae.

    Liked by 4 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      We had a huge mulberry tree in the backyard of our Balmain house, but can’t remember if I ever connected it to the silkworm and their amazing diligence to spin silk, all in order to please the fashion of the times. I never connected it to the antics of birds and bees. We did make a cubby in this tree and the kids loved it.


  2. Yvonne Says:

    Not even time to enjoy a cigarette before dying! How sad.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. berlioz1935 Says:

    A good journalistic exercise of yours and you are educating us. I like the fruit of the Mulberry tree, very similar, in look and taste like Blackberry, We have one tree nearby but it did not bear any fruit this year. Climate change?

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Mulberry jam comes to mind. Yes, the more I think of silk and how it is produced the more it amazes me. It takes a few weeks for the worm to keep pushing the thread from its aperture, millimetre by millimetre till almost a mile long. Unbelievable. And then…after finally free of this labour, some devious partner lurks and waits around and with long antennae mate just once, only to die a pitiful death already shrouded in white

      Thank you, Berlioz. The story of this silkworm is a fascinating one and what more does one need proof of this amazing world of nature.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. doesitevenmatter3 Says:

    ‘Tis a beautiful and sad moth. 😦
    This post has taught me some things I didn’t know. Thank you, Gerard.
    Is celibate ever good? Be it worm or moth or other creature? 🙂
    My dad had many different fruit trees when we were growing up…and a huge veggie garden. One year he planted a Fruitless Mulberry tree for shade…and guess what?! It produced so many berries every year!!! We enjoyed them and so did the birds! 🙂
    And we kids had purple feet from stepping on the berries on the ground while trying to collect them and eat them. 🙂
    Well, so much for “fruitless”. 😀
    HUGS!!! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I would have thought celibacy would be advantageous if it prolongs life. Of course, we know now that celibacy gets cheated terribly, especially in religions who insist on celibacy.
      The royal commissions on sex abuse pointed that out.
      I have to laugh about the fruitless mulberry tree your dad planted.

      I remember buying six young chickens and after waiting a few months for them to grow and start laying eggs, they all turned out to be roosters. Helvi could not stop laughing and told me already before they looked and behaved like roosters, She came from a farm.

      Liked by 1 person

      • doesitevenmatter3 Says:

        Celibacy has never been for me. I’d rather have a shortened life. 😀

        Odd thing…I was named after a nun. 😮

        Yes, we laughed about the fruitless mulberry tree…for years! It was THE best fruit producing tree we had…and we had lots of fruit trees on the property. 😀

        HA! Your chicken story made me snort-laugh! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    • berlioz1935 Says:

      Great story too.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. thetinypotager Says:

    Really thought provoking post Gerard, thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Curt Mekemson Says:

    At least the female doesn’t bite the males head off after sex. That would be an even more inglorious way to go, at least from this male’s perspective. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Curt. The above photo shows the moth emerging from its cocoon after manufacturing that giant ball of silk fibre. This can be as long as a kilometre long. The thread gets mechanically untangled from the very beginning and wound into spools. How amazing a creature.

      He or she deserves a better end than to die after a single mating.

      What sort of justice is there, Curt? My mother would probably say; don’t do it, keep your hands above the blankets.


  7. petspeopleandlife Says:

    There is just about always a lesson of some sort to be learned on your blog and this was most educational. I knew that silk as made by the silk worm or as least that is what I thought. I was going to look this up on Google but then I was lazy and decided to comment.

    I love silk and have a few things made of silk. I think I will still look up the silk industry and learn more.

    It seems that all moths and butterflies have a very short life, but the silk moth’s life is very short. Some butterflies live up to several weeks but the last generation of the monarch lives to migrate thousands of miles to the mountains of Mexico having flown from northern states through Texas and then to its roosting winter grounds. It is quite interesting and if you have never read about the monarch butterfly I think you would find it to be a bit mind boggling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, truly amazing are the lives of butterflies and moths. The lifespans are short as adults but not too bad if you include their times as egg to larvae, then cocoon and finally as adults with wings.

      I read that the male moth lives a bit longer than the female but only because they roam around a bit longer to find a suitable mate. I don’t know what their criteria is for ‘suitable’.

      In the silkworm moth cocoon it sometimes so happens there are two moths within the same cocoon and if they happen to be of opposite sex they will cheerfully mate within the cocoon before emerging. That must be very cosy but a bit incestuous.

      One cannot help but admire the scientists who investigate all those types of things. There is still so much to find out and I keep being amazed at this wonderful world. I always wanted to have wings, but will have to accept that won’t come about.

      How are you going, Ivonne?

      Liked by 1 person

      • petspeopleandlife Says:

        Thanks for the added info of the silkworm moth. Very interesting.

