Unveiling the Secrets of Sericulture and Silkworms

Type of Silk and Silkworms | Sericulture in India PPT and PDF Notes | What is Sericulture or Silk Farming? | Silk and important types of Silk | Types of Silkworm | types of silk fabric with names and pictures | Mulberry and Non-mulberry silk | Life cycle of a silkworm | Stages of Silk Production

in this post, we will learn the Sericulture (Silk farming) in India, the definition and types of silk in India, Types of important silkworms

Sericulture in India

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Sericulture | Silk farming

Sericulture or Silk farming is the process of extracting silk from silkworms. At the global level, sericulture is mainly done with Mulberry silkworms. India and China are the two countries that occupy the topmost position in the production of silk. India is the only country known for all types of silk production. At a global level, India acquires the second position in the production of Silk.

History of Silk

Silk was suddenly discovered by Xilingji (Hsiling-Chi), wife of China’s third Emperor, Huangdi (Hoang-Ti) in 2640 BC. While making tea, Xilingji accidentally dropped a silkworm cocoon into a hot cup of water and found that the silk fibre could be twisted together to make a thread that was strong enough to be woven into cloth.

For a very long time, the Chinese kept the silk production process, a secret from the rest of the world. After the discovery of the silk route or silk road, few other eastern nations learnt the secret of silk production.

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What is Silk?

Silk is a type of fabric which is world-renowned for its softness, smoothness, lustrous and durability. For this reason, Silk is known as the ‘Queen of Textiles’. It is produced by Silkworms.

Importance of Silk | Uses of Silk

From time immemorial, man adores natural fabrics. In ancient times, Silk was only reserved for royalty. Silk had a prestigious place in the culture and commerce of India in the Pre-Vedic age. It is a natural gift to mankind and a commercial fibre of animal origin other than wool. Importance and the Uses of Silk are –

  • It is Eco-friendly, Biodegradable and Self-sustaining material.
  • It is smooth, lustrous and durable.
  • Raw Silk is used for clothing such as shirts, suits, ties, blouses, Pajamas, Jackets, etc.
  • Hand-spun mulberry silk is used for making comforters and sleeping bags.
  • Knitted materials from silk fibres i.e. socks, stocking are very costly and possess a good market.
  • The silk gut used in surgery for internal suturing is made from silk glands. The silk glands are dissected out and put in warm water and pulled at two ends to yield a fibre of uniform thickness. This protein is auto-absorbable and need not be removed after wound healing. Silk grafts have been used successfully to replace cut arteries.
  • Silkworm is very much useful for genetic experiments in biotechnology.
  • Among vanya silks, Tasar silk fabrics in exotic designs are produced by handlooms. They are Gicha-noil, Tasar plain, Cotton-Tasar blend, Tasar-mulberry blend, and peduncle fabric.
  • Muga silk cloth is very largely used by Assamese women in Sarees.
  • Eri spun silk is used for dress materials and the coarse variety for making scarves, cheddar, shawls and quilts.

Stages of Silk Production

  • The silk moth lays 300 to 500 eggs.
  • The silk moth eggs hatch to form larvae or caterpillars, known as silkworms.
  • The larvae feed on Mulberry leaves.
  • Having grown and mounted several times, the silkworm extrudes a silk fibre and forms a net to hold itself.
  • It swings itself from side to side, distributing the saliva that will form silk.
  • The silk solidifies when comes in contact with air.
  • The silkworm spins approx 1 mile of filament and completely encloses itself in the amount of usable quality silk in each cocoon is small.
life cycle of silkworm

Sericulture in India

India has a rich and complex history of silk production and its silk trade which dates back to the 15th century. The sericulture industry provides employment to approximately 8.8 million persons in rural and semi-urban areas in India. Of these, a sizeable number of workers belong to the economically weaker sections of society, including women.

India’s traditional and culture-bound domestic market and an amazing diversity of silk garments that reflect geographic specificity have helped the country to achieve a leading position in the silk industry. India has the unique distinction of being the only country producing all five known commercial silks, namely, Mulberry, Tropical Tasar, Oak Tasar, Eri and Muga, of which Muga which is produced only in India with its golden yellow glitter is a prerogative of India.

