Sericulture, or silk farming, is the cultivation of silkworms to produce silk. Although there are several commercial species of silkworms, Bombyx mori (the caterpillar of the domestic silkmoth) is the most widely used and intensively studied silkworm. Silk was believed to have first been produced in China as early as the Neolithic Period. Sericulture has become an important cottage industry in countries such as Brazil, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, and Russia. Today, China and India are the two main producers, with more than 60% of the world's annual production.

Silkworm & cocoon
Silkworm and cocoon


According to Confucian text, the discovery of silk production dates to about 2700 BC, although archaeological records point to silk cultivation as early as the Yangshao period (5000–3000 BC).[1] In 1977, a piece of ceramic created 5400–5500 years ago and designed to look like a silkworm was discovered in Nancun, Hebei, providing the earliest known evidence of sericulture.[2] Also, by careful analysis of archaeological silk fibre found on Indus Civilization sites dating back to 2450–2000 BC, it is believed that silk was being used over a wide region of South Asia.[3][4] By about the first half of the 1st century AD, it had reached ancient Khotan,[5] by a series of interactions along the Silk Road. By AD 140, the practice had been established in India.[6] In the 6th century AD, the smuggling of silkworm eggs into the Byzantine Empire led to its establishment in the Mediterranean, remaining a monopoly in the Byzantine Empire for centuries (Byzantine silk). In 1147, during the Second Crusade, Roger II of Sicily (1095–1154) attacked Corinth and Thebes, two important centres of Byzantine silk production, capturing the weavers and their equipment and establishing his own silkworks in Palermo and Calabria,[7] eventually spreading the industry to Western Europe.

Women placing silkworms on trays together with mulberry leaves (Sericulture by Liang Kai, 1200s)

The silkworms and mulberry leaves are placed on trays.

Men preparing twig frames where silkworms will spin cocoons (Sericulture by Liang Kai, 1200s)

Twig frames for the silkworms are prepared.

Weighing and sorting the cocoons (Sericulture by Liang Kai, 1200s)

The cocoons are weighed.

Soaking the cocoons and reeling the silk (Sericulture by Liang Kai, 1200s)

The cocoons are soaked and the silk is wound on spools.

Weaving the silk (Sericulture by Liang Kai, 1200s)

The silk is woven using a loom.


The silkworms are fed with mulberry leaves, and, after the fourth moult, they climb a twig placed near them and spin their silken cocoons. The silk is a continuous filament comprising fibroin protein, secreted from two salivary glands in the head of each worm, and a gum called sericin, which cements the filaments. The sericin is removed by placing the cocoons in hot water, which frees the silk filaments and readies them for reeling. This is known as the degumming process.[8] The immersion in hot water also kills the silkmoth pupa.

Single filaments are combined to form thread, which is drawn under tension through several guides and wound onto reels. The threads may be plied to form yarn. After drying, the raw silk is packed according to quality.

Stages of production

The stages of production are as follows:

  1. The female silkmoth lays 300 to 500 eggs.
  2. The silkmoth eggs hatch to form larvae or caterpillars, known as silkworms.
  3. The larvae feed on mulberry leaves.
  4. Having grown and moulted several times, the silkworm extrudes a silk fibre and forms a net to hold itself.
  5. It swings itself from side to side in a figure '8', distributing the saliva that will form silk.
  6. The silk solidifies when it contacts the air.
  7. The silkworm spins approximately one mile of filament and completely encloses itself in a cocoon in about two or three days. The amount of usable quality silk in each cocoon is small. As a result, about 2,500 silkworms are required to produce a pound of raw silk.[9]
  8. The intact cocoons are boiled, killing the silkworm pupa.
  9. The silk is obtained by brushing the undamaged cocoon to find the outside end of the filament.
  10. The silk filaments are then wound on a reel. One cocoon contains approximately 1,000 yards of silk filament. The silk at this stage is known as raw silk. One thread comprises up to 48 individual silk filaments.