        Thank you for asking. I am doing so-so, Gerard. For the past year, it has been more of a struggle to keep myself going while in the throes of depression and my afib that was getting worse until I was finally able to get my newest MD to put me back on anti anxiety med which also helps me sleep. For about 1 1/2 years I was only sleeping 1-2 hours each night. The MDS believed that the benzo that I had taken for 25 years was going to give me dementia. Since back in the med- last November, I have been sleeping about 5-6 hours and the afib is hardly bothering me now. My stamina is not good though from the meds that I take for afib and hypertension. I do still have a fairly good brain but I read and work cross word puzzles and stay active as possible, while maintaining my own passel of rescue animals. I just finished fostering two little chi weenies that I had for more than a year. I was very lucky to get each placed in wonderful homes. One went to Killeen, Texas – 50 miles away and the other to Elgin, Texas 90-100 miles away.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        ‘Being in the throes of depression’ is not good and I am in admiration of your honesty and sharing, Yvonne. Lack of sleep would not help either.

        You are not alone, and I would not know how to go on now without my heavy moods which I was probably born with. I look forward to each bout and let it wash over, let it me spur on to try and make laughter, write ,walk or make my bed. And then it goes, just by itself…till next time.

        I gave up a long time ago, chasing happiness, but I know I had the best partner to share with. She was the laughter and happiness of my life and now that she has gone I must try even harder. I have lost weight as appetite is not there. At almost 6ft and just 68kg I now force food, especially fruit, vegetables and fish to go down. Apart from heart medication, I don’t take anything.

        Reading and crosswords was Helvi’s domain and I see her sitting opposite me still doing it.
        My Milo is another stimulant and he now gets far too many treats, but who would not now that he is almost 16 years old? Helvi would not approve of…!

        You as a faithful follower, and long time contributor like all the others keep me going and am so grateful for that.

        Stay well, Yvonne. You are not alone.


  8. shoreacres Says:

    I wear silk every day in winter — silk long underwear. It’s great as a first layer, and sometimes I’ll wear it even at home when it’s just at the point where I’m thinking of turning on the heat, but don’t want to because I’m trying to be thrifty. While it isn’t as warm as merino wool, it does wick moisture, and it’s so thin that it makes layering easier.

    As for those mulberry trees, they’re a frustration for boaters down here. The problem isn’t with the trees themselves, but with the birds who eat the berries and then leave the evidence all over those nice, white, fiberglass hulls. It’s no easier to get mulberry stains out of a boat than out of a shirt!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I never wore silk clothes, nor long underwear apart from long singlets. As very small children my mother knitted our underpants from wool. They were itchy is all I remember. She was very frugal, had to be. Old jumpers would be unravelled and I had to hold up the yarn between outstretched arms which later on would be made into new balls of wool. Our pants would be patched which meant that the youngest often wore the most patched up clothes while the eldest got to wear newly made clothes.
      I was the second eldest, so… did not fare too badly.


  9. rangewriter Says:

    Sounds worthy of a 4-year study funded by the silk industry. No, wait, who would benefit from funding such a study? Maybe psychologists could cure sex addictions with knowledge of the sex life/expectancy of the silk worm.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. freefall852 Says:

    Speaking of pius abstentation….
    When a catholic priest goes to a convent to hear the confessions of the nuns there, it is said he goes to ;”Dust the Lillies”….the lillies, of course, being the ;”Lillies of the fields”…: The nuns.

    “Dusting the lillies”.

    Wither goest thou, Father John,
    On such a splendid day?
    Do you follow whimsy’s course,
    A carefree wanderer…say?
    A laugh, a smile, pause a while..
    Then, cautious answer, yea..
    “I go toward yonder gate,
    Under stately blue-gum tree.
    There, (with blessings of God)..
    I go to ‘dust the lillies’.
    To dust the lillies gently,
    Lest such petals fade and die.
    I’ll embrace their hips,
    Kiss their lips,
    And whisper a little white lie!”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. gerard oosterman Says:

    Never knew you were a poet, Jo.

    Such ease with lovely words
    and yet the truth emerges
    like endless flight of some birds
    who rest awhile in weeping birches

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      It is little known that where Buckingham palace now stands used to be numbers of considerable acreages covered in mulberry trees. It was James 1 who was obsessed with Silkworms’ diligence in producing that wonderful cloth.

      The French on the other hand, were very suspicious of the silkworm and felt it would corrupt the peasantry into idleness and furthermore felt it was only suitable for children and women folk who were idle in any case and France would do well to avoid the silkworm in that it would encourage lechery, and that it would hurt moral standards. The feel of silk against the thigh would prevent marriageable ladies from the exorbitantly high prizes they would fetch at auctions held especially for the royal families and upper classes.

      James 1 would insist on travelling to Scotland with his entourage by not only taking several carriages of his possessions including his voluminous dresses and laced headgear, but also large casket full of royal silkworm and a specially appointed groom of the chamber entrusted to look after the welfare of the silkworms.

      It was the Edict of Nantes that finally safeguarded the freedom to grow the silkworms in France and assured a degree of tolerance to the Huguenots.

      Liked by 1 person

      • freefall852 Says:

        Ah, yes!…always the path to perdition…that “feel of silk against the thigh…” those pious folk in those times seemed to have a most knowlegable finger on the pulse of lechery!

        Liked by 1 person

    • freefall852 Says:

      I can tell, Gerard…by your appreciation of the “poetic spirit” that you are a sensitive chap….I shouldn’t wonder that Helvi and yourself enjoyed many wonderful moments in contemplation of such things…all the best to you.

      Liked by 1 person

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