Important Types of Silk in India

India is the second-largest producer of Silk after China in the world. There are five types of Silk produced in India which are –

  1. Mulberry Silk
  2. Tropical Tasar
  3. Oak Tasar
  4. Eri
  5. Muga
Important Types of Silk in India

Among the different varieties of silk produced in 2021-22, Mulberry accounted for 73.97% of production, Tasar 4.20%, Eri 21.10 and Muga 0.73% of the total raw silk produced in India.


Silkworms are the larval stage of silk moths, specifically the Bombyx mori species. They are known for their ability to produce silk, which is one of the most potent natural fibres. Silkworms have been domesticated for thousands of years for silk production.

Here are some critical points about silkworms:

Life Cycle: Silkworms undergo complete metamorphosis, which means they have four distinct stages: egg, larva (silkworm), pupa (cocoon), and adult moth. The life cycle begins when a female silk moth lays eggs, which hatch into tiny silkworm larvae.

Feeding: Silkworms are voracious eaters and primarily feed on the leaves of the mulberry tree. They have a strong appetite and can eat large amounts of leaves in a short time. Mulberry leaves provide the necessary nutrients for silkworms to grow and produce silk.

Silk Production: Silkworms produce silk by secreting a protein called fibroin through their salivary glands. They spin the fibroin protein into a single silk thread cocoon measuring up to 900 meters in length. This cocoon protects the silkworm during its transformation into a pupa.

Harvesting Silk: The cocoons are harvested before the silkworms emerge as moths to obtain silk. The cocoons are usually boiled or exposed to steam to kill the pupa inside and prevent them from breaking the silk threads. The silk threads from several cocoons are then unwound and spun together to create a more robust line.

Uses of Silk: Silk is a highly valued fabric due to its smooth texture, lustre, and strength. It has been used for centuries in clothing, home furnishings, and various luxury goods. Silk is also used in medical sutures, as it is biocompatible and promotes healing.

Cultivation: Silk production primarily occurs in regions with a suitable climate and abundant mulberry trees. China is the largest producer of silk, followed by countries like India, Brazil, and Thailand. Culturing silkworms requires careful temperature and humidity control to ensure their healthy development.

Silkworms have played a significant role in human history and the textile industry. The process of silk production, from rearing silkworms to harvesting and weaving silk, involves intricate craftsmanship and has been passed down through generations in many cultures.

Types of Silkworm (Classification of Silkworm)

Silk is produced from the cocoons of five different types of silkworms in India. These types of silk moth are responsible for Mulberry Silk, Tasar silk, Oak Tasar silk, Eri silk and Muga silk.

SilkSilkworm breeds
Mulberry SilkBombyx Mori L.
Tasar SilkAntheraea mylitta
Oak Tasar SilkAntheraea Proyeli J.
Eri SilkPhilosamia Ricini
Muga SilkAntheraea assamensis

Types of Silkworm PPT

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economic importance of silkworm

Silkworms have significant economic importance due to the production of silk, a valuable textile material. Here are some key points highlighting the economic significance of silkworms:

1. Silk Industry: Silkworms are primarily cultivated for silk production. The silk industry generates substantial economic value by processing, manufacturing, and selling silk fibres and silk-based products. Silk is renowned for its luxurious feel, natural sheen, and strength, making it highly sought after in the textile market.

2. Employment and Income Generation: Sericulture, the practice of rearing silkworms for silk production, provides employment opportunities and income for numerous individuals and communities. It involves various stages, such as mulberry cultivation, silkworm rearing, cocoon harvesting, silk processing, and weaving. These activities contribute to farmers’ livelihoods, silk reelers, weavers, artisans, and other industry stakeholders.

3. Export and Trade: Silk and silk-based products are widely traded internationally, contributing to global commerce. Countries with a significant sericulture industry, such as China, India, and several Southeast Asian nations, export silk to meet international demand. Silk products, including textiles, garments, accessories, and home furnishings, are exported to various markets, supporting economic growth and trade balance.

4. Value-added Products: Silkworms are not just limited to silk production. Other value-added products derived from silkworms include silk waste, used for making silk-based paper, insulation materials, and cosmetics. Silkworm pupae are also consumed as a protein-rich food source in certain cultures, further diversifying the economic utilization of silkworms.

5. Tourism and Cultural Heritage: In many regions, Sericulture and silk production hold cultural and historical significance. Silk-related industries and heritage sites attract tourists interested in exploring the traditional craftsmanship and cultural heritage associated with silkworm rearing, weaving, and silk trade. This contributes to local economies through tourism revenue and promotes cultural preservation.

