Silk is made from the cocoons of silk worms . There are two types of mulberry leaves available in Cambodia. A small leafed variety is native to Cambodian. The advantages are that the leaf grows with less water. The disadvantages are that the leaf produced is small and therefore provides less sustenance to the worms.
The Cambodian variety of Mulberry has a smaller leaf. Mulberry Tree varieties from Japan, imported via Thailand, have a bigger leaf.
The improved variety of mulberry leaf requires improved soil and careful watering. This can be difficult for the Cambodian farmer to provide because the water supply is not available in the dry season. The United Nations Development Program provides technical assistance to build channels to provide water from a large reservoir nearby Phnom Srok.
Breeding moths is done in a free for all. A more scientific or controlled way of mating moths is achieved by putting the only two moths in an aluminum case.
The moth eggs are laid and take about two weeks to hatch. During that time they must be protected from disease, mice and ants.
In Phnom Srok the women have formed a cooperative to improve silk-worm cultivation and provide a clean sanitised house for the worms to grow. These cocoons are being sorted for breeding and for spinning into silk . The baskets are stored on shelves to protect them from disease, humidity, and rodents. Outside the hut is surrounded by a moat to keep out ants and other crawling insects. These cocoons are kept and will hatch into silkworms. The eggs hatch into worms. The worms grow to about 1.5 inches long. As they get to this size they will be transplanted to a place where they can form their cocoons.
To see the silk cocoons before and after harvest.
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Last updated on March 1, 1996.
© 1996 Katharine Wardle