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Where can I buy silkworm or silkmoths and supplies in Canada?  RSS feed

 
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I want to grow silkmoths but am having trouble sourcing eggs and supplies in Canada.

The internet ordering sites I found are out of date.

I tried the local pet store (silkworms make good lizard food) but they can't get any in.  

Does anyone know where I can source supplies and eggs for raising silk?
 
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Hi there Raven,
I bought my eggs at wormspit.com had a very successful year a few years ago.  I just checked and they are still around.  Make sure you have access to the white mulberry tree.  Morus Alba is it's Latin name.  The whole tree is edible!  I have my two main big mulberry trees and now I have at least 5 babies coming up all over the property.  The birds eating the berries are spreading the seeds so if the mother trees die I will at least have others coming up.  I loved my Kegos when they hatched.  They were a joy to raise.  They sure eat a lot!  
 
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Well, I'll be interested in hearing where to get worms. All I know is they eat mulberry leaves, and mulberry trees are great multi-tasking permie trees,  fast growing, and tolerate cold winter temperatures and if you choose fruiting varieties, you get fruit, too.

One question that popped in to my mind is thatthe "fruitless mulberry" so widely available is a male tree, so, if you get a fruiting tree, will you need to make sure there is a pollinator tree within range.

Anyway, I am going to watch this thread to see if I too could be a silk farmer.
 
Mary-Ellen Zands
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Worm spit.com is located in Toronto
 
Mary-Ellen Zands
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I think this is such a wonderful project for schools. I took my kegos to a Market to show people walking by.  I had put my kegos in plastic salad containers so they could see through the plastic. People used magnifying glasses at the beginning of the summer.  Had people coming by every week to see the progress of my babies.  Of course everyone thought I was nuts, but they were also fascinated as I was.  You don’t have to own a tree, just have permission to access one.  Try it out. Now is the time to order the eggs.  Keep them in the fridge till the leaves come out.  For us it will be the end of May if we are lucky.
 
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Can native mulberry be used to raise silkworms?  I wouldn't want to introduce non-native invasive species, and mulberries spread so rapidly.  https://articles.extension.org/pages/67320/morus-alba-white-mulberry
 
Mary-Ellen Zands
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Hi there Kimi,

Here in Canada especially eastern Ontario the Morus Alba is not an invasive species. In fact it is quite rare.  I’ve lived in this area now for over 20 years and have come across only one other tree.  Usually planted by Italians.  My house was built by an Italian. So I am very fortunate (for the trees not the house) The 2 mother trees were planted in the 70’s and are about 25 ft tall now.  My only angst about the trees is pruning. I farm biodynamically so my question to put out there I have used the calendar to prune on the right days and moon phases.  I just never seem to get it quite right.  Sometimes those wounds from pruning bleed for years!  Even when pruning in winter when the tree is dormant in the right phases it still bleeds.

My little trees that are coming up that were gifts from the birds are only about 5 feet tall. Haven’t seen any others, but of course if they come up in the cow pasture I wouldn’t know it.  The amount of birds this tree brings to our farm is also very welcome. Of course I share in the harvest. I only eat what we shake down.  The birds usually get the top half of the tree.
 
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Actually, last I checked, the native Morus Rubrus is in decline primarily due to hybridisation, and from what I read, it was primarily with Morus Alba. The issue isn't with it spreading, but with its hybrids replacing natives.

-CK
 
Mary-Ellen Zands
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Hi there Chris,

I am grateful for all trees. There are not many mulberries in this area at all. Even the Morus Rubrus I have never seen in the wild.  I forage for a lot of my food and haven’t come across a single species!  They are also clear cutting all across eastern Ontario. Which you probably know nothing about. I think it’s not publicized, even though we try to make a stink about it.  The farmers are paid $500.00 an acre and there are thousands of acres of trees and forests that have disappeared since I have moved here.  In fact in the last 2 years it seems to have sped up and the farmers are getting reckless.  No one here seems to remember the stories of the dust bowl of the 30’s.
I am grateful for every tree I see. If I had wanted to live in the prairies I would have moved there.  Now they have come to me!  
 
r ranson
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Kimi Iszikala wrote:Can native mulberry be used to raise silkworms?  I wouldn't want to introduce non-native invasive species, and mulberries spread so rapidly.  https://articles.extension.org/pages/67320/morus-alba-white-mulberry



From my reading (and note, this isn't from personal experience, so I may be mistaken), it's suggested that silkmoths can eat any soft leaf (whatever that means?) mulberry.  The type of tree they eat will affect the colour and quality of their silk.  
 
