The Bombyx Mori (English translation: silk worm of the mulberry tree) is the primary producer of silk. Sericulture is the process of rearing silkworms for the production of silk. This process dates back to 5000-3000 BC in China. China monopolized the production of silk until the 6th century before two monks began smuggling the silk worm eggs and larvae out of China into the Mediterranean region. By the 13th century, Italy was the primary producer of silk. Today, China has regained its position and is responsible for two-thirds of the production of silk worldwide.
The sericulture process requires the sacrifice of the silkworm during the process; therefore, it has been described as animal cruelty. After a silk worm produces eggs, the eggs take 14 days to hatch. The larva reach the pupal stage after they have shed their skin 4 times. At this stage, the larvae begin to make a cocoon made of raw silk. The silkworm is sacrificed in the process of making silk in order to preserve the silk because the enzymes it releases to emerge from the cocoon ruin the raw silk thread of the cocoon.
The cocoon is made of a thread of raw silk from 300 to about 900 m (1,000 to 3,000 ft) long. About 2,000 to 3,000 cocoons are required to make a pound of silk (0.4 kg). At least 70 million pounds of raw silk are produced each year, requiring nearly 10 billion pounds of cocoons (http://faostat3.fao.org/home/E).
Photography by Damon Fleming – Bakery Studio, Washington, DC