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Silkworm(s)

Discussion in 'Feeders' started by DSling, Dec 31, 2011.

  1. DSling

    DSling Well-Known Member

    I am starting this thread to share with others everything that I am doing to have a steady supply of silkworm in my house. I do not want to debate what is the best feeder. What I would like to see is people giving constructive criticism and helping to iron things out so that others may follow in my foot steps with less issues. So...


    BACKSTORY: My has asked for a lizard for quite some time, 5 years to be exact. Well finally in July I broke and we purchased one. We got a bearded dragon and named her Toothless. We started out feeding her the basics. Whatever greens we could find (kale, collards, mustard, turnip, etc.) and crickets. It turns out that crickets are good but you have to take them out at night because they nibble on her. Now she is getting roaches but the cost is adding up and we are looking for ways to reduce cost. Between roaches and soldier fly larvae it's $20 a week.
    One thing that we came up with is to breed silkworms. After doing a lot of research on it I am just going to lay out what I have done so far. I will also keep this up to date so that I can track progress and keep notes on what I have done with them.

    MY PROCESS: First off is the eggs. The eggs will need to be kept at 75-85 deg. That is a problem for me. I would a) have to heat my house to that all the time or b) have an incubator. I chose “b.” Looking online they are around $200 for something that would fit on a table top and only be able to hold the eggs and if I am lucky the “kego” (Japanese for hairy baby). I continued my search for DIY incubators and came across one that looked to have all the space I needed (Reptile Egg Incubator). I know it is an egg incubator but I will use it for silkworms.
    After watching that video I went with what they did. There were a few things that I had to deviate from because of cost or recommendations from others. Starting with the cooler. They used a Coleman’s 150 qt marine cooler. It is sold on Walmart's website for $80. I found an Igloo 150 qt for $35 on Craigslist. This created an issue that I didn’t count on. The measurements for the pipe lengths are for the internal dimensions of the coleman. The igloo is slightly smaller in at the bottom of the cooler. Other than that there isn’t a difference between the two. Whatever cooler you use just remember to measure the internal dimensions before you cut so that you can save time.
    All the connectors are the same for the piping. When I went to the hardware store a 2 ft length of schedule 40 PVC was $2 and a 10 ft piece was $2 so it took very little thought which one to get. It is more about the amount of containers that I can fit in there and not really the size so much. I am using (6) 4 qt containers (gotta love the $ store) in a single layer but I will eventually add more in a 2nd layer on top. IMG_0047.jpg IMG_0048.jpg The 4 qt does not leave enough space to have two layers so I will be searching for a smaller size to use down the line.
    When I put the pipe together it was level and square. When I started to use the glue it wasn’t level anymore. It’s my fault. The way I leveled it out after it was all set in place (30 sec get it right or you have to cut it out and replace the fitting and pipe) was to use a piece of tile that I had left over from tiling my floors and I used clear silicone bathroom caulk that I also had left over. IMG_0046.jpg I did use the ZooMed 50 watt heat cable. It is actually the perfect length for the wraps around the pipe. You can see it wrapped around the heat trap. I read a bunch of reviews for thermostats to control the heat cable and couldn’t decide witch one. I didn’t think the price the reptile websites were charging was worth what their product did. One of my buddies is into hydroponics for fresh veggies all year round and he recommended Hydropharm's thermostat for heat mats. IMG_0045.jpg The spider robotics herpistat that they are talking about is over $100. I didn’t have one just laying around to use.
    All in all it was about $35 for everything to make the heat trap (piping). $35 for the cooler cause I lucked out. $50 for the thermostat and heat cable from amazon. I haven’t installed fans yet because I wanted to see how well it works without it first.

    Last night I placed an order with Mulberry Farms for Zebra Silkworms (200 glued) and silkworm chow (1/2 lb bags x4). It wasn't bad but the shipping was either $15 for USPS or $19 for FedEx. Next time I will go through Coastal Silkworms because the shipping will be lower. *side note Mulberry Farms is located in CA and Coastal Silk is in FL, I am in VA. I haven't heard of anybody ordering from them but somebody needs to so others can ask. I'll let you know when I run out of chow.

    My incubator has been running for a day now. The temp stays within a degree of the set point (85 deg). I verified it with another digital thermometer. Just waiting for the eggs to get here.
     
  2. millerpj

    millerpj Elite Member

    Good luck! I don't know anything about raising silkworms. I'm trying to breed Dubia roaches for my Beardie.
     
  3. DSling

    DSling Well-Known Member

    My wife will tolerate buying them and feeding Toothless but she doesn't want a full colony in the house.
     
  4. Rakoladycz

    Rakoladycz Elite Member

    Very interested to see how this works out! I have been considering trying them or hornworms. Keep us updated.
     
  5. DSling

    DSling Well-Known Member

    It was between silks and horns and silks one out because when they become adults they are flightless and we wouldn't have to have a host plant for them to lay eggs on. It just seems easier. I've read in a couple of places that Zebra Silks are heartier than regular. My next update will be when I get my package in next week.
     
  6. mshrmheadcharge

    mshrmheadcharge Moderator Staff Member Premium Member

    Good luck and keep us updated, I have never raised silkies but roaches(3 different species all of which were flightless and could not climb up the sides of their enclosure) and of course the famous cricket. It will be interesting to see your results, nice set up for them btw.
     
  7. DSling

    DSling Well-Known Member

    Just got the Zebra Silkworms in today. They came in before lunch but it kinda sucked because I left for work at 0500 and got home at 1900 ish. Anyway I shot a video of the opening of the box (I couldn't get the link to work so once I figure it out you will get it). The 200 eggs looked like nothing. IMG_0071.jpg The label on the petri dish said that they will hatch in 5-7 days if kept 78-85 deg. We’ll see, they went in at 2000 today. Once I get some time from work (not sure if I have to keep doing 12h shifts through the weekend) I have to make the chow so that they won’t starve when they hatch.