Mahatma Gandhi was critical of silk production based on the Ahimsa philosophy "not to hurt any living thing". He also promoted "Ahimsa silk", made without boiling the pupa to procure the silk and wild silk made from the cocoons of wild and semiwild silkmoths.[10][11] The Human League also criticised sericulture in their early single "Being Boiled". In the early 21st century, the organisation PETA has also campaigned against silk.[12]


The third stage of the silkworm


Silkworms on a modern rotary mountage


Silk cocoons on mountages

A silk pavilion constructed with silkworms

See also


  1. ^ Barber, E. J. W. (1992). Prehistoric textiles: the development of cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with special reference to the Aegean (reprint, illustrated ed.). Princeton University Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-691-00224-8. Retrieved 6 November 2010.
  2. ^ "2015-10-29240509.html". 1977年在石家庄长安区南村镇南杨庄出土的5400-5500年前的陶质蚕蛹,是仿照家蚕蛹烧制的陶器,这是目前发现的人类饲养家蚕的最古老的文物证据。
  3. ^ GOOD, I. L., et al. "New Evidence for Early Silk in the Indus Civilization." Archaeometry, vol. 51, no. 3, June 2009, pp. 457-466. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/j.1475-4754.2008.00454.x.
  4. ^ Vainker, Shelagh (2004). Chinese Silk: A Cultural History. Rutgers University Press. p. 20. ISBN 0813534461.
  5. ^ Hill, John E. 2003. "Annotated Translation of the Chapter on the Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu." 2nd Draft Edition. Appendix A.
  6. ^ "History of Sericulture" (PDF). Governmentof Andhra Pradesh (India) - Department of Sericulture. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2010.
  7. ^ Muthesius, "Silk in the Medieval World", p. 331.
  8. ^ Bezzina, Neville. "Silk Production Process". Sense of Nature Research. Archived from the original on 29 June 2012.
  9. ^ "Silk Making: How to Make Silk". Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  10. ^ Radhakrishnan, S., ed. (1968). Mahatma Gandhi: 100 years. New Delhi: Gandhi Peace Foundation. p. 349. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  11. ^ Parekh, Dhimant (11 September 2008). "Ahimsa Silk: Silk Saree without killing a single silkworm". The Better India. Vikara Services Pvt Ltd. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  12. ^ "Down and Silk: Birds and Insects Exploited for Fabric". PETA. Retrieved 6 January 2007.

External links

Agriculture in Thailand

Agriculture in Thailand is highly competitive, diversified and specialized and its exports are very successful internationally. Rice is the country's most important crop, with some 60 percent of Thailand's 13 million farmers growing it on fully half of Thailand's cultivated land. Thailand is a major exporter in the world rice market. Rice exports in 2014 amounted to 1.3 percent of GDP. Agricultural production as a whole accounts for an estimated 9-10.5 percent of Thai GDP. Forty percent of the population work in agriculture-related jobs. The farmland they work was valued at US$2,945 per rai (0.395 acre; 0.16 ha) in 2013. Most Thai farmers own fewer than eight hectares (50 rai) of land.Other agricultural commodities produced in significant amounts include fish and fishery products, tapioca, rubber, grain, and sugar. Exports of industrially processed foods such as canned tuna, pineapples, and frozen shrimp are on the rise.

Azerbaijani traditional clothing

Traditional Azerbaijani dress (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan Milli geyimləri) has developed as a result of long processes of material and religious culture of Azerbaijani people. It is closely connected to its history and reflects its national specification.Ethnographic, historic and artistic features of the national creativity, which were also used in creation of determined forms of it, are reflected on costumes. Azerbaijani arts reminds about itself also in ornaments of costume with artistic embroideries, in weaving and knitting.

In the 17th century, the territory of modern Azerbaijan was considered the main sericulture oblasts of the Near East and Shirvan was the main region of sericulture. Silks were produced in Shamakhi, Basqal, Ganja, Shaki, Shusha and in other regions. Fine textiles, silk head kerchiefs for women with ornaments of amazing beauty and others were produced in these cities.

Style of clothes reflected marital status and age of its owner. For example, the costume of a girl and a married woman were different; young women wore more colorful dresses.

Since the 20th century, national costumes in Azerbaijan are worn mostly in villages. Almost all national dances are performed in national costumes.

