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Bombyx mori

The meaning of «bombyx mori»

Bombyx mori, the domestic silk moth, is an insect from the moth family Bombycidae. It is the closest relative of Bombyx mandarina, the wild silk moth. The silkworm is the larva or caterpillar of a silk moth. It is an economically important insect, being a primary producer of silk. A silkworm's preferred food are white mulberry leaves, though they may eat other mulberry species and even the osage orange. Domestic silk moths are entirely dependent on humans for reproduction, as a result of millennia of selective breeding. Wild silk moths (other species of Bombyx) are 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,[1] whence it spread to India, Korea, Nepal, Japan, and the West. The domestic silk moth was domesticated from the wild silk moth Bombyx mandarina, which has a range from northern India to northern China, Korea, Japan, and the far eastern regions of Russia. The domestic silk moth derives from Chinese rather than Japanese or Korean stock.[2][3]

Silk moths 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.[4]: 342 

Domestic silk moths 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.[5]

Mulberry silkworms can be categorized into three different but connected groups or types. The major groups of silkworms fall under the univoltine ("uni-"=one, "voltine"=brood frequency) and bivoltine categories. The univoltine type is generally linked with the geographical area within greater Europe. The eggs of this type hibernate during winter due to the cold climate, and cross-fertilize only by spring, generating silk only once annually. The second type is called bivoltine and is normally found in China, Japan, and Korea. The breeding process of this type takes place twice annually, a feat made possible by the slightly warmer climates and the resulting two life cycles. The polyvoltine type of mulberry silkworm can only be found in the tropics. The eggs are laid by female moths and hatch within nine to 12 days, so the resulting type can have up to eight separate life cycles throughout the year.[6]

Eggs take about 14 days to hatch into larvae, which eat continuously. They have a preference for white mulberry, having an attraction to the mulberry odorant cis-jasmone. They are not monophagous, since they can eat other species of Morus, as well as some other Moraceae, mostly Osage orange. They are covered with tiny black hairs. When the color of their heads turns darker, it indicates they are about to molt. After molting, the larval phase of the silkworms emerge white, naked, and with little horns on their backs.

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