    *side note: when I was watching the vid I watched it I said that I look like I’ve gained weight and my wife said, “No, you are just getting old.” I wish I could get things sugar coated from her once in a while. It was all love though :)
     
  8. mld

    mld Subscribed User Premium Member

    Very interested in how this works out for you! Keep us posted and good luck:)

    BTW, I take it your military with the 24 hr talk lol
     
  9. DSling

    DSling Well-Known Member

    Yes I am but it just makes sense so you never can mix up am/pm when talking to somebody.
     
  10. Rakoladycz

    Rakoladycz Elite Member

    I can only imagine how 200 little eggs look. 1000 nymph roaches looked like nothing to me.
     
  11. DSling

    DSling Well-Known Member

    [video=youtube;_y8a4a4zDfw]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_y8a4a4zDfw&feature=g-upl&context=G2cfe012AUAAAAAAA AAA[/video] this is a link to my youtube page for the opening
     
  12. mld

    mld Subscribed User Premium Member

    Wow, amazed at how small the eggs are and how much chow they will need until they pupate.
    So what is the going price for a kit like that without shipping?
     
  13. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    This endeavor of yours is quite interesting to me.
    Silkworms are one of the few feeders which I have never had any experience with.
     
  14. DSling

    DSling Well-Known Member

    The rule is 2 lbs of food per 50 worms to take them from egg to pupa. After that they do not eat again. When you buy the food I recommend to get the dry 1/2 lbs chow (makes 2 lbs wet food) because it will be cheeper.

    $39.45 at mulberryfarms.com
    $51.90 at coastalsilkworm (west coast)
    $47.90 at coastalsilkworm (east coast)

    Coastal also has 3 silkworm kits that you can try out for $25-$30 depending if you want eggs or live worms.

    I received mine from mulberry but I am on the east coast so the shipping sucked. I will shop at coastalsilkworm just because of the shipping cost.
     
  15. DSling

    DSling Well-Known Member

    I figured that the worms will start hatching sometime in the next 5 days. All next week I am going to have very busy days so I decided to make my worm chow while I was waiting to go to the vet.

    The bag came in a 1/2 lb. pack. IMG_0072.jpg I’m not a fan of microwaves and just throwing it all in a pot on heat leaves a large chance to burn it, so I used the double boil method. IMG_0077.jpg First I started boiling some water. Took 3 cups and put it in a glass bowl and the rest in the bottom pot of the double boiler (less a cup of tea for the wife). I added the powder and mixed well. IMG_0073.jpg The consistency was like strained peas for babies. I left it in the double boiler for 5-7 min then removed it and placed it in a pie dish. IMG_0074.jpg Put plastic wrap over the top right against the chow to stop condensation from forming on the surface of it. IMG_0075.jpg IMG_0076.jpg When it cools off throw it in the fridge. Then I went back and cut it into slices and bagged them individually. IMG_0078.jpg Put the bags into a container and store in the fridge. IMG_0079.jpg
     
  16. mld

    mld Subscribed User Premium Member

    Are you sure your not a chef! lol
    Great step by step for us new to this chow making.
     
  17. DSling

    DSling Well-Known Member

    I was searching around last night looking for info about the silkworm eggs and found out that the eggs have to be exposed to light. Once I read that I shot an e-mail to Mulberry Farms asking about it and received this;

    the light does help them to hatch so if you could expose them to light when you see they are starting to hatch you will get a better hatch morequickly; if you don't hatch rate will be affected and strung out.

    thank you,

    cl

    My incubator doesn’t have a light in it so I threw a flashlight in till I can figure out a way to wire one in. The flashlight is rechargeable I don’t even know if I will wire a light in because the worms themselves do not need light.
     
  18. Rakoladycz

    Rakoladycz Elite Member

    Nice step by step. I started to read into the chow but thought it seemed daunting. However I was looking into the making your own. The chow mix definitely seems much simpler and your post makes it seem like childs work.
     
  19. DSling

    DSling Well-Known Member

    @Rakoladyz The powder tells you what to do right on the package. I just put that on here so that everybody can know what to expect. It just takes time. From start to finish was about 3 hours but 2:15 was used for cooling.

    After talking to my financial planner (wife) we will just use the rechargeable flashlight for when eggs are in the incubator.
     
  20. DSling

    DSling Well-Known Member

    Today is my wife’s birthday and what better to give her than the silkworms hatching today. I can think of a lot of other things like maybe finishing all the projects that she gave me and I started... but I digress. I cam home from work and found my little worms crawling around on all the eggs. That is a major no no because as they walk around they leave a fine thread of silk that will cover them and they new ones will not be able to hatch.

    This is when I found out that I am a bad silkworm daddy. I went to grab my small soft paintbrush to transfer them from the eggs to the food... yeah I never bought one. I quickly steamed a soft piece of cloth (wet and microwave on high for 3 min.) and transfered them over. I didn’t put them into a different container. I am keeping them in the petri dish till all of them hatch out or reach the 2nd instar. I just do not want to risk the kego (silkworm in the 1st instar are called “kego” which is Japanese for “hairy baby”) having a higher mortality rate then they already have.

    The macro on the camera that I have isn’t that great so I took the best pics that I could. The first one didn't come out all that great because I couldn't focus on the silk; just the eggs. The second you can see why they are called hairy babies.

    IMG_0090.jpg IMG_0091.jpg
     

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