Bangladesh Sericulture Development Board

Bangladesh Sericulture Development Board is a regulatory board in Bangladesh that is in charge of sericulture and is based in Rajshahi, Bangladesh.

Bombyx mori

Bombyx mori, the domestic silkmoth, is an insect from the moth family Bombycidae. It is the closest relative of Bombyx mandarina, the wild silkmoth. The silkworm is the larva or caterpillar of a silkmoth. It is an economically important insect, being a primary producer of silk. A silkworm's preferred food is white mulberry leaves, though they may eat other mulberry species and even Osage orange. Domestic silkmoths are closely dependent on humans for reproduction, as a result of millennia of selective breeding. Wild silkmoths are different from their domestic cousins as they have not been selectively bred; they are thus not as commercially viable in the production of silk.

Sericulture, the practice of breeding silkworms for the production of raw silk, has been under way for at least 5,000 years in China, whence it spread to India, Korea, Japan, and the West. The domestic silkmoth was domesticated from the wild silkmoth Bombyx mandarina, which has a range from northern India to northern China, Korea, Japan, and the far eastern regions of Russia. The domestic silkmoth derives from Chinese rather than Japanese or Korean stock.Silkmoths were unlikely to have been domestically bred before the Neolithic Age. Before then, the tools to manufacture quantities of silk thread had not been developed. The domesticated B. mori and the wild B. mandarina can still breed and sometimes produce hybrids.Domestic silkmoths are very different from most members in the genus Bombyx; not only have they lost the ability to fly, but their color pigments have also been lost.


Cánshén (Chinese: 蚕神, "Silkworm God") or Cánwáng (蚕王 "Silkworm Ruler") is the deity of silkworm and sericulture in Chinese religion. There are two main Canshen, who are two deified mytho-historical personalities who contributed to the invention and diffusion of sericulture in China.

Cánmǔ (蚕母, the "Silkworm Mother"), is a goddess whose cult is related to that of Houtu (the "Queen of the Earth") and to that of the Sanxiao ("Three Skies") goddesses. She is also called Cángū (蚕姑 the "Silkworm Maiden [or Lady]"), and is identified as Léizǔ (嫘祖), the wife of Huangdi, the deity of the centre of the cosmos and god progenitor of all the Chinese. The worship of Canmu is typical of central-northern and eastern China.

Qīngyīshén (青衣神 the "Bluegreen-Clad God") is the same as Cáncóng (蚕丛 the "Silkworm Twig"): he is the first ruler and ancestor of the Shu kingdom, and promoter of sericulture among his people. He is worshipped in Sichuan, the modern Chinese province descending from the Shu kingdom.

History of silk

The production of silk originates in China in the Neolithic (Yangshao culture, 4th millennium BC). Silk remained confined to China until the Silk Road opened at some point during the later half of the 1st millennium BC. China maintained its virtual monopoly over silk production for another thousand years. Not confined to clothing, silk was also used for a number of other applications, including writing, and the color of silk worn was an important guide of social class during the Tang dynasty.

Silk cultivation spread to Japan around 300 AD, and, by 552 AD, the Byzantines managed to obtain silkworm eggs and were able to begin silkworm cultivation. The Arabs also began to manufacture silk at the same time. As a result of the spread of sericulture, Chinese silk exports became less important, although they still maintained dominance over the luxury silk market. The Crusades brought silk production to Western Europe, in particular to many Italian states, which saw an economic boom exporting silk to the rest of Europe. Changes in manufacturing techniques also began to take place during the Middle Ages, with devices such as the spinning wheel first appearing. During the 16th century, France joined Italy in developing a successful silk trade, though the efforts of most other nations to develop a silk industry of their own were unsuccessful.

The Industrial Revolution changed much of Europe's silk industry. Due to innovations on spinning cotton, cotton became much cheaper to manufacture and therefore caused more expensive silk production to become less mainstream. New weaving technologies, however, increased the efficiency of production. Among these was the Jacquard loom, developed for silk embroidery. An epidemic of several silkworm diseases caused production to fall, especially in France, where the industry never recovered. In the 20th century Japan and China regained their earlier role in silk production, and China is now once again the world's largest producer of silk. The rise of new fabrics such as nylon reduced the prevalence of silk throughout the world, and silk is now once again a rare luxury good, much less important than in its heyday.


