Tomorrow, February 3, is the start of the Chinese New Year. We can be thankful to the Chinese for their contribution to sericulture (silk production). For thousands of years, it was a closely guarded secret, but it eventually spread from China to other parts of Asia and the West. Many believe the silkworms were smuggled out of China.
Silkworms, which feed exclusively on mulberry leaves, are the larva of the domesticated Bombyx mori. When they enter the pupa stage of their life cycle, they rest and generate silk cocoons from their salivary glands. The cocoons are boiled, the poor worms are sacrificed, and workers are able to extract up to 3000 feet of silk from a single cocoon. According to wikipedia.org, it takes up to 3,000 cocoons to produce a pound of silk.
Today, after making its way around the globe, silk production is once again a lucrative industry in China. To read an interesting history on sericulture, click here.