Chris Kott
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Mary-Ellen Zands wrote:Hi there Chris,

I am grateful for all trees. There are not many mulberries in this area at all. Even the Morus Rubrus I have never seen in the wild.  I forage for a lot of my food and haven’t come across a single species!  They are also clear cutting all across eastern Ontario. Which you probably know nothing about. I think it’s not publicized, even though we try to make a stink about it.  The farmers are paid $500.00 an acre and there are thousands of acres of trees and forests that have disappeared since I have moved here.  In fact in the last 2 years it seems to have sped up and the farmers are getting reckless.  No one here seems to remember the stories of the dust bowl of the 30’s.
I am grateful for every tree I see. If I had wanted to live in the prairies I would have moved there.  Now they have come to me!  



Actually, we had a cottage halfway between Combermere and Barry's Bay, off Old Barry's Bay Road, in Renfrew County, until I was 16ish, and my much better half works out in the Trent Hills assisting a fellow glassblower. We intend to move out there. In addition, we make the drive from Toronto up eight hours to Cochrane between two and four times a year to visit her family; I am well-familiar with most of Ontario east of Huron, and north of there along Hwy 11. Oh, and my sister lives out in London, so we're out there sometimes, too.

There are strong arguments for encouraging natives to the north of their traditional range over just any species, as long as we aren't using destructive practices, like spraying with glyphosate to keep competing growth down (like foresters in Ontario are most likely to do for their reforestation; it's the source of most of the "conversations" between them and First Nations). There are indications that Red Mulberry supports the biosphere in ways that White Mulberry doesn't, simply because the local biosphere isn't as primed to work with the white as the red.

I like the idea, overall, though I would see if Red Mulberry would work. I could see having a silk operation on the windward sides of my property, after the windbreaks, with silkworm cocoons woven into mulberry trees trapping sediment, airborne organic and mineral materials, and pollen, and perhaps unwanted toxins, even if I weren't to harvest them for the silk. And if I did, wouldn't the contamination be washed out?

-CK
 
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Mary-Ellen Zands wrote:They are also clear cutting all across eastern Ontario. Which you probably know nothing about. I think it’s not publicized, even though we try to make a stink about it.  The farmers are paid $500.00 an acre and there are thousands of acres of trees and forests that have disappeared since I have moved here.  In fact in the last 2 years it seems to have sped up and the farmers are getting reckless.  No one here seems to remember the stories of the dust bowl of the 30’s.
I am grateful for every tree I see. If I had wanted to live in the prairies I would have moved there.  Now they have come to me!  



I've seen a lot of clear cutting on the western and northern sides of Algonquin.  They leave enough trees by the road to make it look like forest, but it's bare as soon as you push through the border.  

In 1973 a tornado touched down on the south shore of North Tea Lake.  I first canoed on that lake in 1982 and it still looked like the hand of God (or Terry Gilliam) came down and flattened a patch.  I've been on that lake several times since, the last trip was probably 5-6 years ago.  On that last trip, there was almost no discernible difference between the tornado patch and the rest of the woods.  I think it's going to take 40 years for the clear cuts to bounce back.
 
Chris Kott
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Some of the clearing policy has to do with the uptick in fire danger, coupled with public resistance to forest management. Companies don't want to listen to concerned citizens about glyphosate, even First Nations communities whose ability to forage is affected, and so it becomes a binary, clear-or-leave it decision, that often results in either increased fuel loads leading to fire, which are a natural part of the successionary pattern, or clear-cuts that mimic fire succession, sometimes down to a proscribed burn after the clearing, during a low-risk time of season, that result in much the same, but with more carbon sequestered in the form of forest products, and less fuel load, meaning less negative impact to communities.

Forestry is a contentious issue pretty much everywhere. I would prefer if they checkerboarded the cuts as much as possible, and left areas unsuitable for logging as natural banks for ecology, rather than destroying those areas to get to the lumber, and if they grazed or burned areas preferentially to keep competing growth down rather than spraying it all. But lots of "pristine wilderness" has a problem with artificially senescent trees that are no longer sequestering carbon, and much of the managed forest is too commercially focused.

I don't think that a domestic silk operation will hurt, but I think planting paper fibre crops to replace wood pulp in paper mills would be a huge step away from this undesireable model.

Sorry to thread-jack. Back to silk worms.

Silk is on my list of things to investigate for homestead-based fibre contribution. I do wonder, though, if a species of mulberry that birds favour over fruit tree crops would also do to feed silk worms.

-CK

 
r ranson
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As much as I loath the phone - I can't stand the gizmo - I phoned over a dozen places around Canada that sell feeder insects for lizards.  The general consensus is that there is no longer a supplier for silkmoth eggs, worms, or chow in Canada.