Jamsil-dong is a neighbourhood, dong, of Songpa-gu, Seoul, South Korea. Its name is derived from silkworm breeding during the Joseon dynasty. Jamsil translates to a room or place for sericulture. The state encouraged people to raise silkworms, so founded Dongjamsil (동잠실, literally "east place for sericulture") in the east vicinity of Seoul.

Konstantin Satunin

Konstantin Alekseevich Satunin (1863–1915) was a Russian zoologist who studied and described many mammals found in Russia and Central Asia.

Satunin graduated from Moscow University in 1890. From 1893 he worked at a sericulture station in the Caucasus. He became a senior specialist at the Department of Agriculture in 1907, concentrating on applied zoology and hunting in the Caucasus. He continued in this post until his death in 1915. He principally studied the mammals of Russia and Central Asia, and was responsible for describing many new species. He published many works on the fauna of the Caucasus, mainly in the field of mammalogy but also entomology, herpetology, ichthyology, ornithology, sericulture, zoogeography, game management science and fishing. For example, he gave descriptions of a tiger from Prishibinskoye, comparing it to a horse.

Kyoto Institute of Technology

Kyoto Institute of Technology (京都工芸繊維大学, Kyōto Kōgei Sen'i Daigaku) in Kyoto, Japan is a Japanese national university established in 1949. The Institute's history extends back to two schools, Kyoto Craft High School (established in 1902 at Sakyo-ku, Yoshida) and Kyoto Sericulture Training School (established in 1899 at Kita-ku, Daishogun, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce), which were forerunners of the Faculty of Engineering and Design and the Faculty of Textile Science, respectively. The former was moved to Sakyo-ku, Matsugasaki in 1930 and changed its name to Kyoto Industrial High School in 1944. The latter developed into Kyoto Sericulture High School, under supervision of the Ministry of Education in 1914, and changed its name to Kyoto Sericulture Technical High School in 1931 and then to Kyoto Technical High School of Sericulture in 1944. The two forerunners merged in 1949, due to educational system revisions, to establish the present School of Science and Technology. Together with Shinshu University and Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, the Institute is one of Japan's three historical centers of textile research.

Kyoto Institute of Technology has a campus at Matsugasaki in Sakyō-ku. Another campus is at Saga in Ukyō-ku. Its Japanese nickname is Kōsen (工繊). In English it is known as KIT.

Beginning in October 2007, graduate course instruction became available in English through the International Program for Science and Technology for specially selected students from the 50 institutions worldwide with KIT Exchange Agreements.

Liang Xi

Liang Xi (died 230), courtesy name Ziyu, was an official of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of China. He was from Zhe County (柘縣), Chen Commandery (陳郡), which is around present-day Zhecheng County, Henan. He served as the Inspector of Bing Province. At one time, he achieved compliance from the Xiongnu to then settle the frontier and to launch an agricultural sericulture (in which were silkworm) industry. He was later promoted to the position of Minister of Finance (大司農) in 228.


A magnanery (French: magnanerie) is the site of sericulture, or silk farming, similar to a farm being the site of agriculture. The yeoman who runs it is called a magnanier or, more recently, a mangnan. The word magnanière, meaning building dedicated to sericulture, is also seen.

The word originated from the Occitan word magnan, as Provence was the centre of French sericulture.

The area around Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort has Magnaneries, and the town itself has a silk museum.

Morus alba

Morus alba, known as white mulberry, is a fast-growing, small to medium-sized mulberry tree which grows to 10–20 m (33–66 ft) tall. It is generally a short-lived tree with a lifespan comparable to that of humans, although there are some specimens known to be over 250 years old. The species is native to northern China, and is widely cultivated and naturalized elsewhere (United States, Mexico, Australia, Kyrgyzstan, Argentina, Turkey, Iran, etc.).The white mulberry is widely cultivated to feed the silkworms employed in the commercial production of silk. It is also notable for the rapid release of its pollen, which is launched at over half the speed of sound. Its berries are edible when ripe.


