The Cambodians

On the left: a hybrid white Chinese strain. On the right: the Cambodian land race cocoon.

I’ve been raising some silkworms from Cambodia. They’re Bombyx mori, same as all the other domesticated silkworms – but they’ve been bred for centuries to withstand the particular stresses and hardships of Cambodia’s hot, humid climate. They are MUCH smaller than most of the regular strains, and they make a brilliant yellow cocoon.

You can see the yellow in the body. I was SURE that these had at least one more week – they look like fourth instar caterpillars, compared to any of the strains I’ve raised before. My friend who brought me the eggs, said that they were fast, and that they might be ready to spin – he was sure right.

Here, it’s a little bit back-lit, so you can see the color better. They have a deep orange part in the middle, where the majority of the sericin is produced – this makes sense, with their yellow cocoon. The yellow is in the sericin, the gum on the outside of the silk – so the reeled filament will be yellow, but if it is degummed it turns a “natural” off-white. I want to do some work using the filament raw, to keep the color.

As I said – teeny!

And here, with a not-all-that-big Zebra silkworm, for comparison. This Zebra is a straggler from a recent batch, and has hung on nearly a week after most have spun, so she’s not a great representative of the type – but you can see that the Cambodian is about 1/3 her size.

21 thoughts on “The Cambodians

  1. It does stay that color until / unless you boil off the gum. I posted prematurely – there’ll be more in a minute!

    I did see Sara’s post – tried to reply to it, but the system locked up. Will try again!

  2. Ooops, I guess I was just too fast. (Heh, probably the only time that will ever happen, considering how often I seem to remember to check LJ!) Those are cool! Someday maybe I will have to try raising some, though I will almost certainly not get as… involved… as you are.

    I haven’t replied to Sara’s post – I wanted to think about it for a while first. But the important question: Are you going to SOAR? *grin* I’m planning to be there, since it’s just down the road for me, but haven’t gotten a confirmation yet.

  3. I usually manage to get my posts TYPED before I post them – but I hit some wrong button, and it disappeared half-baked. All better now!

    I’m planning on going to SOAR – I’ve applied for a scholarship, and hope that will go through, I’ll find out in a couple of days. If I don’t get it, I’ll hope I can scrape together the $$ to get there.

  4. Wow! Those are really cool 🙂 So, they don’t stay yellow once you simmer them? That’s interesting… I can’t wait to see the results!

  5. The yellow will stay through simmering (although it sometimes fades a little) – but it doesn’t survive simmering with washing soda and detergent. I’m curious to see, too – I’ve made filament from some yellow cocoons, but they were a different type.

  6. Wow, they look totally different. I can see horns and little legs on the Zebra; the Cambodian looks like a maggot! (sorry, little guy, but you really do, poor thing! But you do make a lovely coccoon)

  7. I’m totally with you on the maggoty-ness. I’m used to the other silkworms getting a certain amount of that “look” when they get ready to spin, but these really take it to the edge.

  8. man, i lost my place and when i saw the first photo i thought i was on a craft community and it was somebodys felted corn-on-the-cob. i didn’t know what the white one was…botched job?! soybean?
    i love your bugs.

  9. I wish the yellow were more durable – it is in the sericin, not in the fibroin, so if I degum the silk they turn a pale tan. I may have to work some projects with the gum in, just for the color!

  10. Those yellow coocoons are so different from the Cambodian ones!
    Maybe, oh maybe, I’ll get a yellow coccoon or two from my Chinese silkworms that I took from University. And if I do, I’ll try to find someone to photograph them, but it’ll most probably be a cell-phone camera agan.

  11. Okay, now I have a craving to see that yellow Cambodian cocoon sitting next to one of the huge Tasar cocoons that you got from India. 🙂

  12. Hee. There’s just no comparison. I need to do something with the various cocoons stitched to a surface, for showing – the variety is amazing.

  13. Yup! Not sure if I’ll have the chance with this batch, for timing reasons… but I’ll try it if I can.

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