Silk and sheep fibres are examples of animal fibres. Silkworms are responsible for the production of silk fibres. Sericulture is the cultivation of silkworms for the production of silk.
Before we discuss obtaining silk, it is essential to know the exciting life history of the silk moth.
The life cycle of the silk moth:
A female silk moth lays eggs, from which hatch larvae named silkworms or caterpillars. It will grow in size, and when the caterpillar is ready to go to the next stage of its life cycle, pupa, it first weaves a net. Then it turns its head from side to side in the figure. During these head movements, the caterpillar secretes fibre made of a protein that hardens on exposure to air and becomes silk fibre. Soon the caterpillar fully covers itself with silk fibres and shifts into a pupa. This covering is called a cocoon. The other outcome of the pupa into a moth continues inside the cocoon. These silk fibres are employed for weaving silk cloth.
Life history of a silk moth
The silk yarn (thread) is obtained from the silk moth's cocoon. Various silk moths look very different from one another, and the silk yarn they yield is different in texture (coarse, smooth, shiny, etc.). Thus, Tussar silk, Mooga silk, Kosa silk, etc., are obtained from cocoons spun by different moths. The common silk moth is the mulberry silk moth.
The silk fibre from the cocoon of this moth is soft, lustrous and elastic and can be dyed in beautiful colours.
Sericulture, or the culture of silkworms, is an ancient occupation in India. India produces plenty of silk on a commercial scale.