Pébrine, or "pepper disease," is a disease of silkworms, which is caused by protozoan microsporidian parasites, mainly Nosema bombycis and, to a lesser extent, Vairimorpha, Pleistophora and Thelohania species. The parasites infect eggs and are therefore transmitted to next generation.

The silkworm larvae infected by pébrine are usually covered in brown dots and are unable to spin silkworm thread. Louis Pasteur was the first one to recognize the cause of this disease when a plague of the disease spread across France.

Nosema bombycis is a microsporidium that kills all of the silkworms hatched from infected eggs and comes from the food that silkworms eat. If silkworms acquire this microsporidium in their larval stage, there are no visible symptoms; however, mother moths will pass the microsporidium onto the eggs, and all of the worms hatching from the infected eggs will die in their larva stage. Therefore, it is extremely important to rule out all eggs from infected moths by checking the moth’s body fluid under a microscope.

Rajshahi silk

Rajshahi silk is the name given to the silk products produced in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. It is famous because it is a high quality fabric used for clothing, especially for saris.


Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The protein fiber of silk is composed mainly of fibroin and is produced by certain insect larvae to form cocoons. The best-known silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity (sericulture). The shimmering appearance of silk is due to the triangular prism-like structure of the silk fibre, which allows silk cloth to refract incoming light at different angles, thus producing different colors.

Silk is produced by several insects; but, generally, only the silk of moth caterpillars has been used for textile manufacturing. There has been some research into other types of silk, which differ at the molecular level. Silk is mainly produced by the larvae of insects undergoing complete metamorphosis, but some insects, such as webspinners and raspy crickets, produce silk throughout their lives. Silk production also occurs in Hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and ants), silverfish, mayflies, thrips, leafhoppers, beetles, lacewings, fleas, flies, and midges. Other types of arthropods produce silk, most notably various arachnids, such as spiders.

Silkville, Kansas

Silkville is a ghost town in Williamsburg Township, Franklin County, Kansas, United States. Its elevation is 1,161 feet (354 m), and it is located at 38°27′0″N 95°29′21″W (38.4500149, -95.4891477), along U.S. Route 50 southwest of Williamsburg.The settlement was founded in the late 1800s by a Frenchman named Ernest de Boissière, who believed in Fourierian utopian socialism. Silkville was a sericulture-based settlement, and remuneration was based what each settler could produce. Silkville's silk was praised at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, but loss of settlers and difficulty in selling the silk resulted in the settlement's collapse. Today, only a few buildings remain.

Smuggling of silkworm eggs into the Byzantine Empire

In the mid-6th century AD, two monks, with the support of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, successfully smuggled silkworm eggs into the Byzantine Empire, which led to the establishment of an indigenous Byzantine silk industry. This acquisition of silk worms from China allowed the Byzantines to have a monopoly of silk in Europe.


Soufli (Greek: Σουφλί, Turkish: Sofulu) is a town in the Evros regional unit, Greece, notable for the silk industry that flourished there in the 19th century. The town stands on the eastern slope of the twin hill of Prophet Elias, one of the easternmost spurs on the Rhodope Mountains. It is situated in the center of the Evros regional unit, 65 km north of Alexandroupoli and 50 km southwest of Orestiada, on Greek National Road 51/E85 which links Alexandroupoli with Edirne and the Bulgarian border at Ormenio. The town center is only 500m from the Evros River. Soufli is the seat of the municipality of Soufli.


Voltinism is a term used in biology to indicate the number of broods or generations of an organism in a year. The term is most often applied to insects, and is particularly in use in sericulture, where silkworm varieties vary in their voltinism.

Univoltine – (adjective) referring to organisms having one brood or generation per year

Bivoltine – (adjective) referring to organisms having two broods or generations per year

Multivoltine – (adjective) referring to organisms having more than two broods or generations per year

Semivoltine – (adjective) referring to organisms whose generation time is more than one year

of insects
in culture


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