I managed to contact one supplier that has them, but once I put my order in, they haven't replied.  Also, I have to order a thousand eggs (which is ten times what I wanted to start with)... but I can't seem to get them to place the order or take my money.

So now I'm trying to learn if I can import silkmoth eggs from the USA or possibly if there is something like chicks where you get the livestock mailed to a USA postal box and someone pops over the border and picks them up to bring them home.  Baby chickens need to cross the border with a human, maybe silkmoths are the same?

Perhaps there are individual growers out there that would be willing to sell some eggs?
 
r ranson
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I sent an email off to Canadian Customs and stuff asking if I can buy silkworms from abroad.  

I think the answer may be here

Bombyx mori (L.)
Continental US No Permit to Import Required
Bombyx mori (L.)
All Other Countries Permit to Import



It looks like I may be able to buy it from the USA.  It will probably take a week or two to get a reply back.  Everything's taking so long!

For now, here's a picture of a silkmoth I borrowed from the internet
silkmoth.JPG
[Thumbnail for silkmoth.JPG]
 
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There is a guy down the road that grows crickets en masse and rats for pet stores.  I’ve been wondering all winter as I drove by what kind of sawdust piles those were.  They never froze all winter because all the wild turkeys would be digging up that pile. Even saw deer pawing at it.  Then I found out from our local co-op what they were growing in their house.  I can drop by and ask them about silk worms for you.  Duo purpose stop as I will bring some empty feed bags along and ask if I can have some free cricket litter. Let’s see which plants will enjoy that this summer.
 
r ranson
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That would be great if you could check with him.

I often wondered about growing crickets.  We used to have them here when we moved in but chickens...
 
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Do you know the ailanthus silkmoth?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samia_cynthia

It may be better suited for small scale, as the ailanthus silkmoth is not as picky. And it feeds on an invasive species!

 
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r ranson wrote:I want to grow silkmoths but am having trouble sourcing eggs and supplies in Canada.
The internet ordering sites I found are out of date.
I tried the local pet store (silkworms make good lizard food) but they can't get any in.  
Does anyone know where I can source supplies and eggs for raising silk?



In Canada, do you have access to white mulberry leaves? apparently, the growing zones are 4-8. I have a few young mulberry trees, just starting to give, both white and red, here in central Wisconsin. I find white mulberries a little large and much sweeter than their red/ black counterpart. I made sure to plant them some distance from the house, as they can be messy. I'm planning to transplant one in the middle of my chicken yard, as forage plant that I would not have to harvest.
My mom told me a long time ago that my dad had written a treatise on raising silkworms but I have not been able to find it. Maybe my sister knows. I'll see.
Good luck with your project!
 
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r ranson wrote:I want to grow silkmoths but am having trouble sourcing eggs and supplies in Canada.

The internet ordering sites I found are out of date.

I tried the local pet store (silkworms make good lizard food) but they can't get any in.  

Does anyone know where I can source supplies and eggs for raising silk?



Maybe this site can help: They are in California
http://www.mulberryfarms.com/silkworm-eggs-c23/
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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r ranson wrote:I want to grow silkmoths but am having trouble sourcing eggs and supplies in Canada.

The internet ordering sites I found are out of date.

I tried the local pet store (silkworms make good lizard food) but they can't get any in.  

Does anyone know where I can source supplies and eggs for raising silk?



I think you gave me an idea to provide protein for my chickens. Apparently they grow pretty large compared to the egg size. They also have a slow down period in winter, which would be great if you can't get as many leaves in the winter. they grow fast and they don't stink, so you can raise them in an aquarium / terrarium
I found a really interesting article, but it is in French. Perhaps you read French or you can use a web translator?
https://blog.defi-ecologique.com/elevage-du-ver-a-soie-chez-soi/
 
r ranson
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:
In Canada, do you have access to white mulberry leaves? apparently, the growing zones are 4-8.
...
My mom told me a long time ago that my dad had written a treatise on raising silkworms but I have not been able to find it. Maybe my sister knows. I'll see.



Mulberries grow really well here.  I planted 18 last year and another half dozen a few years ago.  We don't water our trees so some of them got set back a bit.  But I also have a friend in town with two giant mulberry trees.  

I want to do some experiments with feeding silkmoths chow and mulberry leaves.  I think I'll divide them into three batches.  One is chow only, one is chow then finished on fresh leaves, the third batch will be only leaves.  I want to do this a few years in a row to see if there is any significant difference in the quality of the silk (I suspect there will be).
 
r ranson
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hans muster wrote:Do you know the ailanthus silkmoth?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samia_cynthia

It may be better suited for small scale, as the ailanthus silkmoth is not as picky. And it feeds on an invasive species!



I would like to raise wild moths one day soon.  