6. Research and Development: Silkworms are widely studied and utilized in scientific research and development. They serve as valuable model organisms for various fields, including genetics, molecular biology, biotechnology, and medical research. Silkworm research contributes to scientific advancements and fosters innovation and the development of new technologies with potential economic benefits.

Overall, the economic importance of silkworms lies in their contribution to the thriving silk industry, job creation, income generation, export trade, and cultural heritage preservation. The versatile utilization of silkworms and silk-based products in various sectors further enhances their economic significance.

Life cycle of Silkworm

The lifecycle of a silkworm, also known as the Bombyx mori silkworm, undergoes complete metamorphosis and consists of four distinct stages: egg, larva (silkworm), pupa (cocoon), and adult moth. Here’s a breakdown of each phase:

1. Egg Stage:

The lifecycle begins when a female silk moth lays eggs. The eggs are usually small and yellowish and are laid in clusters. They are attached to surfaces, such as mulberry leaves, using a sticky substance produced by the female moth. The eggs undergo a period of incubation, typically lasting about 10 to 14 days, during which embryonic development occurs.

2. Larva (Silkworm) Stage:

Once the eggs hatch, the silkworm larvae emerge. The larvae are initially tiny and black, but they soon start feeding on mulberry leaves and multiplying. Silkworms go through several moulting stages, shedding their skin as they grow. Each moult is known as an instar, and silkworms typically go through five instars.

During the larval stage, silkworms consume large quantities of mulberry leaves to obtain nutrients for growth. They grow exponentially and can increase their weight thousands of times within weeks. The larval stage usually lasts around 4 to 6 weeks, depending on environmental conditions and the silkworm breed.

3. Pupa (Cocoon) Stage:

After the larval stage, the fully-grown silkworm larvae seek a suitable location to spin their cocoon. They release a sticky fluid from their salivary glands, which hardens on contact with air, forming a silk thread. The silkworm then moves its head in a figure-eight pattern to create a cocoon made of a single silk thread that can be up to 900 meters long. The cocoon protects the silkworm during the pupal stage.

Inside the cocoon, the silkworm undergoes a dramatic transformation. It transforms into a pupa and undergoes various physiological changes to develop into an adult moth. This stage generally lasts 10 to 14 days, but the duration may vary depending on temperature and humidity.

4. Adult Moth Stage:

The pupa undergoes metamorphosis inside the cocoon and transforms into an adult silk moth. The adult moth has wings and a small, non-functional mouth, as its sole purpose is to reproduce. After emerging from the cocoon, the adult moth seeks a mate to reproduce. The female silk moth releases pheromones to attract male moths. Once they mate, the female lays eggs and the lifecycle of silkworms starts anew.

It’s worth noting that in silk production, the cocoons are typically harvested before the adult moths emerge, as this prevents them from breaking the silk threads while exiting the cocoon. The cocoons are then processed to obtain the silk fibres for various applications.

This lifecycle of the silkworm demonstrates their remarkable transformation and the critical role they play in silk production.

FAQs on Type of Silk and Silkworms – Sericulture in India

How many types of silkworms are there?

There are five types of silkworms according to Indian Silk – Mulberry Silkworm, Tasar silkworm, Oak Tasar silkworm, Eri silkworm and Muga silkworm.

What are the types of non-mulberry silkworms?

Types of non-mulberry silkworms are the Tasar silkworm, Oak Tasar silkworm, Eri silkworm and Muga Silkworm.

What are the uses of Silk?

The Uses of the Silk are –
1. It is Eco-friendly, Biodegradable and Self-sustaining material.
2. It is smooth, lustrous and durable.
3. Raw Silk is used for clothing such as shirts, suits, ties, blouses, Pajamas, Jackets, etc.
4. Hand-spun mulberry silk is used for making comforters and sleeping bags.
5. Knitted materials from silk fibres i.e. socks, stocking are very costly and possess a good market.

What are the types of protein present in the Silk?

Silk is made up of two proteins – Sericin and fibroin.

what is Moriculture?

Moriculture is a part of sericulture that involves the cultivation of mulberry plants whose leaves are used as silkworm feed.

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Last updated: August 17, 2023 Updated on 9:47 AM