Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Silk Moths!

Recently we've had a few unique species of moths in our Tropical Butterfly House: Polyphemus moths, Atlas moths and African luna moths. Now we have an entire exhibit of their distant relative, Bombyx mori currently undergoing metamorphosis in Pacific Science Center's Insect Village.

For thousands of years, Bombyx mori, silkworms, have been raised for their cocoons that are made into commercial silk. This silk is produced from glands in the caterpillar’s mouth as it prepares to pupate. Each cocoon consists of a single strand of silk up to 900 meters long.

In silk manufacturing, the cocoon is boiled and never becomes a moth. Of course in our exhibit, the silk moth caterpillars are allowed to mature mate and lay eggs. We’re showing the whole cycle!

These members of the large Saturniidae family are white, fluffy, flightless creatures with big antennae. With vestigial mouthparts and no digestive systems, silk moths are the antithesis of scary! We hope that seeing them may help a few of our guests overcome their fear of insects.

Silkworm eggs were shipped to us in late January and have been hatching and molting off-exhibit. Along with their late instars and cocoons the newly emerged moths have made a home in the Insect Village. Come see them!


  1. How does it eat with no digestive system and a vestigial mouth?

  2. Hi anonymous. That's a great question. The answer is, the adults don't eat. They finish all their eating in the larva stage. As adults, they use the energy they gathered when young. Their short adult lives are spent ensuring that they pass on their genes to the next generation.