Do you remember having silkworms when you were young? Fascinating watching these wriggly worms chomp their way through the mulberry leaves, growing faster than you can imagine and then spinning cocoons from which would emerge those furry white moths, which then laid eggs and you would put the shoebox away until September of the following year when the whole cycle would start again.

Silkworm cocoons are normally yellow or white so we used to feed them beetroot leaves to get a pink colour of silk and spinach to get a pale green silk. We would cut out stiff paper card into various shapes like hearts or stars or sometimes long rectangles(for bookmarks), we would pin these board shapes to a cork in a bottle and put the silkworm on the card where they would spin their silk, of course never becoming a cocoon. We would then remove the silk from the board by soaking it in warm water so that the silk could be easily removed from the board. We so treasured those gossamy silk shapes and would be quite envious of anyone else who had a more beautiful one than what you had got.

We could get white silkworms or the zebras (my favourite) which had black stripes and grew much bigger than the white ones. We were also very lucky to have a huge mulberry tree in our backyard so getting leaves was never a problem. We used to rush home from school each afternoon, get changed, pick mulberry leaves (eat some mulberries at the same time) and then go clean out the boxes. Silkworms climbing everywhere whilst you took out all the old leaves and cleaned out the box. Then the fresh leaves all laid out nicely in the box, silkworms put back in and you would just sit and watch the feeding frenzy, it was such fun.

For years now I had forgotten about silkworms (as children have grown up), until I was reminded by the ads on Gumtree selling silkworms, from 50c up to R1.00 per worm, some even selling the mulberry leaves as well. So many ads selling them as pets and then I saw the darker side! Some people are selling them as food for bearded dragons! Surely not? I couldn’t imagine those little harmless wriggly things being used as pet food. Mind you I think the same way about any creature deliberately being fed alive to another creature.

So have you bought your silkworms this year?