I'm going to start with domestic silkmoths because they are used to being kept indoors and they aren't a perceived threat to agriculture (aka, the government doesn't require any special paperwork or action).

 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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R Ransom,
I'm glad you can grow mulberries where you are: In spite of the messiness, the mulberry tree is one of the most generous trees there are. What is this "chow" you mention for your silk worms?
I tried to find out what else they would eat (if really hungry, and it  will not sustain them well) [beetroot, lettuce leaves, dry violet leaves and finely chopped twigs of the mulberry] but these little critters seem mighty particular:
https://www.appropedia.org/Silk_Worm_Raising
This article is a no-nonsense really detailed how to that has really opened my eyes on how to do that.
And here for a sad note: yep, we've screwed that one too:
The Short and Sad Life of a Silkworm | Earth Divas' Blog
earthdivasblog.com/2010/04/12/the-short-and-sad-life-of-a-silkworm/
Apr 12, 2010 - Now, because humans have been raising and farming silkworms for so many thousands of years, the moth (called Bombyx mori) is 100% dependent on humans. If it's allowed to live, it's born blind and without the ability to even fly. It can't even eat!
 
r ranson
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Domestic silkmoths are very much a domesticated animal.  They require human help to survive in every way.  It's a huge responsibility for such a tiny worm.  

Bees, the other insect humans care for, aren't really domesticated.  They live where we ask them because they get something nice out of it, but they are able to live in the wild too.

Because silkmoths are so domesticated, they have a very narrow food range that they can survive on.  It's important to have this in place before I get the eggs.  

Silkworm chow is a commercial feed made from mulberry leaves that keeps for months and needs to be cooked before serving to the worms.  

If I can find some eggs, I'm going to start a thread about raising silk.  There's a lot of fascinating things these little guys can do and they aren't the only moths that spin silk.  There are over 200 varieties of wild moth that create beautiful silk.  But that's for another day.

First I need eggs.

yesterday I...
...I put an advert on the local Used Anywhere
...Visited yet more pet stores that weren't in Google (found through the yellow pages - the physical one that comes to the house)
...Phoned more pet food suppliers.
... spent more time trying to get in touch with customs to see if silkmoths are allowed to be imported from the US.
 
Chris Kott
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I find this stuff fascinating. Especially with the specific temperature/timing and ventilation requirements, it seems to beg for the kind of passive digital automisation, up to perhaps smartphone notification sophistication, as seen in hydroponic garden and greenhouse technology.

Sounds like the kind of thing where you might be able to set up a room and minimise how much daily intervention might be needed based on how much automisation you incorporate. Even if temperature, humidity, and lighting are all automated, if you are remotely monitoring the conditions, it frees you to confidently prune your mulberry trees for the moth's daily forage, or for the off-season (I am just guessing that it would be desirable to make your own tree hay mulberry chow), not to mention any of a dozen or more other tasks. Automation could make silk production healthier for the moths, less stressful for their keepers, and more productive overall.

Another idea that might not be the way anyone considered going is an interesting development in nanotechnology. As usual, it's nature's structural engineering that chemists are having trouble replicating. Their artificial spider line or moth silk lack the fibrous structure that makes these things unique, so a new approach has been tried, and I have failed to find the article, but I continue to search.

Apparently, nanomaterial precursors, those chemicals that are combined in the lab to formulate them, can be fed to organisms, for those nanomaterials to be combined by those organisms biological processes, plant structure, invertibrate shell or exoskeletal structure, fish or reptile scales, and yes, the spinnings of web and cocoon-spinning insects and arachnids.

I look forward to carbon fibre-enhanced silk with electrical properties and strength to beat steel aircraft cable.

Sorry for the threadjack. I didn't know that silkworms were already so human-dependent. Thanks for the article, Cécile.

-CK
 
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Hi there Raven,

I checked with the local cricket grower asking what else they were growing, only mealworms and rodents.  No silkworms! Sorry. They didn’t know of another place either.  At least I can go back and get some bags of compost.  
 
r ranson
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I found someone who will ship the moths from the US.  I talked with Canadian Customs and they say I don't need any special papers as it's not a controls species when imported from the US.  

To get shipping fast enough, it was crazy expensive.  If things go wrong, I won't be able to try again this year.  

I'll let you know how it goes.  
 
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Thanks Raven that’s great news!  There is still time as long as you have access to a morus Alba.  We are at least a month behind here.  
 
r ranson
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The problem is, as soon as the eggs are out of the fridge and exposed to the warmth, they start to hatch.  It's about 10 days depending on the temperature.  And the shipping time is 10 days, not including customs.  Last time I ordered something from the USA, it was in customs for 2 weeks.  

 
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