just read this neat article about raising silkworms....http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/raising-silkworms-zmaz79mjzraw.aspx?PageId=7#ArticleContent...........anybody do this? This women makes $35 a pound for the silk
It seems the best way to go about this is to find textile students at a college or start as a hobby with little hand spinning wheels. It is very intriguing. Then if you could find a market you could scale up. You could probably get the spinning machinery from Iran or other places I have read have more or less abandoned their silk industries. It is worth exploring though. I found an old book with a chapter on the various failed attempts to establish a sericulture industry in the US. Let me know if you want my notes or links.
But what I liked the most was some video I found on integrated silkworm and fish culture. Basically they put a pond outside of the nursery and toss the poo in it to feed the fish, and mulberries are planted around the pond and they feed the fish too. When you harvest the silk and you don't eat the larva you can feed that too. I think it can be done. I think this is definitely worth exploring more deeply.
It can be done... but it's not a fast or easy way to make money.
Please don't take this as discouragement... and of course there's a but... but, the article you linked to was written in 1979. That's before my time, but I understand that trade with China was poor, they also tell me that there was no internet access to online shops or even smartphones. (okay, I'm not actually so young as all that - but keep in mind the very first Personal Computer came on the market around 1981) Things are a little bit different now.
Silk is easy to buy (from cocoon to fabric and every stage in between) these days. The price can be pennies a pound all the way up to $45 an oz. And that's just Bombyx silk - the most common kind. People will pay more for quality and for ethical raising practices - like no slave labour, being nice to trees, that sort of thing. There are a lot of different ways to process silk. It's quite easy to do so by hand at home - however it is time consuming.
Now that I've got the discouragement out of the way...
I believe there are possibilities with raising silk at home. Silk is popular and there is a lot of ideas that could fit well into permaculture. You would need to do something out of the ordinary, market it correctly, and take a few years (I think 5 or 6) to get your quality top notch.
I don't have time to go into it now, but have a look at Wormspit's site for inspiration - and an idea on how labour intensive growing and processing silk can be.
Scott, I would love your notes and links if you are willing to share.
One of the things that really interests me about silkworms is that there are so many different kinds. Generally the industry only uses two kinds of moths to make silk. Yet, so many places in the world have native silk moths. Here we have about four or five different kinds of silk moth that are native to our area.
The advantage of native silk moths is that they eat native trees. We don't have to import, plant and wait for mulberrys (or specific kinds of oak in the case of tussah) to grow. The native silk moths to our area, are willing to eat about 3 dozen different kinds of trees. These trees are already full grown in my farm.
The silk produced by the native silk moths aren't as easy to use on a machine as the domestic worms, but they are just as easy to process by hand. It's an extremely rare resource, and only a few people like wormspit (link above) grow the silk for textile use. The silk moths themselves, are not rare. I grew a small batch one year and it was great. I'm hoping to find some cocoons in the forest this winter, and then I can start my personal silk worm menagerie. Since I already have the textile skills and experience working with silk, I think it would take me about three years to get the hang of raising these guys. At that point, I would decide if I want to increase the quantity and do so commercially or just raise a 100 odd worms for myself each year.
I think there is a market among handspinners for native and wild silk moth. At least there would be if they knew about it and it was marketed correctly with quality that they could fall in love with. There are ways to raise these little worms that aren't as labour intensive as regular silk moth production. I can see it fitting into a permaculture system quite nicely.
I really like the idea of combing silkworms with fish raising. What a wonderful example of traditional wisdom and how it can be applicable to modern day life. There is so much potential there.
I think so. I got it off of ISSUU and I assume it not copywrited or whatever. I finished one of the books from wormspit so far and am partly through another. I should have them all under my belt soon. There is some information to be gleaned there but also a lot of sericulture figures for France in the early 1900s kind of thing.
I remembered this one video I thought was so cool. I'll see if I can find it here... But I would appreciate it if you could send me in the direction of some local silkworm information. I always figured mulberry would be easy to grow and that any domestic moths would be too tempermental. But if you think that they are feasable to integrate into permaculture systems then I definitely want more info.
This is not it, but I thought this was a good one. It shows the kind of machine I imagined utilizing. I suppose you would have to look around India for one these days or maybe in the defunct Iranian silk factories. Would love to see an infomercial someday about domestic silk moths, right? I feel like that is worth exploring.
OK here is the one I was looking for. I thought it was intriguing because they are growing the mulberry in a greenhouse. How cool is that? I had not found any info about mulberry coppicing. I figured I would just experiment. However with some science and luck you could farm silkworms year round. So effective coppice would be a big thing. OK, and wound at 100yds a minute. I could call Livingston and find out what they did with those wonderful machines. If anyone finds out let me know.
Wow, this one was just too good. I love this guy! You know that moment when you find your permaculture doppledanger in another country? They have great machines, and yes, they got them from India. Maybe I could kickstart an intership there or just ask to learn there for free. Maybe there are government grants for subsidies for silk. That would be worth exploring.
Wormspit writes a lot about wild silk moths. He says that some kinds are temperamental to raise, others just as easy as domestic worms.
Polyphemus, Hyalophora cecropia, Hyalophora columbia, and Hyalophora euryalus are some of the silk moths we can find where I live. Mulberries and soft leaved oaks are very few and far between here. They take a bit of effort to grow, and time. If we get a hard winter, and we do every few years, then the mulberries usually die unless they are somewhere protected from the weather. No trees, no moths. Back to square one. If you live somewhere where mulberries grow well, then you're half way there.
With the native moths, what I like best is that it's so easy to cook them dinner. Go out to the back woods, gather leaves from already established trees. There's no chance of over harvesting leaves and damaging the trees because there are just so many trees to choose from.
Do you have a local insect related tourist attraction? I found the staff at our local butterfly gardens were really helpful.