Silkworms are the larvae of the domesticated Silk-Moth. They are an economically important insect, being the primary producer of Silk. The Silkworm’s preferred diet consists of White Mulberry leaves.
Domesticated Silk-Moths are entirely dependent on humans for reproduction, as a result of hundreds of years of selective breeding. Wild Silk-Moths are different to their domestic cousins (having not been selectively bred), they are not commercially viable in the production of silk.
Sericulture – the practice of breeding Silkworms for the production of raw Silk – has been one of the world’s biggest trades for at least 5,000 years, originating in China, where it spread to Korea and Japan, and later to India and the West through the Silk Road.
The Silkworm was domesticated from the wild Silk-Moth the “Bombyx Mandarina”. The wild Silk-Moth is found in areas ranging from Northern India to Northern China, Korea, Japan, and the far eastern regions of Russia. The domesticated Silkworm comes from China, rather than Japan or Korea.
Silkworms are unlikely to have been domestically bred before the Neolithic age; before then, the tools required to facilitate the manufacturing of larger quantities of Silk thread had not been developed. The domesticated Bombyx Mori and the wild Bombyx Mandarina can still breed and sometimes produce hybrids.